The regeneration of the Forth & Clyde Canal’s western gateway is set to take another step forward as a £1 million project to continue the transformation of the area into a vibrant tourism and leisure destination gets underway.
The development at Bowling Basin in West Dunbartonshire, funded by the Coastal Communities Fund, Scottish Canals, West Dunbartonshire Council and Sustrans, will see the area’s disused railway arches transformed into a suite of commercial units, as well as delivering landscaping and access improvements. The scheme, which is due for completion in early 2016, will also create scenic viewpoints to make the most of the area’s vistas over the River Clyde.
The work follows an earlier £1 million project undertaken last year that saw four of the arches of the historic Caledonian and Dunbartonshire Railway bridge brought back to life as business premises thanks to funding from the Scottish Government. The project, which saw the local community, stakeholders and agencies develop a shared masterplan for the area, won the prize for community involvement at the 2014 Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.
Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said: “Bowling Basin played a vital role in the history of Scotland’s canals and we’re committed to ensuring it remains just as relevant in the future.
“Working with the local community and our partners at West Dunbartonshire Council, we’ve developed a shared vision to help safeguard Bowling’s rich heritage and build for its future and have already invested more than £1 million in the area.
“Thanks to the support of the Coastal Communities Fund and our partners, this project will drive forward the next stage of the regeneration of the area, bringing further investment, employment opportunities and vibrancy to Bowling, and developing a fantastic tourism and leisure destination fitting of the western gateway to the Forth & Clyde Canal.”
Bowling, which sits on the northern bank of the Firth of Clyde and near the western terminus of the ancient Antonine Wall, was a major transport hub during the Industrial Revolution and was vital to the success of the River Clyde, the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Caledonian and Dunbartonshire Railway. The village is now identified by West Dunbartonshire Council as a key regeneration and development priority.
Councillor Patrick McGlinchey, Convener for Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development at West Dunbartonshire Council, said: “I’m delighted that the next stage of this project to regenerate Bowling Basin is now set to get under way.
“By creating these commercial units it will help to attract investment, create jobs and boost tourism in West Dunbartonshire. Once completed, these spaces will provide the ideal location for local businesses to move to or to expand their current premises as we look to boost economic growth and employability throughout the area.”
As part of the project, a website focusing on Bowling’s past and future has been launched at www.bowlingbasin.com. While it features information on the on-going regeneration of the area, a key part of the website is community participation and residents of Bowling – past and present – are encouraged to share their stories.
The site already features a few interesting tales of the village’s past – including local boater Jimmy MacFarlane’s recollections of living aboard a converted lifeboat in Bowling Basin and a childhood spent chasing midget submarines through the canal – but anyone with a story to tell is encouraged to get involved. Full details are available on the website.
John Gordon, owner of Magic Cycles, which opened in the first set of renovated arches last year, said: “We’ve been in Bowling for 18 years and, ever since the canals reopened, the area has been getting busier and busier. More and more people are using the canal and its towpaths and I’ve seen a real positive change in the area. The increase in the number of cyclists has been amazing and that’s great news for us.
“The arches are a brilliant commercial space and I’m sure a wide range of businesses will jump at the chance to join us. We’ve worked closely with Scottish Canals and West Dunbartonshire Council throughout this project and we love our new premises. It’s a very exciting time.”