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Town Centre Regeneration: TCRF Case Studies Report



Context and Background

8.1 Airdrie is located within the local authority area of North Lanarkshire and forms a conurbation with neighbouring town Coatbridge. The town lies approximately 12 miles east of Glasgow city centre, and had a population of 36,400 in 2008 [12].

8.2 Airdrie grew in tandem with the development of the coal, engineering and manufacturing industries following the industrial revolution. The subsequent decline of these industries, however, has resulted in a number of economic, social and environmental changes, and a reorientation of the local economy towards much more service based activities.

8.3 Airdrie is one of seven main towns within the local authority area [13], although the North Lanarkshire Local Plan indicates that there is no single dominant focus for retail or town centre activities. This is perhaps reflected in the TCRF application, which targets one key development in each of the seven towns.

The TCRF Project

8.4 A key theme running through the planned TCRF project activities is the need to attract much greater numbers of people and expenditure back into the towns. The projects are seeking to achieve this primarily through investment in the physical renewal of existing retail, housing, and public space. In addition, a number of public realm and accessibility improvements, including the creation of new outdoor events space, improved pedestrian routes, and improved signage, lighting, and CCTV are also planned.

8.5 In Airdrie specifically, the TCRF project will see the development of a mixed use scheme on the site of a former department store, providing new retail space on the ground floor and housing units above. Total project funding costs amount to £3.2m, £400,000 of which is from the TCRF. The two other funders are the Scottish Government (Housing Association Grant funding) and Clyde Valley Housing Association, who are contributing £1.6m and £1.22m respectively.


8.6 The population of Airdrie was 36,400 in 2009. The total population of the town has declined by 3% since 2001, compared to a 2% increase across North Lanarkshire over the period. Scotland has also seen an upward trend in population, growing by 3% since 2001.

8.7 The proportion of the Airdrie population that is of working age (62%) is broadly in line with the regional and national averages (both 63%).

Table 8.1: Population

AirdrieNorth LanarkshireScotland
Total Population 200936,400326,3005,194,000
Population Change 2001-09-3%2%3%
% Working Age 200962%63%63%

Sources: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates

Age Profile

8.8 Figure 8.2 shows that the age structure of Airdrie is broadly similar to that of North Lanarkshire and Scotland as a whole. Some 34% of the Airdrie population are within the 'prime working age-group' of 25-49 year-olds - in line with Scotland, but slightly lower than North Lanarkshire. Relative to the national average, a slightly lower proportion (16%) of the town's population is aged 65 or over.

Figure 8.2: Age Profile of the Population 2008

( Source: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates 2008)

Figure 8.2: Age Profile of the Population 2008

Labour Market

8.9 Table 8.3 shows the 2010 labour market participation levels and that the regional area is characterised by a lower level of economic inactivity and slightly higher level of unemployment relative to Scotland.

8.10 Using the benefit claimant rate as a proxy for labour market participation, it can be assumed that labour market participation levels are lower than across North Lanarkshire and Scotland as a whole.

8.11 In January 2010, 6.3% of all working age residents in Airdrie were claiming the benefit, higher than the equivalent rates of 5.7% for North Lanarkshire and 4.2% for Scotland.

8.12 Relative to Scotland, North Lanarkshire's workforce is less well qualified. Just 29% of the region's working age population are educated to degree level, considerably lower than across Scotland as a whole (34%). Furthermore, a much greater proportion of North Lanarkshire's working population have no qualifications at all - 19%, compared to 13% for Scotland.

Table 8.3: Labour Market

AirdrieNorth LanarkshireScotland
Labour Market Participation
Employment RateN/A72%72%
Unemployment RateN/A8%7%
Economic Inactivity RateN/A21%23%
Benefit Claimants
Workless Benefit Claimant Rate20.0%18.8%14.6%
Jobseekers Allowance Claimant Rate6.3%5.7%4.2%
Qualifications of the Working Age Population
% WAP Qualified to Degree Level or AboveN/A29%34%
% WAP with No QualificationsN/A19%13%

Local Economy

8.13 Table 8.4 shows that there were 14,900 employee jobs in Airdrie in 2008, representing a decline of 1% since 2004. This compares to growth of 5% across the region as a whole and 3% across Scotland. The headline decline in jobs of 1% across Airdrie masks sectoral changes that have occurred between 2004 - 2008. Key in this respect have been declining employment levels within manufacturing and retail & catering, which between them witnessed a net loss of around 1,900 jobs. In contrast, the public sector saw an increase of 1,700 jobs, largely offsetting these losses.

8.14 Nearly one-fifth of all employee jobs in Airdrie are based within the financial & business services sector. This is in line with the national average, and above the North Lanarkshire average of 15%.

8.15 There were 1,000 businesses within Airdrie in 2008 - a small growth of 1% since 2004. However, this rate of growth was much slower than the regional and national averages of 7% and 8% respectively.

8.16 Business density levels in Airdrie are in line with the North Lanarkshire average of three businesses per 100 of the population. However, both Airdrie and North Lanarkshire have lower business density rates than Scotland as a whole (four per 100 of population).

Table 8.4: Local Economy

AirdrieNorth LanarkshireScotland
Number of Jobs 200814,900125,4002,420,400
% Change 2004-08-1%5%3%
% Jobs financial & business services19%15%19%
Business Base
Number of Businesses (2008)1,0009,200181,500
% Change 2004-081%7%8%
Businesses per 100 Head of Population334

Source: Annual Business Inquiry & ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates

8.17 Table 8.5 shows a breakdown of all jobs by industry in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire and Scotland. The public sector is by far the largest employer in Airdrie, accounting for almost half of employment in the town in 2008 (around 7,300 jobs). Some 5,000 of these are located within the hospital sector - the vast majority of which are likely to be at the Monklands district general hospital.

8.18 The dominance of the public sector in Airdrie means that the town is under-represented in other sectors relative to the regional and national averages, most notably manufacturing (just 2% of all jobs), but also within the retail & catering and transport sectors. While manufacturing employment continues to decline nationally, the proportion of all jobs within the sector both nationally (9%) and regionally (12%) remains some way above the position in Airdrie.

Table 8.5: Employment

AirdrieNorth LanarkshireScotland
Total Number of Jobs 200814,900125,4002,420,400
% Agriculture & Energy0%2%3%
% Manufacturing2%12%9%
% Construction8%8%6%
% Retail & Catering17%23%22%
% Transport & Communications2%7%5%
% Financial & Business Services19%15%19%
% Public Sector49%29%30%
% Other Services3%4%5%

Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI)

8.19 The Annual Business Inquiry reveals that just under half (49%) of all employee jobs in Airdrie were full-time in 2008. This is well below the regional and national averages where around 68% of all jobs are undertaken on a full-time basis.

Business Base

8.20 Figure 8.6 shows the profile of the business base in terms of sizeband in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire and Scotland. It shows the vast majority of businesses across each of the three areas have between 1-10 employees. In Airdrie, these employers account for a slightly larger share of employment (83%), relative to the regional (81%) and national (81%) equivalents.

8.21 The proportion of businesses that have 11-49 employees is the same across each of the three comparator areas (14%).

8.22 Relative to the regional and national averages, Airdrie has a lower share of businesses with 50-199 employees with just 2% of businesses falling into this category in 2008. This was lower than in North Lanarkshire (4%) and Scotland (3%). Just 1% of all businesses in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, and Scotland have more than 200 employees.

Figure 8.6: Businesses by Sizeband 2008
(Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI)

Figure 8.6: Businesses by Sizeband 2008


8.23 This section provides an overview of Airdrie's tourist market, providing some assessment of the recent performance at a regional and national level. Table 8.7 shows that the local area's tourism sector employed around 900 people in 2008, representing growth of 10% since 2004. This rate of growth was slightly slower than across North Lanarkshire (11%) but faster than Scotland as a whole.

8.24 There were 100 tourism businesses in the local area in 2008 - a slight decrease (1%) since 2004. This decline is in contrast to regional and national growth averages of 4% over the same period.

Table 8.7 Tourism

Tourism Employment & WorkplacesAirdrieNorth LanarkshireScotland
Employees (2008)9008,500215,000
Change in Employees 2004-200810%11%5%
Change in Workplaces 2004-2008-1%4%4%

Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI)

Strategic Challenges & Drivers

8.25 The overall project aims to improve the economic performance of the seven towns in the local authority area. A recent review of town centres within North Lanarkshire concluded that there was significant need to generate increased footfall in town centres through investment in both 'place' and 'diversification'. The TCRF project investments support these broad aims and are being carried forward under the two key themes of 'Diversification through Development' and 'Safe and Attractive'. The former of these primarily involves the acquisition of existing "eyesore" buildings for regeneration into a range of mixed uses, while the latter focuses on making the town centres safer, more sustainable and more attractive to visit.

Linkages and Catalyst for New Investment

8.26 The Airdrie TCRF project is taking place within the context of a much wider, strategic package of investments across North Lanarkshire as a whole and Airdrie in particular.

8.27 Recent investments in the town include the Airdrie Business Centre, developed around three years ago on a previously contaminated site on the periphery of the town centre. The business centre provides a stock of modern office property for small businesses. In addition, the Wellwynd Church in the town centre is being converted into a social enterprise centre.

8.28 It is anticipated that implementation of the TCRF project will have a catalytic effect in leveraging investment from the various local partners and sectors. The regeneration of currently vacant buildings into new retail uses will not only reduce the number of vacant shops within the town centres, but is expected to generate new employment opportunities and strengthen the retail offer within the towns. New housing to be constructed is expected to support town centre sustainability and expenditure levels, while bringing redundant buildings back into meaningful use and improve town centre amenity.

Town Centre

8.29 Table 8.8 shows the extent to which baseline data on town centre performance was available at the time of the last study visit. North Lanarkshire Council's Strategic Planning team has recently established a corporate approach to the measurement of town centre performance which is in the early stages of delivery. This is expected to be rolled out over the remainder of 2011 to cover a range of other indicators and other towns.

Table 8.8: Town Centre Baseline Measures (Jan 2010 or Proxy)

MeasureSpecific DataSourceComment
Economic Activity
Recent InvestmentNot collected proactively, however, planning applications and building warrants are available.
No of Businesses1,050Annual Business Inquiry (2008)
No of jobs14,900Annual Business Inquiry (2008)
Retail Performance
Rental levelsNot available
Vacancy levels7.2% of retail unitsNorth Lanarkshire Council
Range of shops/ servicesRetail units: 168 (30,429 sq m)
Commercial / office units : 91 (18,239 sq m)
Leisure units 64 (13,085 sq m)
North Lanarkshire Council
Economic Activity
Recent InvestmentNot collected proactively, however, planning applications and building warrants are available.

Project Specific Measures

Table 8.9: Airdrie: Project Specific Measures

ActivitiesOutputsShort Term OutcomesInterim OutcomesLonger Term Outcomes
The project involves acquisition and redevelopment of a vacant department store building to include new housing, retail and public services hubBuilding developed for needs of local communities and business (1)Creation of additional training places on construction workStronger Economy
Purchase of 2,015 sq m of retail space and re-useSustaining local construction jobsSustained use of local retail, leisure & cultural facilitiesPlaces where people want to live and work & which enhance their quality of life
Creation of 31 new homesCreation of new retail employmentIncreased footfall & local spend
Additional 60 people living in town centreIncreased number and mix of residentsMore robust & adaptable & fit for purpose TC
Sensitive re-use of derelict buildingSafer town centres
Improved image for town centre

8.30 Table 8.9 shows the project specific measures agreed for the project between the research team and the project manager. Given the lack of progress with the project, developing an approach to capturing these measures had unsurprisingly not been seen as a priority by the project manager. The case study visit was seen to help clarify potential short term outputs from the project, particularly in terms of quantification.

8.31 If the project progresses it is expected that data would be gathered for the project through an ex-post evaluation and the planned North Lanarkshire Town Centre Monitoring programme.

Progress: Jan/Early Feb 2011

8.32 At the time of the case study visit in January 2011, no progress had been made with the Airdrie element of the project. This was in contrast to the other elements of the North Lanarkshire TCRF application, all of which had progressed.

8.33 After some initial delays, the beginning of demolition work in the department store was scheduled to take place in the summer of 2010. Preparatory work involved the erection of scaffolding to the rear of the building, which in turn required access to a piece of land owned by a public house/brewery company.

8.34 The land owned by the brewery company was used as a smoking area for pub users. The brewery company requested that the start of work was deferred in the summer of 2010 and cited fears that the loss of the smoking area would adversely affect trade during the 2010 football World Cup.

8.35 A number of other sporting events were then cited by the brewing company through the autumn of 2010 as reasons why permission to access the site was withheld. Since that time the brewery company has made informal objections to the development proposal as a whole. The company has cited wider concerns about the impact of residential development being located so close to a public house.

8.36 At the time of the site visit, these issues had still not been resolved and permission to access the rear of the department store had not been given. As a result no demolition or building work had been commenced on the site at the time of the second visit in early February 2011.


  • The project was conceived as part of a wider set of projects that are expected to contribute to the long term regeneration of Airdrie;
  • The lack of progress with the project created obvious problems in terms of identifying lessons for successful regeneration;
  • However, this delay has created an opportunity for a revision of the measures that will be used to describe the expected outputs and outcomes from the project;
  • There has been a significant investment of time and resource by North Lanarkshire Council in the period since 2009 to understand more consistently the performance of all North Lanarkshire Town Centres.

Case Study Interview Details

Main Contact NamePaul Kane
PositionFunding Officer
OrganisationNorth Lanarkshire Council
Phone Number / Mobile01698 302842