NORTH Ayrshire Council has signalled its hopes of accelerating the economic development of the region after Ardrossan Harbour retained its status as the mainland hub for Isle of Arran ferry crossing.

Ardrossan Harbour is in line for £15.5 million of investment from owner Peel Ports and the local authority after ministers ruled that the Brodick route will continue to run from Ardrossan following a bitter battle with rival port Troon.

Karen Yeomans, head of economic growth at North Ayrshire Council, said the decision has given a huge boost to the campaign to regenerate the area, declaring that the community and businesses in and around Ardrossan were “elated” by the ruling. The announcement came in April after the Scottish Government had commissioned a study into the possibility of moving the service to Troon in South Ayrshire.

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Ms Yeomans believes more and more business investment will be attracted to the area once it demonstrates its commercial viability.

Asked to comment on the importance of the ferry decision going in Ardrossan’s favour, Ms Yeomans said: “This was huge for us; [it was] one of the most significant decisions [for the town]. It was a huge, huge thing for communities and businesses.

She added: “It as massively important to the area and [the victory] has built up a strong community spirit.”

While keen to promote Ardrossan’s status as the gateway to Arran, with as many as one million passing through the town to the Scottish coast and islands each year, Ms Yeoman said a key part of the council’s remit is to drive the regeneration of the town itself.

Items on the agenda include investment in upgrading public realms and improving connections between the harbour and the town, with the overall aim of trying to attract businesses such as retailers and leisure operators to invest to ensure people spend more time in Ardrossan.

Noting a “lot of plans had been put on hold over the uncertainty” that had hung over the town, Ms Yeomans said that since the decision was announced a “national chain” has expressed interest in developing a hotel site in Arran. There is also the prospect of a major office building being developed in the town, she added.

The multi-million harbour investment will see Peel Ports cover the cost of major infrastructure works, including the new link span – the facility used to get vehicles on and off the ferry. North Ayrshire Council’s investment will focus on area such as car parking and terminal facilities.

However, the council’s remit extends beyond Ardrossan harbour. Since the end of the March, the authority has had the overall responsibility for regeneration across the area, following the winding down of the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company.

Ms Yeoman acknowledges North Ayrshire is an area that faces its share of economic problems, with unemployment higher than the national average. This is partly because of huge structural changes in the economy brought by huge job losses in the 1970s and 1980s, when as many as 10,000 jobs went at ICI alone.

As well as the work at Ardrossan, the council is involved in attracting businesses to the Irvine Enterprise Area, where GlaxoSmithKline has a base. One of Scotland’s largest life sciences enterprise areas, called i3, it aims to attract businesses through incentives such as business rates relief, capital allowances and simplified planning policies and procedures. To date more than £10m has been invested in new infrastructure in the Irvine Enterprise Area, creating the potential for about 2,000 jobs.

Other areas of focus include multi-million pound plans to transform the harbourside at Irvine, on the former ICI site, and the Ardeer Peninsula. The aim is to connect the two areas, develop homes and build “world class” cultural and leisure facilities. Ms Yeoman also highlighted the potential of the Ayrshire Growth Deal, which she could unlock massive investment.