A BID for cash to modernise the most important traffic junction in East Ayrshire was set to be approved as this issue of the Chronicle went to press.

Members of East Ayrshire Council’s cabinet were expected to give the green light to a £30 million bid to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund at a meeting on Tuesday.

One of the projects on the list is a £10m modernisation of the Bellfield Interchange, which connects the A71, A76 and A77.

A report prepared by a council official ahead of Tuesday’s meeting stated: “Bellfield Interchange is the most important traffic junction in East Ayrshire and for many is a gateway to the rest of Ayrshire and the wider south west of Scotland region.”

It describes the issues at the roundabout, including pedestrian and vehicle safety, congestion and capacity constraints.

The report also warns that a lack of investment will have a knock-on effect on the Ayrshire Growth Deal proposal for the Ayrshire Manufacturing Investment Corridor (AMIC) project.

Ayrshire Roads Alliance has developed options for £10m of improvements to the interchange, including new traffic lights, the introduction of a third lane by reducing the hard verges, and the building of a separate pedestrian/cycle bridge alongside the junction.

An application for ‘Cultural Kilmarnock’ will be for £20m, with further funding sought for a scheme that is expected to cost around £31m in total.

The report outlines the plans, saying: “Cultural Kilmarnock has been identified as an area to the east of the town centre that includes culturally significant listed buildings like the Palace Theatre, Grand Hall and Dick Institute.

“The vision for Cultural Kilmarnock is to create an enduring and vibrant area of cultural significance. The emerging design proposals aim to improve pedestrian connections between the cultural venues and town centre through the linking of green spaces and improvements to the public realm.”

Improvement work would include landscaping, lighting, and signage to enhance the setting, connection and offering of the

cultural venues.

The design proposals also include significant improvements to the

accessibility and energy efficiency of the Palace Theatre and Grand Hall, ‘improving its performance as a regional theatre and concert hall’.

The proposals have received the backing of Kilmarnock and Loudoun MP Alan Brown.

Overall costs for the Cultural Kilmarnock project are £31m. The Levelling Up Fund bid will be £20m with an additional £5m sought from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NHLF) and £750,000 from Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

Around £5m is currently allocated for the Palace Theatre and Grand Hall through the capital programme.

The council also outlined future plans to bid for funding for the Doon Valley masterplan.

The report states: “A masterplan for the Doon Valley will seek to connect local offerings of outdoor sport, leisure and tourism within the area, and complement the proposed new Doon Valley community campus.”

“The applications being taken forward via the Levelling Up Fund would represent a significant investment in the area’s cultural and transport infrastructure and if successful, bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits to East Ayrshire.”

Spending on an innovative energy-efficiency project at an East

St Sophia’s Primary School will increase by £800,000 to a total of £4.4m.

East Ayrshire Council’s cabinet took a decision to increase capital borrowing for the project

By agreeing to meet the shortfall in funding, which was due in part to inflationary costs as well as the innovative nature of the design, a construction tender can now be progressed and the project will be developed to the new EnerPHit building standard.

St Sophia’s will be the first EnerPHit certified school in the UK and aims to achieve some of the largest energy reductions of any school renovation to date.

It is anticipated that work will start on-site in early 2023.

Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) has provided an estimated funding contribution of £21.360m for the Doon Valley Community Campus and £3.450m for St Sophia’s Primary School.

Councillor Elaine Cowan, cabinet spokesperson for Lifelong Learning, Education and Skills and Culture said: “As a council we are committed to ensuring that our children and young people have access to the best facilities possible.

“St Sophia’s is an exciting project and incredibly innovative. It will be the first EnerPHit certified school in the UK and hopes to deliver significant energy reductions by improving the fabric of the building”.