05.04.2013 - Rothesay 'escapes' notorious Plook on a Plinth award

Phew! That's a relief! Rothesay has 'escaped' winning a prize in the 2012 Plook on the Plinth Awards organised by trendy architecture magazine Urban Realm. This year's winner is New Cumnock in nearby Ayrshire.

©The Buteman

Whilst it's a relief that Rothesay has not won a Plook award it does raise the awkward question of why it was nominated by three separate individuals in the first place?

Clearly the town is nowhere near as busy and bustling as it was in its Victorian heyday nor as busy as it was after the last World War when steamers brought working class holiday-makers 'doon the watter' from Glasgow. Holiday-makers these days are more likely to get a cheap flight from Glasgow airport to somewhere hot and sunny than to take the (expensive) ferry over to Bute.

A visiting professor has already suggested that 'To reconfigure Rothesay in a way that would transform its appearance would require a fair amount of demolition as well as small-scale projects of reconstruction'. Part of the problem, of course, is where to find the money to do all this work. Argyll & Bute Council do not have any spare funds and given the depressed state of the economy more generally there is little private sector money pouring into the place.

Over at Neilston, near Glasgow, the community has embraced the development of a wind farm near the town and will use the millions of pounds the renewable energy project will create over a twenty year period to draw up and follow through on a strategic plan to revitalise the town. Neilston calls itself 'Scotland's first Renaissance Town'. With a bit of thought and some buy-in to the proposed turbines at Ascog Farm Rothesay could easily be the second! Raise investment, get an equity stake and realise a reliable income for the future based on Bute's plentiful clean, green and renewable energy resources.

Doing something about the state of the main town on Bute, which 'has a depressing air about it, with a limited range of shops, some boarded up or with ‘closing down’ signs, crumbling tenements and many domestic and commercial properties up for sale (some have been on the market for years)' according to Professor Hume, is probably worthwhile since people will make repeat visits to places they like with facilities (such as pubs, restaurants, shops and entertainment) that they like. At least one holiday-maker to Bute has found Rothesay not to his liking and while some of his criticisms are over-played there is a degree of truth (even if unwelcome) in many of his other assertions.

©The Buteman

Many of those who object to our plans for turbines at Ascog Farm do so on the basis of impacts on 'views' which they suggest will harm 'Bute's fragile tourist economy'. A recent report of the Scottish Parliamentary Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee has concluded that the oft mentioned ill effects of wind turbines on tourism are 'anecdotal' (p8). Certainly on Bute a lot could be gained by finding ways to raise money to regenerate Rothesay (and lowering ferry fares! although that's a separate debate...)

As things stand we will give £10,000/mW installed capacity/year or 20% of net profits (whichever is the greater) to local community partner Towards Zero Carbon Bute if our application for mid-sized turbines is consented.

We are happy for more of the revenue from the project to flow to the community if we have investment and hence equity partership in the build costs and ongoing operational risk. This approach to community investment in wind energy has worked at Neilston and could work just as well on Bute!