Plans for a new economic collaboration between the three Ayrshire councils have moved a significant step forward.
At meetings over the last week, councillors of all three local authorities approved an 'Ayrshire Growth Deal Prospectus' that sets out proposals that will ensure Ayrshire builds on its strengths and opportunities and contributes to Scotland's economic growth.
And now the prospectus has been submitted to the Scottish and UK Governments for consideration.
The document includes examples of projects that, with government support, could make a long-term change to the Ayrshire and Scottish economies.
It puts forward a compelling case for government intervention through investment in business support, skills, strategic infrastructure and local communities.
Examples of the Ayrshire Growth Deal projects that the Councils are proposing within the Prospectus and looking to develop for inclusion within the Strategic Business Case include:
- the growth and development of the aerospace industry at Prestwick Airport and securing the UK's first spaceport there
- Ayrshire being considered as the UK location for a Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre
- improvements to the road and rail infrastructure particularly the main arterial routes of the A77, A70 and A737 and the railway line from Kilmarnock to the north of England
- investment at Bellfield Interchange to open up additional development land across Ayrshire
- complementary investment in digital infrastructure
- further development of industrial and business premises in key locations including Moorfield Park, Hill Street in Kilmarnock, Irvine and Prestwick
- investment in our ports and coastal locations
- establishing Ayrshire as a pilot area for Skills Development Scotland's 'Digital Schools Initiative
- the further development of community based approaches to support employment, volunteering, training and social enterprise activity
It asks that government supports the work done to date and to commit to continuing to support the development of the proposals to form a strategic business case with a view to the first projects being delivered in Spring 2017.
In a letter accompanying the Prospectus, the three Council leaders ( Willie Gibson NAC, Douglas Reid EAC and Bill McIntosh SAC) said: "We believe that the Prospectus will herald a step change in Ayrshire's economic prospects, enabling us to significantly enhance the area's contribution to the Scottish and UK economies and to ensure that our communities participate in and benefit from the growth opportunities we have set out.
"Ayrshire has many strengths; its people, its businesses and its wonderful natural assets. Our proposals will harness these strengths and inspire a future that is based on an even more innovative, productive, smart and inclusive economy.
"The three Ayrshire local authorities are united in their determination to develop and deliver the Ayrshire Growth Deal. Success will depend on collaboration, building on both the similarities and unique strengths across our authorities.
"We will work together to enhance the opportunities for our businesses and communities to build an inclusive, resilient and confident Ayrshire that plays a key role in Scotland's successes. We are committed and determined to work with public and private sector partners, and with the Scottish and UK Governments to achieve these goals."
The initial plans were unveiled last year when the three local authorities committed £150,000 to develop the proposals. Scottish Enterprise also agreed to contribute £25,000.
Patrick Wiggins, Ayrshire Growth Deal Director, added: "It has taken a lot of work to get to this stage but I'm delighted that we've submitted our initial proposals and looking forward to starting a dialogue with both the Scottish and UK governments.
"Inclusive growth – creating opportunities that can benefit all of our communities - is core to the development of the Ayrshire Growth Deal. The Deal will aim to bring new activities to our towns, building strong communities and pathways to employment.
"By working closely with governments on the agenda set out in the Ayrshire Growth Deal we believe that we can realise our full potential, creating jobs and prosperity for all our communities."
The Councils have identified key and specific projects that will be worked up into fully costed-project proposals. They are now asking the governments to assist towards the work required to get proposals to the next stage.
The three Councils will continue to work with their partners - including Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Ayrshire College and the University of West of Scotland and the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce - and will prepare a Strategic Business Case for the Ayrshire Growth Deal which is expected to be submitted in May.