Town centre regeneration

Town centres are facing challenges of changing and evolving retail patterns. We aim to support and invest in town and neighbourhood centres so that they can become more diverse, sustainable and thriving places for communities to live, work and enjoy. We want our towns and town centres to be vibrant, creative, enterprising and accessible.

Sustainable regeneration of our towns can only be achieved through collaboration and investment which include or are led by local communities.

Town Centre Fund 2019-2020

We have provided £50m capital to set up the Town Centre Fund 2019-2020 in partnership with COSLA. Every local authority has received an allocation of the fund based on an equal weighting of the number of towns in a local authority (where a towns is a locality with a population equal to or greater than 1,000 people) and the local authority population.  

The aim of the Town Centre Fund 2019-2020 is to enable local authorities to stimulate and support place-based economic investments which encourage town centres to diversify and flourish, creating footfall through local improvements and partnerships. Specifically, this fund will contribute to transformative investments which drive local economic activities and re-purpose town centres to become more diverse, successful and sustainable.  

The grant will fund a wide range of investments which deliver against the themes of the Town Centre Action Plan. This could include repurposing buildings and improving access and infrastructure.

Local authorities will decide how the funding should be used. These investment decisions should be made in the context of national and local commitments to town centres including the Town Centre First Principle, the Town Centre Action Plan and the Place Principle. Investment decisions should be based on approaches which are collaborative and place-based with a shared purpose and make use of tools and support provided. 

The aim of the fund is to deliver against the themes of the Town Centre Action Plan. Those themes include:

  • town centre living – footfall is key to achieving thriving, successful towns centres and, the best footfall is residential for people who will use shops, services, and will care for its safety and security in the evenings
  • vibrant local economies – creating a supportive business environment including the involvement of Business Improvement Districts and other local partnerships
  • enterprising communities – social enterprise, services, arts and events and, community empowerment and community-based activities which increase the health, wealth and wellbeing of town centres
  • accessible public services – creating and accessing public facilities and services, supported by economic, service and transport hubs
  • digital towns – exploiting digital technology and promoting Wifi infrastructure to enable access to information, data analytics, marketing opportunities, branding, and communication with the wider world.
  • proactive planning – land reform and supporting the creation of sustainable, low-carbon and connected places which promote natural and cultural assets, designed in partnership with local communities and key stakeholders

The Town Centre Fund provides an opportunity to build on work by local authorities to develop and implement town centre action plans and to realise transformative ambitions arising from those plans. Scotland’s Town’s Partnership and other key organisations will continue to support local authorities and other key partners. 

Town Centre Action Plan

We published the Town Centre Action Plan: Scottish Government response in November 2013 in response to the final report of the National Town Centres Review. The plan is helping to stimulate a wide range of activity across public and private sectors to revitalise town centres.

We have since published the following update reports:

Town Centre First Principle

We agreed the Town Centre First Principle with COSLA leaders in July 2014, marking a significant shift in public policy towards town centres. It asks that government, local authorities, the wider public sector, businesses and communities put the health of town centres at the heart of proportionate and best-value decision making, seeking to deliver the best local outcomes regarding investment and de-investment decisions, alignment of policies, targeting of available resources to priority town centre sites, and encouraging vibrancy, equality and diversity.

In making the agreement, we committed to a collaborative approach which understands and underpins the long-term plan for each town centre.

The Principle is not a duty and it is not prescriptive. Taking local needs and circumstances into account, it is about:

  • adopting an approach to decisions that considers the vibrancy of town centres as a starting point
  • ensuring that the health of town centres features in decision-making processes
  • open, measured and transparent decision making that takes account of medium to longer-term impacts on town centres
  • recognising that town centre locations are not always suitable and making sure that the reasons for locating elsewhere are transparent and backed by evidence

Local authorities and wider public bodies have embraced the principle since its inception and are driving positive change by prioritising town centres in public investment decisions.

Scotland's Towns Partnership (STP)

We fund Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) to provide information, support and services which contribute to the vibrancy, vitality and viability of our town centres and neighbourhoods. STP also support the development of partnerships including Business Improvement Districts.  

Tools and resources

The following range of tools and resources support how partners can understand, audit, plan, and improve their town centres. 

  • Understanding Scottish Places (USP) is a tool which shows how every town in Scotland with a population of 1,000 or more is interacting with its surrounding settlements and performing against a range of indicators and inter/dependency relationships
  • USP Your Town Audit provides the standard benchmark for measuring the health of a Scottish town
  • Place Standard is a framework designed to support communities, public, private and third sectors to work efficiently together to assess the quality of a place
  • Town Centre Toolkit provides guidance on designing and planning town centres to be attractive, accessible and active, focusing on urban design, quality, sustainability and use of town assets