Alec Clark column: Carrick needs investment

Alec Clark says more investment is needed in places like Girvan
Alec Clark says more investment is needed in places like Girvan

Easter has come and gone and the holidays are over, schools are back and the daily routine takes over at least until the next holiday weekend at the beginning of May.

However these are not mundane times and within a few weeks there will be a General Election which of course I am sure you will have noticed!

In our own neck of the woods there are a couple of important issues on the horizon. First of all the Boundaries Commission is looking at possible changes to council ward boundaries in South Ayrshire and in particular Carrick.

The proposal is that the number of South Ayrshire councillors will be reduced from 30 to 27 whilst other councils would see an increase in councillor representation. While some may say good, the proposed reduction would be felt most right here in Carrick.

In ward eight, Girvan and South Carrick, the three councillors already look after seven community councils, eight schools plus Invergarven special needs school, and various other community groups covering an area from Kilkerran to the Dumfries and Galloway Border. The proposals would see the Dipple, Turnberry, Maidens, Kirkoswald, Minishant and Dunure ripped out of Carrick and joined up with the Kyle ward stretching up to Dundonald and Tarbolton with Maybole, Straiton, Crosshill and Kirkmichael joining with Girvan and South Carrick to make up a new ward seven with four councillors.

In the opinion of the two Independent councillors and of the majority of community councils, this is an ill thought out proposal which would sever the familiar and well trusted association with local councillors and disengage these communities from the rest of Carrick. Yes if elected we would of course represent the electorate of the proposed new ward but that does not make it the right solution.

The second important issue is the publication by The Scottish Government of the report from The James Hutton Institute which provides the evidence needed to make decisions on how to target support from LEADER European funding to the rural parts of Scotland.

This publication reports on all aspects of Socio Economic Life in Scotland. In other words it reports on everything from the Health, Wealth, Employment, Investment, Education and Deprivation etc. of rural communities all over Scotland.

The one clear message coming across is that Rural parts of South Ayrshire and in particular Carrick are in the worst quarter of any of the measured outcomes in Scotland. It is absolutely clear that no matter which way you look at it, there has been a serious underinvestment in rural areas.

I believe that this is also the case in the investment that rural towns and villages all over Carrick receive from SAC. There is always plenty of investment for the urban areas around Ayr, Prestwick and Troon whereas there is always a fight to achieve investment in to the Towns of Girvan, Maybole and the villages of Carrick.

In terms of housing, the priority for new build or extra housing is around Ayr, Troon and Preswick, the rationale being that the majority (70%) of the South Ayrshire population stay there. This should not be at the expense of the rest of and biggest geographical area of South Ayrshire where there is a definite need for housing and is one of the reasons why I believe that it is so wrong to demolish McConnell Square in Girvan instead of investing some capital to turn the accommodation into 12 one bedroomed flats that many folk would be glad of contrary to the official line of statistics peddled from County Buildings.

One of the stats coming out of the Hutton Report is that due to the average population age of folk living in Carrick, there is a higher use of medical and health services etc., which in turn shows that provision of such services in this area is essential.

One of the main reasons that the population is of a higher average age in this area is because of the lack of opportunities for our young folk which at times forces them to leave the area to further their prospects in other parts of the country or abroad. This drain on our human resources can only be reversed through higher rural investment to provide more opportunities for our young folk to capitalise on.

It is also the reason that folk such as myself have to make sure that the Carrick Voice is heard and that the case is made for services to be retained in our towns and villages. It cannot be good sense for instance to drive by a Rolls Royce hospital at Girvan to access services that could be so easily provided from this building. Doing that is tantamount to social exclusion.

It is also wrong that folk should have to travel miles to access services such as registration which should be easily available on our doorstep. We are very lucky that the old Girvan Burgh Council had the foresight to put steps in place to support development of Grangeston Industrial Estate which provides much needed employment in this rural area, not only directly but indirectly through work carried out by local firms on behalf of companies such as William Grants, Nestle, Land Energy and FMC Biopolymers (Alginate).

This type of development needs to be encouraged and supported by investment in further infrastructure and marketing to attract more inward investment. We need to know that there is a level playing field when it comes to Development and Enterprise so that rural areas are promoted in just as positive a manner as urban areas. The Hutton Report does not cover urban areas, however it is plain for all to see that access to services whether they be leisure, transport, or council is much easier in urban versus rural areas.

Given the facts that come from this report, it is even more important to give full backing to South Carrick Community Leisure the company formed to take the new Girvan Leisure Centre forward and who are on track to start building later this year.

It is important to give backing to all the groups who do so much in the area. It is important to give backing to the proposed new 2 Pins Centre at Pinwherry and given that the work in all of these groups is carried out in the main by conscientious hard working volunteers, then it is vitally important that more work is carried out by South Ayrshire Council to lever investment into all of Carrick to make sure that the southern entry point in to South Ayrshire is a welcoming vibrant area for those who visit and most importantly of all for those who live and would like to work here.