Muirkirk Enterprise Group
Muirkirk Enterprise Group (MEG) was set up in 1999 with the aim of regenerating Muirkirk which was, at one time, labelled the most socially deprived village in Scotland. The ongoing aim of MEG is to regenerate the whole village community to provide sustainability, respect and hope for the village for future generations.
Issues MEG had to address
Muirkirk is a rural village set in the border of East Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire with a population of around 1800. At one time Muirkirk was a hive of industry with coalmining, rail connections and ironworks.
The demise of the mines brought widespread unemployment and the village suffered from relatively high levels of poverty. Muirkirk was rated as one of the most deprived areas of Scotland by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2003. At that time the village experienced an unemployment rate of 30 per cent.
MEG identified a number of local issues in consultation with the local community. These included:
- A lack of community facilities including provision for young people
- A need for local training for work
- A need for encouragement to seek work
- A need to improve the local environment
- The need to regenerate the local economy and attract inward investment.
MEG’s approach to the issues
Muirkirk Enterprise Group designed and developed a large number of projects to improve the physical appearance of the village, encourage tourists and visitors, increase employment opportunities, improve community safety and create a community where people want to live.
Projects and developments include:
- Two community plantations
the Kirk plantation and the Community Plantation which are managed by East Ayrshire Woodland. These are complemented by a large number of paths and walkways.
- Two heritage parks
with murals depicting the history of Muirkirk.
- Three totem poles
depicting different aspects of community life. The pole in the centre of the village depicts the past industrial life of the village and another is the result of a competition by the local school and depicts Muirkirk through the eyes of our young people.
- An audio tour guide of the village
the first of it’s kind in Scotland – which allows visitors to explore the village and it’s rich history at their own pace.
- Two walks brochures
promotin the series of walks prepared within the village.
- An Environmental Plastic Greenhouse
cared for by local school children. The local primary school have also formed a gardening class to allow them to grow plants for the greenhouse and heritage parks.
- A bothy and bird hide
at the side of Glenbuck Loch and a further bothy at the Walker’s car park.
- The establishment of a caravan park
with plans to build chalets to boost tourist accommodation.
- The refurbishment of buildings
which has included accommodation for Scottish Coal, a beautician, a new fish and chip shop and a bakers shop. Muirkirk Enterprise Group also provide accommodation for a weekly Citizens Advice Bureau, a Job Action Team which has been highly successful in helping people access work and training courses for PSV and HGV licences, and support for travelling to work outwith the village.
- Support for a diverse range of groups and activities within the village
including a local learning group for anyone who wishes to learn new computer skills and a snooker club attracting young people.
- An outdoor sports complex
designed and built by the Muirkirk Enterprise Group, with facilities for tennis, volleyball, netball and basketball. Managed by East Ayrshire Council use of the facility has quadrupled in the past 12 months with many people travelling from outwith the village to use the facilities.
- Construction of a skate board park
designed and operated in consultation with local young people
- Dry Stane Dyke Projects (August 2007)
Muirkirk Enterprise Group has been awarded Big Lottery funding for dry stane dyke projects opposite the cemetery and beside the Kirk Plantation.
Evidence of success
- Muirkirk is now a place where people want to live
a few years ago it was almost impossible to sell houses in the area, now all houses that are on the market are sold almost immediately.
- In 2003, 30 per cent of the population was unemployed, by 2005 this figure had fallen to 10 per cent.
- The local crime rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.
- It is anticipated that in 2006 around 5000 tourists will visit Muirkirk to see the various attractions
- Muirkirk’s regeneration has attracted private investment with a building project by Strathclyde Homes. It is expected that building projects will start on the 11 plots in this project over the coming months. A number of other house building projects are at various stages of planning.
- In 1999 Muirkirk won the Scottish Calor Gas Community of the Year Award for Community Life.
- In 2000 Muirkirk was highly commended in both the Business and Elderly sections of the Scottish Calor Gas Awards.
- In December 2005 Muirkirk was commended in the Environment, Business and Older People categories of the Calor Scottish Community of the Year Awards
- In November 2006 Muirkirk was commended in the Communications category of the Calor Scottish Community of the Year Awards
Setting up the project
Muirkirk Enterprise Group was started as an offshoot from Muirkirk Community Council in an effort to regenerate Muirkirk. Most of the Community Councillors are members of the group, which was formed after a public meeting, and the group is composed of all sections of the community and all meetings are advertised and open to any members of the public to attend.
In the first instance, the group leased an empty East Ayrshire Council building for £1 a year inviting the East Ayrshire Action Team to come into the building and form a learning group to train people in computer skills.
The group is fully involved in partnership working with many public and private organisations including East Ayrshire Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Coal, East Ayrshire Woodlands and Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire.
- Every time someone said we couldn’t do it we did it! Keep going in the face of criticism and soon you will see results.
- Anything can be achieved with some imagination, partnership working and the motivation of a community looking for change.