TEN years ago it looked like the town hall in the Ayrshire village of New Cumnock would be demolished but this weekend it was reopened by the Duke of Rothesay after a nine-month project to restore it.

It has been something of a personal project for Prince Charles. Speaking at the opening, he said helping to regenerate the former mining communities of East Ayrshire had always been his ambition when he led a buy-out of Dumfries House in 2007.

The house has since been opened to the public and the Prince’s charity The Dumfries House Trust has been working with the people of New Cumnock and the local council on a regeneration of the centre of the village. The town hall is the first stage of the programme followed by a new town square and a facelift for the local outdoor pool.

At an opening event yesterday attended by members of the 30 community groups that will use the hall as well as businessman Sir Tom Hunter, who is from New Cumnock and donated to the project, Prince Charles explained the personal importance of the project to him.

“When I first took on Dumfries House,” he said, “it was always my greatest ambition to do as much as possible for all the various communities surrounding the estate so this project is our first foray into this work. I was made aware of the town hall in 2009 when my charities first looked at what might be needed in the community. Finding as it were new ways to skin a cat, we were able to create what I hope will be a real asset to the local community.”

The Prince also said that Dumfries House had a special place in his heart and said he wanted to work for many more years within the wider community to do what he could for the people of Ayrshire.

Sir Tom also paid tribute to the Prince and said he had been a catalyst for the regeneration of New Cumnock and the wider community and that his leadership was badly needed, most appreciated and would not be forgotten.

Sir Tom grew up in the village where his father was the local grocer and said his memories were still strong. “I learned my trade at his apron strings – he taught me how to buy and how to sell but he taught me a most important lesson – he said ‘son, this community pays all our wages and if you take something out, you’ve got to put something back in’ and today we’re doing our wee bit along with others.”

Martin McKenna, 23, a member of the local karate club that will use the town hall, felt the same way. “ It’s going to make a big difference – this is a massive step up not just for us but all the clubs. There’s been massive change in the community – things had lain derelict so seeing things getting done in the community has brought a lot of hope."