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August 11, 2009

Lochgilphead set for change

A major initiative to transform the fortunes of Lochgilphead is underway. The aim is to make the town a magnet for tourists and plans are being drawn up both to improve local visitor facilities and to run a programme of year round events that will attract greater visitor numbers.  The Phoenix Project – so named because it aims to bring about the rebirth of the town – has gained widespread approval

A NEW public hall, heritage centre, regular Gala Day and a Hogmanay party are part of a plan to transform Lochgilphead into a tourist magnet and somewhere people feel proud to live.

‘I would like Lochgilphead to be the jewel at the top of Kintyre… not the armpit of Loch Fyne. It should be the starting point for tourists,’ said Jane MacDonald, the local businesswoman who convened a meeting at Lochgilphead Community Centre last Wednesday to gather views.

And a packed and enthusiastic room agreed with her – it is time to do something to improve the look and attractions on offer in Lochgilphead.

It has been named the Phoenix Project – to bring about the re-birth of the town. A steering committee was appointed to take forward the many ideas discussed and to find out what the people of Lochgilphead want. They got straight down to work meeting last week to move things forward.

Jane said: ‘The whole aim for what we have called the Phoenix Project is the regeneration of Lochgilphead. To start with, there’s the public hall – it will eventually be a business for the community, ploughing money back in to other projects.’

She hopes a hall would incorporate a heritage centre and backpackers hostel, as well as being a base for a regular programme of cultural and community events.

The group plans to resurrect an environmental improvement plan drawn up in 1992, but never put into effect. They will also work to bring back Gala Day in summer 2010 and a regular Hogmanay event to attract people at New Year.

‘It needs the community’s backing. We need to do this for ourselves,’ Jane added. ‘It can’t go forward unless everybody is wanting the same thing. And that is to bring life back into Lochgilphead and make us proud that we actually live here.’

She said she started to see the need for a major push to improve the town listening to customers in her barber’s shop: ‘It was just talking to people and finding out how fed up the local people in the town are, that there’s nothing to do. We are seeing colossal amounts of housing being built, without the jobs and amenities for them.’

The Phoenix steering group will be sending a questionnaire to every home and plans to hold another public meeting at the end of September. They will also be contacting other groups in the town, to get their views and find opportunities to work together.