£5 million Levelling-up investment on three Perth projects approved by councillors

Work is under way to invest £5 million of UK Government Levelling-up funding for Perth on three projects.

The three projects are: a £3 million development of Lower City Mills into a tourist attraction; transforming The Ironworks into an exhibition and UNESCO City of Craft makers and retail space; and creating A Taste of Perth and Kinross outlet for micro-producers.

On Wednesday, May 15 Perth and Kinross councillors agreed to the proposed projects and a 10-day consultation.

The UK Government Levelling-up funding criteria stipulated the £5 million had to be capital investment in Perth. Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) has to submit an Investment Plan by June 3, 2024 and provide assurance the projects represent value for money and can be delivered by March 2026.

A report - put before the councillors on Wednesday - outlined the plans for each project.

Built in 1809, Lower City Mills is A-listed and described by council officers as being "one of the few surviving examples of an almost intact urban mill in the UK".

The building was open to visitors until about 20 years ago but has fallen into disrepair. In 2012 it was added to the Buildings at Risk Register.

In 2019 Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (PKHT) leased the building and began work on a plan to fully renovate the building and re-open it to visitors. The works would reconfigure the ground floor layout to create a new café and reception with outdoor seating. The project aimed to repair and rationalise the mill’s machinery and undo "1980s-era modifications".

Following an unsuccessful Heritage Lottery Fund application bid, PKHT is ending its lease of the building. PKC has recognised "the excellent work by PKHT" and wants to use the Levelling-up funding to work with PKHT to make the plan a reality and create "Scotland’s (and possibly Britain’s) only working urban working mill". It is hoped the mill will attract around 12,000 visitors a year.

It will also include 375m² of lettable office space.

There are subsequent plans - after 2026 - to acquire funding to reinstate the Lade along the length of Mill Street to create a water feature and urban park.

The Ironworks is a vacant building on South St John's Place - opposite Perth Museum - which was formerly used as a foundry.

The £1.5 million project would see the council buy the property and fit it out as an exhibition space, photography gallery and shop selling a wider range of what is currently on offer at Perth Museum.

The report stated: "This new development would allow businesses
from Creative Exchange and elsewhere to make and sell in the city centre."

There would be a 150m² workshop area that could be used for the likes of weaving and glass blowing. There would also be a darkroom and kiln for hire.

Upstairs would have studio space for micro businesses.

It would be staffed by Culture Perth and Kinross as part of their museum staffing rota.

The project is expected to generate around £250,000 a year and attract 10,000 visitors.

The final project would involve transforming the Visit Scotland High Street tourist information office. In March 2023 Visit Scotland announced it would be closing all its information offices in Scotland.

The £500,000 project would develop the space into a Taste Of Perth and Kinross outlet.

Some visitor information services would be retained at the city centre site. The council stated its intention to "work with Perthshire Box Office on providing physical sales of tickets to visitor attractions across the
whole region".

As councillors gave the green light to progress with the proposals, Perth City North SNP councillor said: "I am really excited about the projects we're putting on the table here and particularly Lower City Mills because I think it will be wonderful for the city of Perth."

Depute Provost and Perth City Centre councillor Andrew Parrott said: "To me, this very welcome funding gives us the opportunity to kill three birds with one - fairly unexpected - stone."