A near £1.4million investment across two projects in Banff is being hailed as the way out of a “very dark place” post-lockdown.
Work will soon begin on a £600,000 restoration of Banff’s vinery and a £709,000 investment in the town’s Bridge Street, both funded through Aberdeenshire Council thanks to Scottish Government grants.
The former will be transformed into a base for community projects and will be run by the Aberdeen Foyer charity, while the latter will be reinvigorated in a bid to tempt more shops and business to the Bridge Street area.
Banff Development Partnership chairman, town councillor Glen Reynolds, said the investments provide “hope” for the town as it emerges from the coronavirus lockdown.
“They both demonstrate that investment in pioneering projects such as these will produce outcomes that are commercial as well as addressing the undoubted need for wellbeing as we come out of a very dark place,” he said.
Aberdeenshire Council has appointed contractor Ken Barbour to turn the disused grade B-listed vinery, known as the Orangery, in Airlie Gardens into a safe, shared space for community and third sector groups to enjoy and use for gardening.
Initially used to grow grapes in the ground of Duff House, the vinery was gifted to the town and relocated, meaning Aberdeen Foyer will work with residents to gather preferences for how the common good asset operates.
Anne Kain, the charity’s head of service, employability and learning, said: “The aim is to create a positive space that will showcase local talent and generate a sense of hope and pride in the local community.”
Parts of the gardens will be closed until the work is completed in March 2022.
Meanwhile, Hunter Construction will begin works on the £709,030 project to install lantern lighting columns and penny farthing-inspired cycle stands on Bridge Street, together with the creation of a 22kw vehicle charging point in the adjacent car park area.
Banff councillor Michael Roy said: “There is a real sense of anticipation in Banff at the moment surrounding both the public realm improvement works and the likes of the Vinery project.
“Enhancing our town centre environment and making it more appealing and accessible for visitors will also be of real benefit for the shops and businesses in and around Bridge Street.”
In a further boost, a new Banffshire Business Forum has been launched to support the local business community and economy.
Vice-chairwoman of the 10-strong committee, Michelle Walker, said: “As a result of Covid, there has been a great deal of focus on shopping local, with multiple funding sources and regional and national initiatives created to promote this on a longer term basis.
“We felt it was an ideal time to launch a proactive group to maximise these opportunities and to showcase the diverse range of businesses and tourism offerings we have locally.”