A masterplan to transform Alexandria aims to breathe new life into the Vale’s dilapidated Main Street, transform the crumbling Mitchell Way and refurbish the iconic Smollett Fountain.
West Dunbartonshire Council’s infrastructure, regeneration and economic development committee are set to discuss the draft masterplan tomorrow (Wednesday), which outlines 12 projects aimed at ensuring Alexandria regains its place as the heart of the Vale.
Each of the projects were ranked in terms of importance by residents, with over 1800 people taking part in an online consultation on the future of the town.
The Vale’s struggling Main Street forms the heart of the plans, with the report saying: “If the town centre is the heart of the Vale, Main Street is the heart of the town centre.
“At the moment the street is dominated by vehicles (many illegally parked) and pavements are too narrow.
“The aim is to make Main Street more attractive for people to spend time in, supporting businesses and community life.
“Many people have said that they would like to see a broader range of shops and businesses.
“We can’t make businesses open, but we can help create the conditions for that to happen by making the street more attractive.
“Studies elsewhere have shown that doing that, particularly by creating more space for people, increases footfall and spend.”
Plans include widening the pavements with increased seating, flowers and trees whilst retaining the two-way flow of traffic.
Pedestrian crossings could also be introduced at alleys to the car parks, whilst increased signage could be installed to encourage people to leave their vehicles behind Main Street.
There is set to be a clampdown on illegal parking, whilst accessible public toilets could be made available.
Comments from the consultation stress the importance of regular maintenance, with residents also expressing concerns that the narrower road will result in traffic blockages from illegal parking, deliveries and buses as has been seen in Balloch, potentially causing increased traffic on Middleton Street.
More detailed proposals around the concerns, including the potential of a trial project, are set to be worked on by officials in the coming weeks.
The crumbling Mitchell Way – which is labelled “a major source of concern for the local community” – is also highlighted in the report, with it proposed that a long-awaited new Lidl supermarket would be built behind St Andrew’s Church, and 25 new one and two bedroom homes would be built on the existing Mitchell Way down from the Co-op.
The report promises that the council will: “Work with development partners to ensure that the proposals face and connect with Mitchell Way and Main Street, so the proposed supermarket feels part of the town centre, shoppers are encouraged to visit other town centre businesses, and footfall along Mitchell Way and Main Street is maximised.”
Lidl have been targeting a move to Alexandria since 2016, however the project has been beset by delays – whilst the Vale town centre has crumbled with any works to regenerate it placed on hold.
However residents have shown mixed views on the need for another supermarket in the town, with Lidl’s budget rival Aldi already having a store in Alexandria.
Last year, Janice Ross of the Vale of Leven Trust said: “Overall it is great that Lidl wants to build and invest in our town centre however the development has to be for the benefit of the whole town.
“Allowing developers to set the agenda and parameters solely for their benefit is a short-term solution to Mitchell Way.”
The new homes on Mitchell Way will form part of plans to build between 100 and 200 new affordable properties, with the project also aiming to remove the ‘magic roundabout’ around Alexandria railway station and reintroduce the old block street pattern in Bank Street and Chapel Street.
The Smollett Fountain is also set to undergo restoration works for the first time since 1996, although it will not be possible to reattach a water supply.
Instead the historic structure, which was built in 1870, could be illuminated by a creative lighting project.
There will also be changes to the road layout and positioning of controversial planters, following concerns outlined by residents.
As well as an overhaul of the Vale’s tired and crumbling town centre, the masterplan provides a range of council and community led proposals aimed at making Alexandria a more attractive place for locals and visitors.
Council chiefs are set to explore options for improving existing properties in the town centre, including by working with private owners to regenerate shopfronts, freshening up council owned properties and applying to new sources of funding for support.
Funding has also been secured to install a lift and refurbish space in Alexandria Library, with the area set to be allocated for community use.
A new exhibition space in the library will also open, showcasing the area’s history – from the Turkey Red works to the first ever football world champions Renton FC.
Car parking spaces at the community centre are also set for an overhaul to allow the area to host more outdoor events, whilst Green Heritage Corridors would create opportunities for local residents, schools and community groups to be involved in artwork, better play facilities, growing food, tree planting and nature trails.
These would be linked to the creation of better cycling and walking routes, in keeping with the Scottish Government’s 20-minute neighbourhood plans.
Christie Park is also in line for a community-led refurbishment that would see the toilets reopened, the wall memorial renovated and the creation with a link to the Vale Hospital.
Council chiefs are also optimistic about working with the owners of Loch Lomond Galleries to breathe new life into the shopping centre, and host exhibitions in its grounds.