Publication - Research and analysis

Town Centre Regeneration: TCRF Case Studies Report

Published: 27 Sep 2011
Part of:

The report presents findings of research undertaken in nine case study areas that received funding from the Town Centre Regeneration Fund (TCRF). The report highlights baseline measures for monitoring town centre regeneration activity relative to each case study. The report is one of four publications produced by this research.

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121 page PDF

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Town Centre Regeneration: TCRF Case Studies Report

121 page PDF

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Context and Background

2.1 Stromness is the second largest town on the Orkney Islands and is located on the southwest of the mainland of Orkney. The town had a population of 1,950 in 2008. An established seaport, Stromness was an important Naval Base during the Second World War and is currently linked to the Scottish mainland via a ferry link between Stromness and Scrabster. The town centre stretches for over one mile along the shoreline and is based along a long and winding main street, sheltered by hillside behind.

2.2 A recent study of the local economy carried out on behalf of Orkney Islands Council indicates that Stromness has experienced some socio-economic decline relative to Kirkwall (the largest town on the island). This is evidenced in relatively stagnant population levels over recent decades compared to growth in Kirkwall and the Orkney Islands as a whole, a perceived loss of status, and continued retail expenditure leakage [4].

TCRF Project

2.3 The Stromness TCRF project application is part of wider regeneration efforts that have already begun in Stromness and seeks to complement work ongoing on two specific projects. These are:

2.4 The Pierhead Regeneration Project - the overall project will see the demolition of existing properties to be replaced with a mixed scheme comprising a library, retail and other commercial buildings, and refurbishment of existing buildings. It is anticipated that some Council office accommodation will be created in Stromness as part of the project. The funding from the TCRF will enable the installation of ducting which will enable the future installation of a fibre optic network, which otherwise would not have been possible due to other funding constraints.

2.5 The Townscape Heritage Initiative ( THI) - the THI project focuses on the upgrade of the public realm throughout Stromness town centre, replacing current concrete paving slabs with natural stone paving flags. The TCRF funding will allow the flag stone replacement to proceed; otherwise a significantly scaled back option would have been necessary.

2.6 The total costs of the above projects are around £6m, of which around £381k is being provided by the TCRF. The vast majority of this expenditure is attributable to the public realm works as part of the THI project.


2.7 Table 2.1 shows that Stromness was home to approximately 1,900 people in 2009. This represents an increase of 1% since 2001. Orkney Islands' population increased by 4% over this period and the wider Scottish population increased by 3%.

2.8 58% of the Stromness population are of working age. This is lower than both the Orkney Islands and national averages of 59% and 63%.

Table 2.1: Population

Stromness Orkney Islands Scotland
Total Population 2009 1,900 20,000 5,194,000
Population Change 2001-09 1% 4% 3%
% Working Age 2009 58% 59% 63%

Sources: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates

Age Profile

2.9 Figure 2.2 shows that the age structure of the Orkney Islands' population is broadly similar to that of Scotland. Compared with the Orkney Islands and national averages, the Stromness population is characterised by slightly lower shares of residents who are under the age of 16, youths between the ages of 16 and 24 and those of 'prime' working age (25-49).

2.10 The analysis also reveals that older people over the age of 50 account for around 43% of the Stromness population and this is higher than the Orkney Islands and Scotland averages. Around 22% of the local population is between the ages of 50 and 64; this is the same percentage as Orkney Islands and higher than 19% for Scotland. 21% of the Stromness population is over the age of 65 - this is higher than both Orkney Islands (19%) and Scotland (17%).

Figure 2.2: Age Profile of the Population 2009

(Source: ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates 2009)

Figure 2.2: Age Profile of the Population 2009

Labour Market

2.11 Table 2.3 shows that the 2010 labour market participation levels (as measured by employment, unemployment and economic inactivity) in the Orkney Islands are generally above the national average.

2.12 It can be assumed that labour market participation levels are similar than across Orkney Islands as whole and well above the national average.

2.13 In January 2010, 1.5% of all working age residents in the Stromness area were claiming Jobseekers Allowance ( JSA), in line with the equivalent rate for Orkney Islands but lower than that of Scotland average (4.2%).

2.14 Relative to Scotland, the Orkney Islands workforce is less well qualified. 29% of the Orkney Islands working age population are educated to degree level, lower than across Scotland as a whole (34%). On 'no qualifications' Orkney Islands performs marginally better with a slightly lower proportion of the Orkney Islands working population having no qualifications at all - 12%, compared to 13% for Scotland.

Table 2.3: Labour Market

Stromness Orkney Islands Scotland
Labour Market Participation
Employment Rate N/A 85% 72%
Unemployment Rate N/A 3% 7%
Economic Inactivity Rate N/A 12% 23%
Benefit Claimants
Workless Benefit Claimant Rate 7.5% 7.7% 14.6%
Jobseekers Allowance Claimant Rate 1.5% 1.5% 4.2%
Qualifications of the Working Age Population
% WAP Qualified to Degree Level or Above N/A 29% 34%
% WAP with No Qualifications N/A 12% 13%

Local Economy

2.15 Table 2.4 shows that there were approximately 900 jobs in Stromness in 2008, representing an increase of 2% since 2004. This was slightly slower than the rate of growth for Orkney Islands (3%) and across Scotland as a whole (3%). Table 2.5 also shows that 7% of employee jobs in Stromness are based within the financial & business services sector. This is slightly higher than the Orkney Islands average (6%) and well below the national average (19%).

2.16 There were 100 businesses located in the town in 2008 which was 4% lower than in 2004. This rate of decline was in sharp contrast to the growth experienced across both Orkney Islands (7%) and Scotland (8%) over the same period

2.17 When compared with the Orkney Islands and national averages Stromness has a higher business density rate.

2.18 In 2008, there were six businesses per 100 of the population in Stromness. This was above the Orkney Islands average of five as well as the Scottish average of four. This is partly a result of the four key drivers of the local economy identified in paragraph 2.23.

Table 2.4: Local Economy

Stromness Orkney Islands Scotland
Number of Jobs 2008 900 8,900 2,420,400
% Change 2004-08 2% 3% 3%
% Jobs financial & business services 7% 6% 19%
Business Base
Number of Businesses (2008) 100 1,000 181,500
% Change 2004-08 -4% 7% 8%
Businesses per 100 Head of Population 6 5 4

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

2.19 Table 2.5 shows a breakdown of all jobs by industry in Stromness, Orkney Islands and Scotland. The service sector is by far the largest employer in Stromness and accounts for a larger share of total employment when compared to Orkney Islands and Scotland. For example, retail & catering accounts for 38% of all jobs in the town, compared with 10% in Orkney Islands and 22% across Scotland as a whole. Public Sector in Stromness account for some 23% of employment. This is significantly lower than the equivalent rates for Orkney Islands and Scotland - 36% and 30% respectively.

2.20 The percentage of manufacturing activity in Stromness is higher, with the sector accounting for 12% of all jobs in 2008. At a national level, the sector accounts for a smaller share of jobs (9%). Manufacturing in the wider Orkney Islands accounts for a lower share of employment (6%).

Table 2.5: Employment

Stromness Orkney Islands Scotland
Total Number of Jobs 2008 900 8,900 2,420,400
% Agriculture & Energy 0% 4% 3%
% Manufacturing 12% 6% 9%
% Construction 6% 10% 6%
% Retail & Catering 38% 24% 22%
% Transport & Communications 8% 10% 5%
% Financial & Business Services 7% 6% 19%
% Public Sector 23% 36% 30%
% Other Services 6% 4% 5%

Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI)

Business Base

2.21 Figure 2.6 shows the profile of the business base in terms of sizeband in the local area, relative to the Orkney Islands and national data. It shows that the vast majority of businesses across each of the areas employ between 1-10 people. In Stromness, these employers account for a similar share of employment (79%), when compared with Orkney Islands (81%) and Scotland (81%).

2.22 On the other hand, businesses in Stromness with between 11 and 49 employees account for around 18% of all businesses in the area - higher than the Orkney Islands (and national averages of 14%). In 2008 there were no businesses in Stromness which employed between 50 and 199 or more than 200 employees. In the Orkney Islands, 3% of businesses employ between 50 and 199 employees - identical to the equivalent Scottish rate. Scotland is the only area which is represented by businesses employing more than 200 staff (just 1% of all businesses).

Figure 2.6: Businesses by Sizeband 2008
(Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI))

Figure 2.6: Businesses by Sizeband 2008


2.23 This section provides an overview of the Stromness tourist market, providing some assessment of the recent performance at an Orkney Islands and national level. Unfortunately, it is not possible to use the data zone definition to look at the tourism market in Stromness as the numbers involved are too small to be disclosed. Table 2.7 shows that the Orkney Islands tourism sector employed around 1,000 people in 2008, representing growth of 23% since 2004. This rate of growth was significantly higher than across Scotland (5%). There were around 100 tourism businesses in the Orkney Islands in 2008 - an increase of around 20% since 2004. This rate of growth significantly outpaced national average of 4%.

Table 2.7: Tourism

Tourism Employment & Workplaces Stromness* Orkney Islands Scotland
Employees (2008) N/A 1,000 215,000
Change in Employees 2004-2008 N/A 23% 5%
Workplaces N/A 100 19,500
Change in Workplaces 2004-2008 N/A 20% 4%

Source: Annual Business Inquiry ( ABI)

* Information not available due to confidentiality

Economic Challenges & Drivers

2.24 The analysis and anecdotal evidence suggests that the Stromness economy specialises in four main areas of activity, namely: tourism, food manufacturing, wholesale trade and construction. Collectively these industries have become gradually more important, displacing traditional industries such as agriculture, fishing and port operations. Within this, tourism and food processing are the current key wealth generators in the town, while the creative and renewable energy sectors are identified as presenting strategic opportunities for future wealth creation in Stromness over the decades ahead.

2.25 This is a significant and diverse asset base, remarkable for such a small community, and it is underpinned by active, involved and enterprising community organisations. However, like many peripheral places, the economy of Stromness remains fragile and faces a number of major challenges. These include some which are intrinsic to a remote island community, for example:

  • A small labour market pool places limits on expansion and inhibits the development of labour intensive businesses;
  • Distance to markets and suppliers may be a constraint on business growth and make it hard to establish high order functions;
  • The high cost of travel places a cost premium on business transactions and limits visitor numbers;
  • The high level of dependency on the public sector for capital and revenue funding.

2.26 Other challenges include:

  • The decline of traditional industries reflected in the closure of the auction mart and the loss of designated fishing port status;
  • The loss of the ferry link to Aberdeen a few years ago;
  • The long term and continuing drift of activity of all kinds from the historic core of the town to the urban fringe to the north; this is continuing with the planned closure and relocation of the primary school and the library;
  • The decline in the number and quality of shops in the town has reduced its vitality and visitor appeal;
  • Vacant, underused and deteriorating buildings are damaging the image of the town for visitors and prospective residents;
  • Limited supply of office and studio space in the town centre.

Town Centre

Table 2.8: Town Centre Baseline Measures

Measure Specific Data Source Comment
Economic Activity
Recent Investment THI awarded 12 property grants which equal £229,177 investment in 2009-10 Not available - Jan 2011? Recent internal refurbishment of Royal Hotel. Most other investment out with Town Centre
No of Businesses 120 Stromness Business Forum
No of jobs 900 ABI OIC refer to 1,300-1,400 inc self employed is considered the reasonable figure
Monitoring new jobs may be the best source for future figures
Retail Performance
Rental levels £8-10 sq ft. District Valuer
Vacancy levels 5 vacant former retail premises approx 10% Team Survey - June 2010

One former vacant unit is now occupied and one previously occupied is now vacant, one has recently changed ownership and operation.
Commercial Hotel has had funding for refurbishment to include commercial space - work due to commence in 2011.

Range of shops/services

19 Comparison 13 Service
3 Convenience
8 café/rest/pub/ hotel
5 vacant

Team Survey - June 2010 Surgery and Com Dev Trust not counted in the numbers
Use and Accessibility
Parking Not available: Jan 2011 OIC Road Service

No's still to be confirmed Ongoing exercise of existing and proposed.
Restricted Parking Zone project being explored as part of TCRF/ THI re-paving.

Pedestrian Flow Not Available: Jan 2011 OIC Development Services Will require a survey

Linkages & Catalyst for New Investment

2.27 The TCRF Project is clearly part of a 'suite' of projects targeted at arresting the decline of Stromness town centre as described in paragraph 2.4 above. The TCRF Town Centre Linkages Project (£381k) is only one part of a wider funding package of around £6m comprising Pierhead, THI and TCRF. The award was for less than the £483k requested because professional fees were ineligible.

2.28 Representatives of the Stromness community, including elected members and business representatives, confirmed the importance to local residents and the business community of sourcing the stone locally and the need to improve the unique 'ambience' and working environment of the centre of Stromness. The alternative was that an inferior and otherwise 'scaled back option' would have been necessary. The view was that businesses in the town centre were more likely to invest as a result of the suite of projects that were being delivered.

Project Specific Measures

2.29 The Project performance indicators that have been identified and the various sources are summarised in Table 2.9 below.

Table 2.9: Stromness: Project Performance Indicators

Objectives Performance Indicators Gathered: Before & After Source
To upgrade of the public realm throughout Stromness town centre
More Attractive Environment
Improved Sense of Place
Stone Paving
Yes: plan of flagged area
sq m improved
Before/after photos
Before & after perception survey (before was to be completed at Launch of THI in June 2010).
Anecdotal evidence from informal interviews with businesses
Sq m improved
Available late 2010/early 2011
Perception surveys to be repeated
Follow up interviews with businesses
To enable the installation of a fibre optic network
Stronger Economy: Inward Investment
OIC Decentralisation
IT Infrastructure
None available: need details on
- existing and proposed speed/capacity/constraints
- take up by OIC & business
- number of premises supplied with improved IT infrastructure
No of new businesses
Update town centre survey
Number of OIC jobs relocated from Kirkwall
OIC to confirm specification
Contractor to provide details of properties served
OIC to monitor take up
Available late 2010/early 2011

Addressing Theory of Change

2.30 The table below summarises the review of outputs and outcomes using the emerging Theory of Change (public realm, accessibility and townscape model).

Table 2.10: Stromness: Project Specific Measures: Overview

Objectives/ Activities Outputs Short Term Outcomes: 2011 Interim Term Outcomes: 2013 Longer Term Outcomes: 2015+ Measure In Place
Community & business engagement in design Number of people attending consult-ation events Potential increase in Stromness Business Forum Increased membership of Stromness Business Group ( SBG)
Local quarry continues in operation
Strong resilient SBG Local quarry re-opened and sustained Member-ship of SBG pre-2010 & post TCRF project completion
Monitor quarry business
Improved setting for refurbished vacant/ significant buildings e.g. Commercial Hotel Remove blight Potential for OIC job moves to Stromness More Attractive Environment
Improved Sense of Place
Local residents & visitors acknowledge improved town centre environment
Improved Sense of Pride
Stronger Economy
- More footfall (residents & visitors)
- More investment
- Increase business relocations/ start ups/ business growth
- Increase jobs
Perception surveys to be repeated
Repeat number of business/
vacancies survey
Improved setting for the Pierhead Regeneration Project Area improved More OIC jobs based in Stromness
Local residents will make fewer trips to Kirkwall
Improved sense of pride in perception surveys
Reduced Carbon Footprint Perception surveys to be repeated
Repeat number of business/
vacancies survey
Improved events space at Pierhead Area improved
Increased number of events organised & promoted
More visitors, staying longer, spending more Increase number of events & attendance
Establish spin off impacts for local shops/services
Stronger Economy Number/
type of events
Footfall survey: residents & visitors
Improved walking & cycling connectivity Increased use of public routes Improved health (increase take-up of healthy lifestyles within the community) Reduced Carbon Footprint Footfall & cycle use survey
Installation of a fibre optic ducting network Length of fibre optic improved: number of properties served by improved broadband Improved IT Infrastructure
- Identified speed & capacity improvements
Increase in business start up & business growth in town centre to take advantage of improved broadband
Inward Investment: new businesses
OIC decentralisation of services & staff
Stronger Economy: Need details on
- existing and proposed speed/capacity/constraints
- take up by OIC & business
Regular business surveys: take up of improved broadband, start up, growth, jobs, confidence
Monitor number of OIC jobs relocated to Stromness
Renew underground services Length of pipes/ wires renewed Ensure services are fit for purpose in future
Install improved signs Number of improved signs More visitors, staying longer, spending more Stronger Economy Footfall survey: residents & visitors


OIC identified outcomes in bold

Indicators that OIC need to measure in the future are indicated in italics.

2.31 Table 2.11 shows the trend over the last four years in the number of cruise ships visiting the various Orkney harbours including Stromness with an average of 69. The cruise ships provide an important source of visitors for organised walking tours with approved guides in Stromness and these visitors will benefit from the improved public realm.

Table 2.11: Orkney Island Council: Visiting Cruise Ships Data

2008 2009 2010 2011
Cruise Ships 76 66 73 63
Training Ships 3 11 8 0
TOTAL 79 77 81 63
Stromness Pier 11 14 7 5

Progress: Jan/Early Feb 2011

2.32 Progress on site as at January 2011 was as follows:

2.33Supply Contract: Extraction of stone from Liddles quarry is underway and production of paving stone is progressing well. The supplier has procured a second large saw in order to ensure completion of the order by mid March 2011. The first consignment of paving slabs have been delivered to site in order that a stock is on site ready for laying starting in January .

2.34Laying Contract: The paving contractor was ready to start on 29 November 2010 but following consultation with the THI team it was agreed to delay commencement of laying the paving until 6 January 2011. This was so as not to cause disruption and restricted access to local shops in the weeks running up to Christmas which would have been very damaging for public relations.

2.35 The contractor had set up a compound and taken delivery of stone. The work is still programmed to be complete by 31 March 2011 but this does not make any allowance for time lost due to bad weather. An extra team is to be put in place in January/February/March to help expedite the laying works. As the work includes laying an asphalt foundation to the new paving slabs and this requires suitable conditions, it is anticipated there will be some weather delays. It is not possible to predict this in advance but it would be reasonable to assume completion could be delayed until the end of April 2011.

2.36Financial: The first payment under the supply contract will be due on delivery of the stone to site in December with payments complete before the end of March 2011. For the laying contract the first payment will be in January 2011 with a substantial part claimed by the end of March 2011 although some payment will be outstanding until April/May 2011 and some contingency will be required from Scottish Government.


2.37 Stromness TCRF project is part of wider regeneration efforts in Stromness; in particular the THI and the Pierhead Regeneration Project.

2.38 After local community consultation where there was a very strong feeling that the stone for the public realm improvement should be sourced locally, significant and successful efforts were made to reopen a local quarry (Liddles). Clearly the decision to reopen the local quarry has resulted in delays but extraction of stone from quarry is now underway and production of paving stone is progressing well. It would be reasonable to assume completion could be delayed until the end of April 2011 and the overall Pierhead project will not be completed to June 2012. Longer term outcomes will only be clarified at this stage.

2.39 A more robust monitoring and evaluation plan has been established that uses Theory of Change.

2.40 'Team Stromness' has also been established by OIC so as to assist in the coordination and delivery.

2.41 As far as the Stromness contacts are concerned the main issues arising in the TCRF project have been:

  • Passion of the local community to insist on locally sourced stone;
  • Ability to respond to local opinion and reopen the Liddles quarry;
  • Importance of TCRF in convincing local councillors to extend the public realm proposals that were originally part of the THI.

Case Study Interview Details

Main Contact Name Miriam Frier
Position THI Project Manager
Organisation Orkney Islands Council
Phone Number / Mobile 01856 873535
Other Contacts:
Name Gavin Barr
Position Planning Manager (Development Planning & Regeneration)
Name Mike Cragie
Position Former Chair Stromness Business Forum