As you may have seen in The Scotsman, The BBC and other news outlets at the start of the week, some of the details of the long-awaited Scottish Government National Review of Town Centres have been announced. The review is tasked to agree an action plan for re-energising Scotland’s town centres, addressing issues associated with planning, rents and rates, competition and empty properties.
The full press release is available from the Scottish Government and confirms that the Review will be led by the leading architect Malcolm Fraser, assisted by an External Advisory Group, and will report in 2013, after the recent Government reshuffle to Nicola Sturgeon. As Malcolm Fraser says
“Many town centres are struggling. This is not just a matter of nostalgic regret – their integrity, liveability and neighbourliness provide Scotland with its creative and business focus. They are our true ‘eco-towns’, whose health is also critical to the government’s low-carbon agenda. I like the wide-ranging brief this review has – it encourages us to examine a wide range of changes and initiatives to lever positive change.”
Slightly hidden in the details is the involvement of Stirling University as part of the External Advisory Group. Rather less coy is our press release on the matter which confirms that I accepted an invitation to be a member of the Group. My views on town centres have been articulated at times in this blog, but as I have reiterated in the press release:
“Scotland’s towns and town centres are a defining feature and vital resource for the country. They are at the heart of Scotland and Scottish life. They provide enormous social and economic benefits, improve quality of life and meet Scottish Government priorities. In a carbon challenged future they enhance accessibility and environmental resource sharing. Yet Scotland’s towns and town centres are, at best, in a state of decline and arrested decay. It has been widely recognised that Scotland’s town centres need new thinking and life to play their full part in the social and economic life of the country.“
As Professor of Retail Studies, Chair of the Scottish Towns Policy Group under the auspices of CSPP, and a Board Member of IDS Scotland, the Scottish BIDs company, I feel that I cover a number of constituencies. However, I would still encourage and welcome anyone with views on town centres in Scotland to post them here, or email them to me, or simply to get in contact however you wish. This is perhaps a once in generation/Parliamentary life cycle try to sort out some of our town centre issues and make them suitable for Scotland and Scotland’s future.