Architecture and Design Scotland welcomes this week’s announcement of the Town Centre First Principle, where the public sector is encouraged to continue to invest in town centres to help communities thrive.
A&DS contributed to the national review of town centres, chaired by Malcolm Fraser, which published its recommendations in July 2013.
The Town Centre Action Plan which was published in November 2013 outlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to town centres.
* Expanding the ‘Fresh Start’ business rates relief to apply to pubs, hotels and restaurants from 1 April 2014 and to increase the thresholds of the scheme from property with a rateable value of £45,000 to £65,000.
* £2 million towards a Town Centre Housing Fund to help bring empty town centre properties back into use.
* Powers for local authorities to establish Town Centre Investment Zones.
* £120,000 for Town Centre charettes – grants available to help deliver community design meetings specifically focused on town centres.
* Launching a competition for entrepreneurs to drive forward town centre regeneration ideas.
This week Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay called on public bodies to sign up to the new Town Centre First Principle.
The Principle requests that public bodies such as local authorities, the NHS and Police Scotland weigh up the potential impact of closing town centre facilities, against the benefits of keeping their town centres healthy and vibrant.
Speaking on a visit to Barrhead in East Renfrewshire, which is one of the first local authorities to adopt the Town Centre First Principle, Mr Mackay said:
Our town centres should be vibrant, attractive and safe places where local people want to spend their time and money.
The Scottish Government made a commitment to recognise and prioritise the importance of town centres in our Town Centre Action Plan last year, and we are taking this one step further by introducing the Town Centre First Principle, and asking all public bodies to sign up.
The Principle will encourage public bodies to put the health of town centres first and consider what impact any investment decisions, will have on them. In particular, when it comes to investment, public bodies adopting the principle are requested to consider town centre locations first, and look beyond immediate pressures when they are making decisions about closing a town centre facility.
We understand that for some businesses or services the town centre may not be a suitable location, but in signing up to the Principle, public bodies will make sure the rationale for locating elsewhere is evidenced and transparent.
By working in partnership with local authorities, the wider public sector, private and community organisations, we can ensure our town centres are vibrant and are a focal point for the community.
The Town Centre First Principle will be available to view at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/regeneration/town-centres/TheTownCentreFirstPrinciple