Optimising town centres for the aftermath of COVID-19.
Diverse views from urban, town, rural and island communities must be heard if town centres are to be revitalised and renewed in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell.
Experts in town planning, public health, transport, and business will take on board views of local communities to build on the progress of the Scottish Government’s 2013 Town Centre Action Plan.
Professor Leigh Sparks of the University of Stirling will chair the expert group alongside members from COSLA, the Royal Town Planning Institute, South of Scotland Enterprise, the Carnegie Trust, the Federation of Small Businesses, Public Health Scotland, Sustrans, Inclusion Scotland and the Scottish Government.
Ms Campbell said:
“Town centres are crucial to our economic recovery and renewal as we emerge from lockdown and it’s important we do all we can to support them. COVID-19 has changed the way we all live, work and shop, and we must develop safe spaces that meet the diverse economic, social and environmental needs of city, country, village and island populations.
“By nurturing connections between local producers and retailers and their communities we enhance the wellbeing of our communities.
“Our town centre-first approach has been held up as an example throughout the UK and globally. Now we have the opportunity to develop healthier, vibrant, and greener town centres that support communities to thrive.”
Professor Sparks said:
“Our town centres need to be successful places which are socially and economically inclusive.
“The National Review of Town Centres in 2013 and the Town Centre Action Plan which followed have provided a pathway for towns in recent years.
“COVID-19 provides a challenge to our towns and town centres, but also an opportunity to rethink and re-energise our efforts to make towns fit for all in Scotland.
“I am delighted therefore to have been asked to lead this new group at this critical and important time.”
The Scottish Government provided £50 million to local authorities through the capital Town Centre Fund, announced 7 March 2019, to support progress under the Town Centre Action Plan.
Professor Sparks is Deputy Principal and Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling. He played a key role in the development of the 2013 plan.
A Towns and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) Resilience & Recovery Fund of up to £2 million is being provided from the Supporting Communities Fund to build on previous funding of £1 million allocated to BIDS in March.