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 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 Action Plan Review

In June 2020, we launched an independent collaborative review of the progress and scope of the 2013 Town Centre Action Plan, building on the town centre first approach and developing a refreshed vision for our towns and the means to achieve it. We published the review, A New Future for Scotland's Town Centres, in February 2021.

A joint interim response with COSLA was published in March 2021 Summary response - Town centre action plan - review report: interim joint response.

Our Town Centre Action Plan 2 which is our Joint Response to the Review of the Town Centre Action Plan from Scottish Government and COSLA was published in April 2022. It is a call to action and sets out some of the ways in which we can all seek to do our part, locally and nationally, in rebuilding, reenergising and reimagining our towns to meet place and country ambitions. The response reaffirms our commitment to the Town Centre First Principle.

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 decision making. It seeks to deliver the best local outcomes, align policies and target available resources to prioritise town centre sites, 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. 

  • Our Place | Our Place is a site devoted to promoting the benefits of place and place-based working. It includes information, tools and resources to help support the development of places and services that improve our health, our prosperity, our quality of life and protect our environment
  • 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
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