The Scottish Government has offered progress updates on regenerating Scotland’s town centres in a report on the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Action Plan.
The Scottish Government writes:
Progress on regenerating Scotland’s town centres has been outlined in a report on the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Action Plan.
The Town Centre Action Plan – One Year On report has been published ahead of a Parliamentary debate that will be led by Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay today.
The report highlights a range of milestones that have been reached as part of the Action Plan, including:
- Agreement between the Scottish Cabinet and COSLA on the Town Centre First Principle, where Government, public bodies, businesses and communities put the health of town centres at the heart of decision-making
- An expansion of the Fresh Start business rates relief scheme to pubs, hotels and restaurants
- Record numbers of business properties in Scotland benefiting from an extension of the Small Business Bonus Scheme, with 96,265 properties paying zero or reduced business rates in 2014-15, an increase of almost 4,000 properties since last year.
- Growth in the number of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) helping to support economic growth in town centres. There are currently 27 BIDs, with ballots on a further eight expected before April 2015.
- Recognition of the role of town centres in the new National Planning Framework 3 and Scottish Planning Policy
- A share of £2.75 million in funding awarded to seven projects under the Town Centre Housing Fund, creating 82 units for affordable housing
- A £186,000 grant to strengthen the role of the Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) as the ‘go-to’ body for advice on town centre development
Publication of the report coincides with an announcement of close to £300,000 in funding towards two initiatives intended to support town centre regeneration.
The first is a programme of town centre planning pilots, which will see the Government provide nine local authorities with a share of £119,000 over two years to fund pilot schemes under the proactive planning theme. The other will see a grant of approximately £160,000 provided to the Scottish Business in the Community (SBC) to set up Business Hubs in four local authorities, including Angus, Ayrshire, Borders and Moray. The hubs would engage with businesses of all sizes and encourage them to work together to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of their town centres.
Welcoming publication of the Town Centre Action Plan – One Year On, report Mr Mackay said: ‘The Scottish Government is determined that our town centres should be vibrant, attractive and safe places where local people and visitors alike want to spend their time and money. This goes beyond simply considering how to attract businesses and support local economies, but ensuring that we diversify town centres to support their place at the core of community life, offering spaces to meet and interact with access to facilities and services that people require.’
‘The Town Centre Action Plan is our response to this vision, and this report highlights a number of significant milestones that have been reached since its launch, including agreement between the Government and COSLA on the Town Centre First Principle. The progress that we have made in the past year is testament to the commitment of all concerned in revitalising our town centres, and as part of this commitment I am delighted to announce close to £300,000 in funding towards projects aimed at achieving this aim.
‘Initiatives such as these, delivered at a local level, exemplify the kind of actions that we are taking for the benefit of local communities, and I look forward to continuing our work in regenerating town centres across Scotland.’
Malcolm Fraser, Chair of the Town Centre Review External Advisory Group, said: ‘It’s a fine thing to see the Scottish Government delivering, and good they understand that revitalising Scotland’s town centres is an ongoing process. It’s even better to recognise how many local authorities, community groups and individuals see how their own town centres are central to the wealth, sustainability and democratic accessibility of their whole community, and are taking advantage of the opportunities presented through the Town Centre Action Plan.’
Leigh Sparks, Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, said: ‘This report shows clearly the increasing depth of commitment and alignment of policies and actions to support one of the key features of Scotland – its towns and town centres. Across Scotland there is evidence of strong engagement to revitalise and re-imagine our town centres, and Scotland’s Towns Partnership is hugely encouraged by the significant and extensive progress on key issues to date. We will be working hard to maximise the potential for enhanced activity across as many communities as possible in the coming year.’
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Scottish Government press release
Download the report