Town centres to be revitalised


A leading Scottish architect is to spearhead a national initiative to help breathe new life into Scotland’s town centres, it was unveiled today. 

Malcolm Fraser has been named as the Chair of the Scottish Government’s National Review of Town Centres, which will commence later this month.

The Review will see a panel of experts from organisations including Ernst and Young, the Association of Town Centre Managers, Scottish Retail Consortium, Creative Scotland, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Stirling University and Federation of Small Businesses agree an action plan for re-energising Scotland’s town centres, addressing issues associated with planning, rents and rates, competition and empty properties.

While progress has been made in all these areas, many town centres continue to face considerable challenges and current estimates suggest that more than 20,000 commercial properties across Scotland are lying empty.

Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, said:

“Town centres are vital to the economic and social fabric of Scotland – they are the heart of our communities, offering a base for small businesses to thrive, and providing a focal point for social interaction.

“We want to take every measure possible to ensure our high streets are vibrant places where local people want to spend their time and money.  In 2009 we awarded £60 million to 66 projects through our Town Centre Regeneration Fund, creating nearly 1,000 jobs. The Review will build on this significant investment. 

“With Scotland’s high streets facing a range of challenges, we are eager to ensure that they continue to thrive and flourish to meet the needs of future generations.

“Central to that will be issues like rents, rates, planning and empty premises. Ensuring we have a joined up strategic approach to issues like this can only help our town centres thrive.  

“Of course investment is also crucial and we, along with our partner agencies , will use this review to inform future budgets and investments going forward, to make sure we are collectively investing at the right level and in the right places.”

Malcolm Fraser said:

“Many of our town centres are struggling.  This is not just a matter of nostalgic regret - their integrity, liveability and neighbourliness provide Scotland with its creative and business focus.  They are our true “eco-towns”,  whose health is also critical to the Government’s low-carbon agenda.  

“I like the wide-ranging brief this review has - it encourages us to examine a wide range of changes and initiatives to lever positive change.  And I'm delighted to have been asked to Chair the wide-ranging and eminent External Advisory Group that will push it forward. “

Andy Willox OBE, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Scottish policy convenor, said:

“We look forward to sitting on this group to work out what our 21st century town centres could and should look like.

“If we want to turn around our towns, then considered action from local and central government, private and public sectors will be required. Independent retailers should always have a place in our communities but we should also consider other ways of bringing employment and enterprise into the centre of our conurbations.

“What we do know though is that the future of our high streets doesn’t lie in the models of the past. Our shopping habits, living and working habits have changed for good.”