COUNCILLORS have approved a bumper funding package for town centres in Renfrewshrie - with most of the money going straight to the heart of Johnstone and Renfrew. 

Chiefs at Renfrewshire Council have given their blessing to plans to pump £1.46million into sites in the area with the aim of bringing vacant buildings back into use and supporting community-led regeneration. 

Headlining the projects set to be in for a boost is Active Communities which will be given £400,000 to help bring Johnstone’s former police station in Quarry Street back to life. 

READ MORE: Town Centre Fund ‘not enough’ to lure shoppers back to Renfrewshire high street

The charity has applied for a community asset transfer on the site and hopes to convert the building into a health and wellbeing centre. 

Plans include a space for Kairos, an initiative which supports vulnerable women facing social barriers, and a men’s shed project. 

Also benefitting in Johnstone will be Houstoun Square with £80,000 set aside for lighting enhancements to the night-time environment, including the bandstand and war memorial. 

The condition of the bandstand has long been a bone of contention for residents, with Johnstone Business Consortium chairman Allan Henderson previously voicing his concerns.

A further £40,000 would go towards gap site interventions and improving “eyesore” sites in Johnstone. 

This includes buildings on the corner of High Street and MacDowall Street, and High Street and George Street, which have lain empty for years and have been said to have had a negative impact on local businesses.

The sum was made available earlier this year as part of the Scottish Government’s £50m Town Centre Capital Fund. 

The SNP’s Councillor Emma Rodden, whose ward covers Johnstone town centre, said: “This is a fantastic boost for Johnstone. 

“Not only will we see aesthetic improvements to Houstoun Square, the heart of the town, the derelict sites at the top of High Street will be purchased and put to positive use. 

The Gazette: Renfrew town centre will benefit from the fund Renfrew town centre will benefit from the fund

“This will change the face of Johnstone for the better and is money well spent, Johnstone residents are rightly proud of their town and the fund will bring about much needed improvements and make them even prouder.”

Her views were echoed by party colleague Councillor Andy Steel, who represents Johnstone South and Elderslie.

He said: “These improvements are most welcome and long overdue, my constituents shop regularly in the town centre and to see Houstoun Square revived and the derelict sites upgraded will be of benefit to residents across all of Johnstone. 

“These sites are the first thing many people see if they enter Johnstone from the motorway and it is not a good advert for the town, this change has been a long time coming.” 

The other big winner in the bumper funding package will be Renfrew, which is set to receive money for a variety of improvement projects in the town. 

This includes plans to turn the former toilet block in Robertson Park into a cycle hub and £460,000 going towards improving the presentation of the town centre and travel links. 

Robertson Park will also benefit from CCTV, lighting and wayfinding in plans to boost the use of the park in the evenings. 

Vacant shop units in Dunlop Crescent will be transformed into a council-run hub for business start-ups. 

Also benefitting from the fund will be PACE Youth Theatre, who have plans to create a new performance base for their 2,000 students. 

The Gazette: Cllr Iain Nicolson Cllr Iain Nicolson

The remaining £250,000 will support refurbishments across the rest of the area. 

Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson said: “Town centres are vital to the way we live but this funding recognises that recent years have been tough for towns.

“The rise of the internet and out-of-town retail have changed how people shop and left empty buildings  and sites in towns.

READ MORE: Glasgow and Edinburgh 'stealing' fund money from Renfrewshire

“This funding is aimed at making that happen by helping bring buildings back into a condition where new uses can be found for them, and make towns more attractive.

“Paisley is already benefitting from £100m of investment in venues – including transformations of its museum and town hall – which will build on the work being done to make it one of Scotland’s key destinations.” 

Councillors on the leadership board approved the plans at today's (Wednesday) meeting. 

Read all the latest from Renfrewshire and beyond