Annan Harbour Action Group (AHAG) have plans to make the Port Street site an open-all-year visitor destination in South West Scotland with a heritage centre, crafts area, an events space, water-sports, a cafe and outdoor walkways.
Projections say that, annually, over 18,000 visitors would pay a visit to the attraction, and the wider economy would reap yearly benefits worth just under £30m.
AHAG development manager Alan Thomson spoke about the proposals, timeframes, and benefits the harbour regeneration would bring to the rest of the town.
In addition to the £11.9m which has been secured from the UK Government’s levelling up fund, AHAG have also been able to go to the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund and Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Place Programme for other sizeable portions.
Only a small funding gap remains, however concerns have been allayed with potential funders identified.
Alan said: “Our belief in being able to get the funding in place has been a complete rollercoaster. There has been moments of great optimism and moments of great despair.
“When we didn’t get an award from levelling up two, we were very disappointed because we knew we’d put in a really good application.
“There was no formal levelling up round three, so we were very lucky to get the money.
“Because we’ve got such a large proportion of the capital in place, we don’t have many concerns about filling the gap.”
PLANS include proposals to regenerate Collett’s Building — a warehouse currently in poor condition; the Minister’s Merse — uneven ground between the harbour and the River Annan, currently inaccessible and with a legacy of environmental contamination; the creation of a dam – allowing for a tidal lagoon where various water-sports can take place; and the Quayside — open area between Port Street and the harbour water.
Alan said: “The purpose of the group (AHAG) was to push for regeneration of the harbour. They saw the years of neglect — principally because the harbour trust* was declared moribund by the council.”
Alan added: “Initially we thought we would do the warehouse as one project, then look at the quayside as another and then the landscaping.
“The lagoon was just a twinkle in the trustees’ eyes at that time, we didn’t even know if it was feasible. “When we got the opportunity to go for the levelling up fund the project grew substantially.
“We were always encouraged to be ambitious (with the plans).”
Original plans were drafted during lockdown and submitted in 2022. These have been slightly altered with some changes made to the layout of the warehouse building, the bunkhouse has been taken out of the plan and AHAG are actively looking for an alternative site for this in Annan.
The ground floor of the warehouse will feature a heritage centre with displays on Annan’s history of fishing, boat-building and its ecology. There will also be a heritage craft area related to fishing and shipbuilding, with activities such as knitting nets, splicing ropes and woodwork. A cafe with a balcony allowing for views across the harbour will feature upstairs along with an education and activity room.
The Minister’s Merse will consist of a series of paths open to the public and connected to the quay by a pedestrian bridge. Here there will be small displays and features such as bird hides looking out onto the River Annan. Biodiversity should be increased by at least seven per cent, Alan also noted how there are already a small number of deer on the merse. Meanwhile, ongoing work is taking place to get rid of invasive species, one of which is Japanese Knotweed.
Alan said: “We are going to lay down a membrane, gradually eradicate the weed species and begin to reintroduce the native species.
“We need to get rid of that (Japanese Knotweed) because it would come up through the paths.
“There’s a number of invasive species and we’re working on all of them.”
A dam containing a gate will be formed across the harbour wall, creating a tidal lagoon which will allow for kayaking, paddle-boarding, small dinghy and possibly model boats.
“The lagoon will be about 1-1.5 metres deep and will extend to almost half an acre.
“We need to understand the dynamics of how the dam is going to work. We’ve got specialists looking into it.”
Parking spaces at the Quayside will be increased and the area will hopefully be further improved to enhance the use of boats.
Alan said: “We’re unsure how much of the budget will be left to make major interventions, but we will definitely increase car parking and include some planting which will confine incidents of flooding.”
It was also pointed out that everything submitted contains some of the best environmental standards currently possible.
Alan added: “We are going above and beyond. We will have massive insulation which is a double edge sword because we will lose the internal sandstone walls. But the building will then become very pleasant to be in.
“We are going to cover the roof in PV cells and be self sufficient in electricity and we’re going to get our hot water and heating from heat pumps in the lagoon.
“Someone will have to make adaptations in 50 years time when sea levels rise but we’ve future proofed it as far as we can.
“We’re going to have to rehouse a colony of sparrows, we hope to provide swift boxes, bat boxes and we’ll probably do swallows and martens as well.”
*AHAG are currently in the midst of negotiations with Transport Scotland to become the new authority which would give them control of the harbour.
How will this benefit the rest of the town?
ONE particular area of interest is the project’s benefit to Annan as a whole and whether it could end up taking away from the High Street.
Alan said: “The whole project has been valued by HM Treasury as worth £27.6m to the local economy. That’s a mixture of direct economic benefit and social benefit.
“That is only once it’s built. There will be additional benefits once it starts through jobs and things like that.
“We don’t think it’s going to take away from the High Street. We see it as a destination, a little bit like the boathouse at Glencaple. People come down for their scone and coffee and look out to see the birdlife or watch their kids canoeing.”
Hopes are that a regenerated harbour will increase the number of visitors to the town and actually improve footfall at other establishments.
Alan added: “We are working closely with the Devil’s Porridge and the Distillery – both of whom have got cafes. We hope to be an additional attraction.”
BOOTS could be on the ground by the end of the year if all goes according to plan, with work scheduled to take around two years to complete.
Alan said: “We’re going to planning this month, we’re going to go for a building warrant at the end of February, we hope to be in a position to issue tenders in the summer and we really hope that we get a contractor signed, sealed and delivered by September.
“We would hope to see boots on the site by the beginning of 2025 at the latest, hopefully a little bit earlier. “We are trying to aim for a two year build programme to meet the levelling-up fund timetable.”
In the meantime, anyone who would like to hear more from AHAG or get involved can attend their AGM on February 22. This will be held at 7 pm at Campbell House, Tweedie Terrace.