Town Centre Regeneration: TCRF Case Studies Report

The report presents findings of research undertaken in nine case study areas that received funding from the Town Centre Regeneration Fund (TCRF). The report highlights baseline measures for monitoring town centre regeneration activity relative to each case study. The report is one of four publications produced by this research.


Context and Background

9.1 Millport is a town based on the Isle of Cumbrae, located just off the coast of North Ayrshire. An approximate ten minute journey by ferry from Largs, the population of the island (Millport is the only town) was 1,400 in 2008 [14].

9.2 The main industries on the Isle of Cumbrae are tourism and agriculture. The island was a very popular tourist destination in the 1950s and 1960s, attracting many visitors from the Scottish mainland, particularly the west coast. However, more recently the number of tourists coming to stay has fallen steadily and most visitors to the island these days are day-trippers. This reduced popularity has led to a resultant downturn in the island's economy in recent years.

9.3 The strategy of the emerging North Ayrshire Local Development Plan proposes that future development within the area's towns should take place within a hierarchical structure, reflecting the scale and character [15] of the towns. Millport's small scale, historical character and the fact that it is located on an island mean that future development activity in the town is likely to be relatively limited, orientated towards community development needs and services for the local catchment area.

The TCRF Project

9.4 The Millport TCRF project emerged in response to an identified need within local planning and economic development policy to promote opportunities for the growth of small and indigenous businesses, and to promote culture and arts in Millport town centre. The project also sought to arrest declining tourist numbers in the area and target business and day-trip leisure tourism markets.

  • The project represents the second phase of works building on the recently successful restoration of Garrison House in Millport.
  • Key work to be undertaken involves the remodelling of the Garrison House Lodge House by February 2010 to provide the community with a Business Centre.
  • Two derelict outbuildings will also be converted into community arts and culture space and a retractable courtyard cover will be constructed.
  • The project is the first in a series of early actions in the emerging Isle of Cumbrae Development Plan.

9.5 The overall objectives of the project are to make the town a more appealing place to do business and to increase the attractiveness of the town as a location for tourism.

9.6 There are a number of social, economic and environmental drivers underpinning the project:

  • Economic - to improve Millport Town Centre by providing improved business and tourism facilities with the aim of making the town centre an attractive place to do business and attract increased footfall. The renovation of the Lodge House will bring the building back into use in the business community while assisting in the regeneration of the town centre;
  • Social - the new business centre will increase networking opportunities for the business community, while the remodelling of the Garrison outbuildings will provide a high quality cultural and artistic space;
  • Environmental - remodelling of the outbuildings and lodge house will bring currently inactive and derelict buildings back into use and will complement the refurbished main Garrison House.


9.7 Table 9.1 reveals that Millport was home to approximately 1,400 people in 2009. This represents a decline of around 3% since 2001. North Ayrshire's population remained unchanged over this period but the wider Scottish population increased by 3%, in contrast to the downward trend in Millport.

9.8 Forty-nine per cent of Millport's population are of working age. This is lower than both the regional and national averages of 60% and 63% respectively.

Table 9.1: Population

  Millport North Ayrshire Scotland
Total Population 2009 1,400 135,500 5,194,000
Population Change 2001-09 -3% 0% 3%
% Working Age 2009 49% 60% 63%

Sources: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates

Age Profile

9.9 Figure 9.2 shows that the age structure of North Ayrshire's population is broadly similar to that of Scotland. Compared with the regional and national averages, Millport's population is characterized by lower shares of residents who are under the age of 16, youths between the ages of 16 and 24 and those of 'prime' working age (25-49).

9.10 The analysis also reveals that older people over the age of 50 account for a greater share of Millport's population. More than a quarter of the local population are between the ages of 50 and 64, compared with 21% for North Ayrshire and 19% for Scotland. Thirty-two per cent of Millport's population is over the age of 65 - this is considerably higher than both North Ayrshire (18%) and Scotland (17%).

Figure 9.2: Age Profile of the Population 2007
(Source: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates 2008)

Figure 9.2: Age Profile of the Population 2007

Labour Market

9.11 Table 9.3 shows the 2010 labour market participation levels (as measured by employment, unemployment and economic inactivity) in the regional area are generally below the national average.

9.12 Using the benefit claimant rate as a proxy for labour market participation, it can be assumed that labour market participation levels are higher than across North Ayrshire as a whole, but below the national average.

9.13 In January 2010, 4% of all working age residents in the Millport area were claiming the benefit, in line with the equivalent rate for Scotland but lower than that of North Ayrshire (6%).

9.14 Relative to Scotland, North Ayrshire's workforce is less well qualified. Twenty-six per cent of the region's working age population are educated to degree level, considerably lower than across Scotland as a whole (34%). Furthermore, a slightly greater proportion of North Ayrshire's working population have no qualifications at all - 14%, compared to 13% for Scotland.

Table 9.3: Labour Market

  Millport North Ayrshire Scotland
Labour Market Participation
Employment Rate N/A 65% 72%
Unemployment Rate N/A 12% 7%
Economic Inactivity Rate N/A 27% 23%
Benefit Claimants
Workless Benefit Claimant Rate 16.2% 19.5% 14.6%
Jobseekers Allowance Claimant Rate 4.3% 6.6% 4.2%
Qualifications of the Working Age Population
% WAP Qualified to Degree Level or Above N/A 26% 34%
% WAP with No Qualifications N/A 14% 13%

Local Economy

9.15 Table 9.4 shows that there were approximately 330 jobs in Millport in 2008, representing a decline of 9% since 2004. This was faster than the rate of decline across the region as whole (2%) and in contrast to growth of 3% across Scotland as a whole. The decline in the local area has largely been driven by decreases in employment in the public administration, education and health sector.

9.16 Only 5% of employee jobs in Millport are based within the financial and business services sector. This is below both the regional and national averages, where this sector accounts for 8% and 18% respectively.

9.17 There were 80 business located in the local area (town/town centre or ward) in 2007 which was 3% higher than in 2004. This was a slower rate of growth than that experienced across both the region (7%) and the nation (8%) over the same period.

9.18 However, when compared with the regional and national averages, Millport has a higher business density rate. In 2008, there were five businesses per 100 of the population in Millport. This was above the regional average of three as well as the Scottish average of four. It is possible that this can be attributed to the fact that Millport's economy is relatively self-contained. As Millport is an island, some residents will be more reluctant to travel to find employment. Therefore, this may result in more residents deciding to start their own business.

Table 9.4: Local Economy

  Millport North Ayrshire Scotland
Number of Jobs 2008 330 40,040 2,420,440
% Change 2004-08 -9% -2% 3%
% Jobs financial & business services 5% 8% 18%
Business Base
Number of Businesses (2008) 80 3,890 181,470
% Change 2004-08 3% 7% 8%
Businesses per 100 Head of Population 5 3 4

Source: Annual Business Inquiry & ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates

9.19 Table 9.5 shows a breakdown of all jobs by industry in Millport, North Ayrshire and Scotland. The service sector is by far the largest employer in Millport and accounts for a larger share of total employment when compared with North Ayrshire and Scotland. For example, retail & catering accounts for 29% of all jobs in the town, compared with 27% in North Ayrshire and 22% across Scotland as a whole. Other Services in Millport account for some 23% of employment. This is significantly higher than the equivalent rates for North Ayrshire and Scotland, 7% and 5% respectively.

9.20 Levels of manufacturing activity are very low in Millport, with the sector accounting for just 1% of all jobs in 2008. At a national level, the sector accounts for a larger share of jobs (9%). Manufacturing in the wider North Ayrshire area accounts for an even higher share of employment (14%) - this is probably in part attributable to the chemical manufacturing plant in Dalry.

Table 9.5: Employment

  Millport North Ayrshire Scotland
Total Number of Jobs 2008 330 40,040 2,420,440
% Agriculture & Energy 0% 2% 3%
% Manufacturing 1% 14% 9%
% Construction 5% 6% 6%
% Retail & Catering 29% 27% 22%
% Transport & Communications 4% 5% 5%
% Financial & Business Services 6% 9% 19%
% Public Sector 31% 30% 30%
% Other Services 23% 7% 5%

Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI)

9.21 The Annual Business Inquiry reveals that less than half (48%) of all employee jobs in Millport were full-time in 2008. This was some way below the regional and national averages where around 68% of all jobs are undertaken on a full-time basis.

Business Base

9.22 Figure 9.6 shows the profile of the business base in terms of sizeband in the local area, relative to the regional and national areas. It shows that the vast majority of businesses across each of the areas employ between 1-10 people. In Millport, these employers account for a larger share of employment (91%), when compared with North Ayrshire (83%) and Scotland (81%).

9.23 On the other hand, businesses in Millport with between 11 and 49 employees account for around 9% of all businesses in the area - below the regional and national averages of 14%.

9.24 In 2008 there were no businesses in Millport which employed between 50 and 199 or more than 200 employees. In North Ayrshire, 3% of businesses employ between 50 and 199 employees - identical to the equivalent Scottish rate. Scotland is the only area which is represented by businesses employing more than 200 staff (just 1% of all businesses).

Figure 9.6: Businesses by Sizeband 2008
(Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI))

Figure 9.6: Businesses by Sizeband 2008


9.25 This section provides an overview of Millport's tourist market, providing some assessment of the recent performance at a regional and national level.

9.26 Unfortunately it is not possible to use the data zone definition to look at the tourism market in Millport as the numbers involved are too small to be disclosed. Therefore, this section looks at the 2003 CAS ward of West Largs and Millport. Table 9.8 shows that the local area's tourism sector employed around 590 people in 2008, representing growth of 12% since 2004. This rate of growth was faster than the across the regional area (4%) and the national area (5%).

9.27 There were around 70 tourism businesses in the local area in 2008 - an increase of around 8% since 2004. This rate of growth outpaced both the regional and national averages of 4%.

Table 9.7: Tourism

Tourism Employment & Workplaces Millport North Ayrshire Scotland
Employees (2008) 590 4,740 215,000
Change in Employees 2004-2008 12% 4% 5%
Workplaces 70 510 19,450
Change in Workplaces 2004-2008 8% 4% 4%

Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI)

Town Centre

9.28 Table 9.8 shows the baseline measures that were available for Millport town centre. With Millport being one of the smallest town centres amongst the case studies, data is very limited. The town was not included in North Ayrshire Council's monitoring of town centre performance.

Table 9.8: Town Centre Baseline Measures

Measure Specific Data Source Comment
Economic Activity
Recent Investment Not regularly monitored
Planning applications and building warrant applications available
N/A Not yet collected
No of Businesses 80 Annual Business Inquiry (2008) Datazones S1004503 and S1004508
No of jobs 330 Annual Business Inquiry (2008) Datazones S1004503 and S1004508
Retail Performance
Rental levels Not available    
Vacancy levels 25% Slims Consulting visit Feb 2011  
Range of shops/services Not available    
Use and Accessibility
Parking Not available NAC Car park revenue is recorded
Pedestrian Flow Not available Various Footfall counters potentially available in Garrison House.

Linkages and Catalysts for Further Investment

9.29 The project has been developed by the Cumbrae Community Development Company ( CCDC) and represents the first step in a series of early actions in the emerging Isle of Cumbrae Development Plan.

9.30 The project has been advanced in conjunction with a number of local partner organisations including North Ayrshire Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Cunninghame Housing Association, and is backed by Business Gateway and the local Community Planning Partnership.

9.31 The project application and our discussion with the project manager suggested that the project was designed to:

  • Improve business and tourism facilities;
  • Make the town centre more attractive to do business;
  • Attract increased footfall;
  • Provide better networking opportunities for businesses;
  • Provide a high quality artistic and cultural space;
  • Bring derelict buildings back to use.

9.32 The project is potentially unique amongst the case studies in that the physical regeneration of the building (which was commenced before TCRF) has acted as the stimulus for the development of a wider community-led regeneration strategy for the whole island.

9.33 The future development of the project - and the town centre - is being actively considered by the Board of the Development Company. The Board are considering how to capitalise on the gifting of a number of properties within the town centre which have the potential to offer rental income to the Trust. The Board is also examining the possibility of improving Millport's branding and raising the quality of the visitor offer.

Project Specific Measures

Table 9.9: Millport: Project Specific Measures

Objectives/ Activities Outputs Short Term Outcomes: 2011 Interim Term Outcomes: 2013 Longer Term Outcomes: 2015+
The project involves the extension of a lodge house and outbuildings at Garrison House to create a business centre and arts and culture space Increased spend on (local) suppliers & initial jobs related to regeneration work Increase business start ups from 2 to 5 on island Increased inward investment & sustained job opportunities Increased (inward) investment & sustained job opportunities
  Improved business spaces for events meeting & interacting Establish 2 account managed business on island Sustained use of local retail, leisure & cultural facilities Places where people want to live and work & which enhance their quality of life Stronger economy
  Improved arts and culture spaces for events meeting & interacting Provide base for Business Forum meetings Increased footfall at Garrison Centre by 10% Support increased footfall in town centre
  User friendly buildings that address people's/ organisation's needs Increase events from 5 to 10 (by 2012)   Locals (& visitors) perceive the town has an improved image

9.34 Table 9.9 shows the project specific measures set out in the project application and additional measures agreed for the project between the research team and the project manager. The quantifiable measures can largely be collected by the Community Development Company.

9.35 The Community Development Company is also looking to identify external assistance to help them develop an evaluation of the contribution that the project has made.

Progress: Jan/Early Feb 2011

9.36 As of May 2010 the project was well underway and was expected to be completed by the end of July 2010. The main contractor leading on the building work went into administration in June 2010, leading to significant delays.

9.37 A new contractor was appointed in late 2010 and the work was complete by the end of January 2011. While the arts and cultural space and the business place are now completed, as yet there are no full time tenants in either space.

9.38 The arts and culture space has been used for a number of small events, particularly over the Christmas period. A new development manager has been appointed by the Community Development Trust and she is currently considering additional uses that could be accommodated within this space as part of a wider programme of activity in Garrison House.

9.39 The business space at the Lodge house is currently being used for Committee meetings of the Community Development Trust and on a part-time basis by the project officer. The trust had successfully applied for additional funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to provide office furniture and equipment and increase the suitability of the space for start-up and small businesses.


  • The project is largely physical and is the second phase of works, building on the recently successful restoration of Garrison House;
  • The project has been completed and the Trust has successfully applied for further funding in support of the project;
  • The future development of the projects is being actively considered as part of a wider look at the future of Garrison House and the wider performance of the town centre;
  • The Community Development Company has only limited resources to monitor the performance of the town centre. They are considering ways in which they can secure resources to evaluate the impact of the project in the town centre.

Case Study Interview Details

Main Contact Name Julia Haston
Position Local Development Officer
Organisation Cumbrae Community Development Company
Phone Number / Mobile 01475 531381
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