The regeneration of Ravenscraig this week passed another milestone as ambitious plans for a £600million town centre were submitted to council chiefs.
In day six of our series on the 20th anniversary of the closure of the steelworks, MAUREEN ELLIS looks at the area's rebirth.
WHERE once a landmark of Lanarkshire's heavy industry thrived, now there is leisure, learning and luxury living.
The rebirth of Ravenscraig has so far created 100 new homes, a £70 million campus for Motherwell College and one of the largest sports centres in Scotland.
Yet hundreds of acres of the old industrial site still lie undeveloped, with progress delayed by the economic downturn.
Now the evolution of Europe's largest brownfield site into the first new town in Scotland in 50 years has taken a big step forward.
Ravenscraig Ltd, a joint venture company comprising Wilson Bowden Developments, Tata Steel and Scottish Enterprise, this week submitted Planning Briefs to North Lanarkshire Council, detailing its design priorities for future developers of the site.
A new £600m town centre, which is at the heart of the second phase of the regeneration, will feature almost 1m sq ft of retail and leisure facilities, including restaurants and bars.
Nick Richardson, managing director of lead developers Wilson Bowden, said: "An awful lot of work has been put in to the proposals.
"It is a very, very significant milestone."
Mr Richardson said he believes the key to the future success of Ravenscraig lies in creating a retail concept like no other in Scotland.
He said: "The opportunity here is that we have a blank canvas – we're not trying to regenerate an existing town centre."
The Leicestershire-based company is currently recruiting a retail development executive who will secure big-name stores for the shopping complex.
The news comes as North Lanarkshire Council announced on Wednesday that it would commit up to £10m to a proposed road upgrade that would mean a dual carriageway link between the M8 at Newhouse and the M74 at Motherwell.
The area planning briefs submitted this week also include plans for 550 homes and around 10,500 sq m of small commercial space.
There is provision for a bus interchange, car parking, community facilities, a 9300 sq m supermarket and a network of footpaths, cycle ways and green spaces.
A separate area planning brief has been submitted outlining options for a business quarter outside of the town centre.
Area planning briefs are required for a regeneration project of this scale and will be submitted for each area of the site.
The plans will be examined over the next six months by the local authority.
The plans also outline the projected future costs of the plan, including around £70-£80m of public sector funding required to prop up the regeneration.
Funding is expected to come from a controversial Tax Increment Finance (TIF) pilot scheme, which would see the council would borrow money against the income from business rates of future tenants.
The £200m first phase of the Ravenscraig rebirth included building a new, 200,000 sq ft campus for Motherwell College, the £32m Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility, capable of accommodating up to 5000 people, and the creation off 850 homes.
The 30-year masterplan to regenerate the whole site is estimated to attract more than £1.2bn of private sector investment over the next 15 to 20 years, in addition to creating 12,000 jobs.
North Lanarkshire Council approved an outline planning application for the overall development in April 2003 and the overall Ravenscraig Masterplan in 2005.
Frank Roy MP, who was made redundant from the British Steel plant in 1992, said that his "number one priority has been the regeneration of this site" during his 15 years in office.
He said: "I've been fully supportive of the plans for the town centre since day one.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Lanarkshire."
There were fears that the project had stalled after Glasgow-based Jim Fitzsimons, who had managed the regeneration of the former steelworks for almost a decade, had his contract terminated.
Similarly, there have been criticisms that the project will take business away from Motherwell and Wishaw.
Local MSP John Pentland said he believes the plans will be "complementary" and will "grow in tandem".
He added: "The closure of the steelworks was nothing less than a disaster.
"It's up to everyone – both politicians and private businesses – to ensure that we can salvage the best possible outcome.
"It can be another icon within the central belt of Scotland."