Award-winning town is better by design

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The Independent Online

A Scottish town dedicated to craft and design has won the government-backed Enterprising Britain competition.

West Kilbride Craft and Design Town offers affordable studio space to designers. The project was started by community activists eight years ago in an effort to revitalise the local economy after retail parks had drawn jobs and commerce away from the town centre.

The competition, which seeks to increase entrepreneurship, is in its second year. West Kilbride was named the most enterprising place in Britain out of a 12-strong shortlist.

Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said: "All of the finalists showed why the UK is such an enterprising place, but West Kilbride stood out as a fantastic example of just what can happen when enterprise is put at the heart of the community."

The coastal town decided on the craft and design concept to capitalise on its appeal as a tourist destination. The project has so far attracted 14 new businesses and created 24 new jobs. Of the 21 vacant shops that lined the town's main street in 1998 when the concept was first tabled, only one is now still unoccupied.

Maggie Broadley, West Kilbride's craft and design development officer, said: "We are absolutely delighted at this recognition for our small community."

The Moffat Trust, a charitable foundation, made a grant of £95,000 to fund the purchase of the first two studios. However, the project was largely developed by volunteers who helped to raise funds.

Airtricity, a wind generator, and British Nuclear Group later gave additional funds to buy gallery space, which is now used to display works that have been created by local artists.

Last year's Enterprising Britain winner was Sherwood Energy Village in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, which was set up after the town's colliery and textile factories shut down.