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Chief Executive and Council Leader hit the road

A group of people seated in a school setting

Colleagues across various services have been paid a visit by Council Leader Marie Burns and Chief Executive Craig Hatton.

Marie and Craig were keen to get back out to Council sites and visit partnership projects we support to meet people face-to-face and hear first hand how working life is going.

The series of Locality Visits also gave staff an opportunity to speak directly with Marie and Craig and flag up any issues or concerns they have.

So far, three Locality Visits from six have taken place in the Three Towns, Cumbrae and Arran and projects involved were chosen as they have our communities and Council staff at the heart of them.

Further visits to the Garnock Valley, Irvine and Kilwinning are planned to take place later this year.

First stop Stevenston

On August 21, Marie and Craig went to Stevenston to speak to residents who moved into a new Council home at Afton Court; they met the various Council teams based at the Building Services headquarters and also dropped in for a coffee at Doon The Beach Café.

Annemarie Turner and Thomas McLaughlin kindly welcomed Marie and Craig into their home with Council Housing staff Greig Wilton, Craig Leitch, Kirsty Murdoch and Gary Telfer, from PMI.

Afton Court is a £1.3million, environmentally-conscious, modular housing project near Stevenston Library which received £600,000 of Scottish Government funding.

The six “green” homes are amenity bungalows. The modern, energy-efficient properties have been built using cutting edge techniques and focus on environmental sustainability. The building process itself created substantially less waste than traditional building methods – and the bungalows all have solar panels.

Annemarie told Marie and Craig: “I absolutely love my home, it is amazing. I feel as if I have won the lottery! I can’t thank the Council enough. I am ecstatically happy.”

Craig Hatton and Marie Burns standing outside a newly-built house
Craig and Marie at the newly-built Afton Court homes with residents Annemarie Turner and Thomas McLaughlin and Gary Telfer (PMI) and Housing staff Kirsty Murdoch, Greig Wilton and Craig Leitch.
Winding road icon with shipping container on crane and coffee

Next stop, ferry bound to Millport

In Millport, on August 23, Marie and Craig visited staff and pupils at Cumbrae Primary School, went into Millport Town Hall to take a look at renovation works and stopped off at the site of the Millport Flood Protection Scheme.

At the school, Headteacher Julie McAleese and Classroom Assistant Gulmira Wilson introduced Marie and Craig to Ukrainian pupils Vika (P6), Maxim (P5) and Sascha (P6). With Gulmira translating, the children’s conversation turned to how Craig “became the big boss” and if he and Councillor Burns had the job of “designing all the schools”.

Millport Town Hall is currently being renovated and the extensive works at the historic building are being spearheaded by Millport Town Hall Charity, with support from the Council. When complete, the community facility will have a new accessible entrance, multi-use spaces for events and flats that will be used as holiday lets for income.

The charity has raised more than £500,000 itself with other funding coming from the Scottish Government; £200,000 from the Council – backed by the North Coast and Cumbraes Locality Partnership – through CIF – and £15,000 from North Ayrshire Ventures Trust.

Trustees Angie McCallum, who is chair of the charity, and treasurer John McNeilly gave Marie and Craig a tour of the site with representatives of McLaughlin Construction to see the work in progress.

Work is underway at Millport Flood Protection Scheme, where Steven Steel and Martin Miller, from the Council’s Roads team, and representatives of project partners gave Marie and Craig an overview.

The £48million flood defence works are being carried out by contractors Van Oord UK with support from subsidiary Mackley Civil Engineering and are managed by Turner & Townsend. The current focus is on installing the onshore flood walls.

The visit to Arran, on August 30, took in North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) staff accommodation at Glenartney.

Then the tour continued to Arran Eco Savvy’s Zero Waste Café in Corrie, Arran High School and the Area Office in Lamlash.

Julie Davis, Principal Manager for Business Support Services, and HSCP housekeepers Sebastian Gren and Sara Good gave Marie and Craig a tour of the wonderful Glenartney property and talked about the positive difference the accommodation has made for staff travelling over from the mainland for work.

A tour of Building Services had Marie and Craig meeting Council staff who work on everything from housing repairs and adaptations to properties that are fire damaged or need new kitchens.

Colleagues working in other areas such as job-allocation, administration and other trades such as joiners, painters glaziers and electricians responsible for street lighting also had a chance to speak about their work, as did recruitment as did payroll, systems and invoicing.

Staff used the opportunity to talk about their work and any challenges they are facing – as well as share the things they enjoyed most about being part of the Council Family. Senior Managers Nigel Burn and Leigh-Ann Mitchell facilitated the visit.

The last stop was at Doon The Beach Café in Shore Road, where a wonderful café and community hub has been created using shipping containers for the structure.

Raise Your Voice with Ardeer (RYVA) is the charity behind this project, which was supported by the Council through £130,000 of Community Investment Fund (CIF) money with the backing of the Three Towns Locality Partnership.

The Café is a fine example of community empowerment and is now home to a bustling social hub and meeting spot – with great coffee!

Locality Worker Val Crosthwaite showed Marie and Craig round the Café with manager Craig Burns and RYVA chair Margaret Sweeney and her daughter Elizabeth Sweeney, who is treasurer.

A group of people standing outside of a cafe
Craig and Marie at Doon the Beach Cafe with baristas Jordan and Holly and (from left) Elizabeth Sweeney and daughter Adele, Margaret Sweeney, Val Crosthwaite (NAC) and manager Craig Burns
A group of people looking at the ongoing renovation works inside a building
Viewing the ongoing work to regenerate Millport Town Hall with project Chair Angie McCallum, treasurer John McNeilly and reps of McLaughlin Construction
Winding road with drum and bicycle icon
Marie Burns and Craig Hatton with Arran High pupils on their bikes at Dyemill all-weather bike park
Marie Burns and Craig Hatton with Arran High pupils on their bikes at Dyemill all-weather bike park

Final stop of this leg of the tour: Arran

At the Café, Jess Wallace, Sustainable Food Coordinator, and chair Helen Ross explained the ethos and aims of Arran Eco Savvy, which works to reduce Arran’s carbon footprint, cut back on food waste and deliver environmental projects on the island.

Arran Eco Savvy was awarded £30,000 earlier this year – to be paid over three years – from North Ayrshire Ventures Trust to cover staffing costs and help the Café to expand.

At the High School, Headteacher Susan Foster arranged a tour of the school with senior pupils, who spoke about their great pride in the schools sporting and musical achievements through the Pipe Band and by attaining a Gold level award through the Sport Scotland national school sport programme.

And Graeme Johnstone, Youth Work Project manager at Arran Youth Foundations (AYF) welcomed Marie and Craig to the AYF cabin in the school grounds where young people can play instruments, challenge each other at gaming and find a safe space to relax.

AYF got more than £45,000 in CIF funding back in 2020 in a joint application to the Council with the High School’s Parent Council and this was used to enhance mental health and well-being services for young people in crisis through therapy sessions and improved access to counselling.

At the accessible, all-weather bike park at Dyemill – near the school – pupils Archie Gunaydi (S6) Andrew Currie (S4) and Rosie McNamara (S4) demonstrated their skills. In May it was announced that £220,625 had been allocated to Arran High School Mountain Bike Club from the Scottish Government’s Islands’ Programme for the bike park, which encourages a range of activities.

And last but not least, staff at the Area Office in Lamlash welcomed Marie and Craig for a catch-up, which was arranged by Island Officer Brodie Pearcey.

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