The future of the former Marine Biological Station at Millport is looking brighter, with the arrival of the first students at the new Field Studies Council Centre. Their arrival coincides with the announcement of a further significant addition to the funding package for the facility.
In October 2013, the University of London withdrew from the Marine Station, based on the isle of Cumbrae in Ayrshire. With assistance from North Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Field Studies Council (FSC) has reopened the facility, now known as FSC Millport.
The FSC is an educational charity which operates 18 field stations across the UK, including one in the Scottish Highlands. The FSC was set up in 1943 and currently runs courses for more than 140,000 people and provides spaces for more than 200,000 residential visitor nights each year.
Cabinet Secretary for Education Michael Russell said: “Today’s arrival of new students at FSC Millport is to be welcomed. The centre plays a key role in both the local economy and environmental science teaching and I’m pleased that it has reopened with the support of the Scottish Government, FSC, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and North Ayrshire Council. I wish the students all the best in their studies.”
HIE has confirmed £1 million funding towards the Centre which will be used towards the refurbishment of the accommodation block and site services. North Ayrshire Council has already awarded £1.5million towards the £3million redevelopment with the remaining £500,000 awarded by the Scottish Government. It is proposed that the accommodation will be built and owned by North Ayrshire Council and leased to the FSC when it is completed.
Douglas Cowan from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “The FSC has worked extremely hard to develop the new centre at Millport. The Marine Station is very important to the community of Cumbrae and generations have studied marine science at the facility.
“This new lease of life for FSC Millport is a testament to the strength of the partnership between North Ayrshire Council, FSC, HIE, the Scottish Government and the local community and we are delighted to see the first students arrive.”
Depute Council Leader at North Ayrshire Council, Councillor Alan Hill said: “This is fantastic news for the local community.
“Securing the future of such a top class facility was one of the main reasons why the Council and our partners made such a commitment.
“On visiting the facility first hand it was great to see the progress already made by the FSC and the first students arriving. This really reinforces the fact that we made the correct decision.
“The latest funding will further strengthen the financial position of the FSC. It is also a vote of confidence in the island and for the hard work from everyone involved over the last year.
“The Cabinet recently heard of a range of investment plans for the island. These will benefit business, tourism and help make the most of Millport’s history and heritage.”
The FSC has begun upgrading the educational facilities and office accommodation at the Centre and it is expected that the redevelopment will cause minimal disruption to staff and students.
Robert Lucas, FSC Chief Executive, said “The support from everyone involved in the project to develop a new and sustainable business has been immense and FSC is delighted to be welcoming the first of many students to FSC Millport. With the next essential phase of development for the site being made possible by this generous support from HIE, North Ayrshire Council and the Scottish Government, the island can look forward to a much more positive future than seemed possible only ten months ago.”
HIE, North Ayrshire Council and the Scottish Government have spent a great deal of time researching potential routes forward for the Marine Station since the announcement of its closure last year. The Cumbrae Community Development Company also worked hard to maintain the profile of the Marine Station and to support a solution, ensuring the community was fully engaged in the process. Involvement of the FSC last year proved to be a turning point in the development of the project.
The first round of students has now arrived at the centre to begin their studies.
The redevelopment of FSC Millport will deliver an increase in turnover of around £1million while also securing 20 FTE jobs on the fragile island by 2018, as well as a continuation of the benefits seen by over 8,000 visitor bed nights to the Centre each year.