A few weeks ago I was invited to a Public Finance/Deloitte roundtable on town centres and the high street, and asked to do an introductory piece to kick it off. I went with one my”professorial provocations” about which I’ve written before, but this time much of it seemed to have become received wisdom.
Anyhow, the report of the session is available here and I think makes an interesting read. Perhaps the most surprising facet for me was the forward-looking attitude from many of the local authorities (mainly from the north-west of England) and the investments they had made in their places, together with the discussion about the need to create jobs in the centres of towns and cities giving people reasons to be there. Unfortunately not typical of everywhere.
With thanks to my colleague Keri Davies …..
Keri sent me the other day a little story from the Daily Mail Online about uproar in St. Andrews. A traditional family baker (and an excellent one at that – Fisher and Donaldson) had installed a vending machine selling hot pies and other bakery items in a vacant unit in the town. This was a temporary measures to see if it worked – and the results were excellent with the machine having to be regularly refilled. So where’s the beef?
Well, local councillors decided that the machine offended the image that St. Andrews wanted to portray. Whilst not denying its popularity and its usefulness, it was described as “completely inappropriate” for the town and the streetscape.
Now, it does look a little ugly in its current place – the doorway of a vacant unit – but no doubt a suitable permanent and visible home could be found. If it can’t what does it say about St. Andrews – let’s look pretty but ignore the customers?
I have written before about the Scotland’s Towns Conference and there are videos and commentary and storify etc available on the Scotland’s Towns Partnership website. But I thought it might be useful to put the Minister’s speech to the conference up here as well. That’s the good news. The bad news is the same video starts with a few minutes of my introducing the conference and setting out the agenda – sorry about that, but it’s not that much of a price to pay to hear Derek Mackay lay out the Scottish Government’s Action Plan for Towns.