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Government report into improving Town Centres is published

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 15:22 GMT on Monday, July 8th, 2013.

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26-06-2013 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - Cumbernauld Town Centre; Picture shows Cumbernauld Town Centre, from outside North Bus Stop.
Cumbernauld Town Centre was recently bought over. Image is copyright of Scott Campbell/ Cumbernauld Media.

A SCOTTISH Government report, which looked into how town centres across Scotland, could be reenergised has been published, and welcomed by Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

The independent paper sets out a number of key recommendations by which businesses, councils, organisations and residents can reenergise Scotland’s town centres – not least Cumbernauld town centre.

Compiled by an external advisory group, as part of the National Review of Town Centres, the panel’s report includes a number of proposals to help breathe new life into town centres.

These include:

  • A ‘town centre first’ principle whereby public bodies will consider how they can support town centres before considering development elsewhere
  • Working with housing providers to bring empty town centre properties back into use as affordable housing
  • A town centre focus to review current business rates incentivisation schemes
  • A recommendation that public bodies should consider the impact of proposals to relocate services out of town centres
  • Broadening the appeal of town centres with a mix of leisure, public facilities and homes

Leading Scottish architect Malcolm Fraser chaired the review, which included an independent panel of advisors from a range of organisations including a community representative, Creative Scotland, the Association of Town Centre Management, Ernst and Young, GVA, Architecture Design Scotland, Stirling University, SLAED and Federation of Small Business.

Welcoming the report, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I would like to extend my thanks to Malcolm Fraser and the rest of the external advisory group for their hard work and commitment on this report.

“The Scottish Government is determined to ensure that our town centres are vibrant places where local people and visitors alike want to spend their time and money. They should be accessible places which invite business start-ups and inspire innovative ideas from all walks of the community. The work of this independent review will play a crucial role in the regeneration of high streets across Scotland.

“We recognise the national review group’s passion for finding a future for our town centres and welcome their succinct and insightful review which outlines practical ideas for reenergising these areas.

“Town centres are the lifeblood of our communities, functioning as places of social interaction and enterprise. By diversifying our high streets we will make them even better places to live, work and socialise.

“I look forward to the next phase of the work getting underway, with the first step being a government action plan in the autumn which will take forward the Expert Groups recommendation.”

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Chairman of the National Review of Town Centres Malcolm Fraser said: “Our Review offers the Scottish Government, and the people of Scotland, a range of measures to bring investment and footfall into the heart of our communities.

"Town centres offer a rich mix of live, work and play and we want to enhance that bustle and diversity: more people living there, encouragement for communities, businesses and local authorities and supportive planning and digital initiatives. There's wide agreement on the need for action and optimism that the changes proposed can help foster a renewed sense of community and enterprise.”

Welcoming the report, Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) Chairman, Ewan Wallace added: "SCOTS welcomes the publication of the Town Centres Review report and the indication that the professional associations for Transportation and Planning will have a key role in contributing to any further work on town centre futures and planning for change.

“The report highlights the critical role of effective and sustainable accessibility and connectivity in ensuring that our town centres are economically and socially vibrant places. SCOTS has undertaken and contributed to a wide range of relevant policy and technical research and guidance, including Designing Streets and recent production of a supporting Roads Development Guide.

"We look forward to working with Scottish Government and other partners in developing these and other aspects of the Town Centres report and recommendations."

Commenting on the release of the Scottish Town Centre Review, Alasdair Morrison, Associate at GVA Property Consultancy and a member of the Scottish Government’s External Advisory Group for the National Review of Scottish Town Centres said:

“It has been a privilege to have had the opportunity to contribute in an advisory capacity to the Scottish Government’s National Review of Town Centres. I am pleased to see that the recommendations encourage the public sector, in particular, to take a more proactive and strategic approach. They have a vital role to play in regenerating our town centres.

“However, new developments are often difficult to get off the ground, or stall, because of problems with development finance. The Review makes a number of recommendations in this respect. We now have an unprecedented opportunity for all interested parties to work together to ensure our town centres not only survive, but thrive.”

The recommendations contained within the report shine light on how Cumbernauld town centre could possibly be brought back to life, with the centre’s new owners – The Hamilton Portfolio Ltd – getting near to the publication of their asset management strategy, which they hope will fill up the vacant units and bring more visitors to the 58-year-old complex. 

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