Kirkintilloch Town Centre Masterplan

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Download: 130924 EDS 07 Kirkintilloch Town Centre Masterplan Appraisal
Project data
Project Reference Kirkintilloch Town Centre Masterplan
Details Town centre regeneration masterplan
Location Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire
Use Type Retail / Public Realm / Leisure / Infrastructure / Housing / Education / Arts
Client/Developer East Dunbartonshire Council
Lead Designers East Dunbartonshire Council
Planning Authority East Dunbartonshire City Council
Planning Ref Public Consultation / Consultative Draft
Issue Date 24/09/2013

1.00 Introduction

1.01 Kirkintilloch is East Dunbartonshire’s principle town centre. The requirement to carry out a town centre masterplan was identified in the Council’s Local Plan 2 to address issues identified by the Local Authority following studies showing it to be “the areas poorest performing retail centre in need of regeneration intervention. The town centre suffers from issues which are now common in many centres throughout Scotland, for example: poor quality and unsympathetic ad-hoc infill development, poor quality public realm and streetscapes, broken connections and restricted pedestrian movement, loss of shops and services, falling footfall numbers, vacant units and poor image or perception by investors.”

1.02 The Kirkintilloch Town Centre Masterplan project was approved by the Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee in October 2011. Consultation was subsequently carried out involving focus groups, engagement sessions and resident and business questionnaires. EDC control several sites which are identified for change in the masterplan, however there are a high number of land owners in the town centre area. We are advised that the masterplan process was aimed at engaging key land owners and businesses to help evolve idea, projects and unlock development potential.

1.03 Technical assessment work, masterplan concepts and ideas for different sites – based around short, medium and long term aspirations and development potential – were developed ‘in house’ by EDC following completion of the first phase of consultations with the community and other stakeholders, and presented in draft to EDC administration in June 2012.

1.04 A&DS were consulted on the project by EDC as part of further consultation and feasibility work in 2012. Early designs were presented by EDC and discussed at a workshop in East Dunbartonshire on 28th August 2012, and a Design Forum Advice Note subsequently issued on 13th September 2012. The workshop was run as a joint session with discussion on proposals for New Lairdsland Primary School, which is to be located southwest of the town centre along the canal corridor. Although the site for the new school is out-with the proposed masterplan area, it was identified as being one of a number of developments in the pipeline ether within or close to the masterplan area, and forms part of the redevelopment of the canal corridor with links to the town centre. The workshop was informed by a site visit including a circular tour of the town and on-site discussion of a number of the imperative and proposals being put forward.

1.05 A draft Masterplan has now been prepared which provides a regeneration strategy for the town centre including a shared vision and a range of proposals. These proposals range from short term interventions to much longer term change and are categorised under the following headings:

  • Public Realm, Gateways & Parking
  • Historic & Built Fabric
  • Long Term Physical Change
  • Economic Development

A long term vision has been developed, which is:

“Create a reinvigorated heart for Kirkintilloch that is vibrant, welcoming, and attractive, and encourages healthy and sustainable patterns of behaviour. Become a town centre that celebrates its past, but is also forward looking and modern – providing a balance of leisure, civic, retail, business and tourism facilities. It must provide opportunities for young enterprise, new investment and act as a gateway to the natural attractions of the surrounding areas.”

EDC advise that a formal public consultation on the document is underway and once complete it will be adopted as guidance under the current Local Plan 2.

2.00 Scope of Appraisal

2.01 EDC has consulted A&DS on the developed draft document as part of their formal consultation process, providing an opportunity to update our comments following our previous engagement in 2012 and in light of additional information being provided in the document.

2.02 The following is based on a desktop appraisal of the consultation document by A&DS staff and incorporating original comments made by the panel in our earlier advice note.

3.00 Appraisal

3.01 The previous advice stated:
“The Panel supported the variety of public realm improvement projects being proposed for around the town centre, which could help to improve and build on the strengths, heritage and character of the town. However, initial resources might arguably be better invested in identifying and improving those parts of the town centre that stand out as being problematic and in making interventions that help to attract investment into the centre in the short term – for example in investing in the refurbishment of the town hall into a new cinema – filling voids to leverage activity and enliven the streets, throughout the day and encourage more activity in the evening.

(Post meeting note – The Local Authority may be interested to refer to Pride Hill in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, West Midlands. Though a bigger town the area has some comparable issues and potential solutions. On the west a steep drop-off to a riverside by-pass with parking and bus station, retail with enclosed arcades/malls serviced from the rear. The east side filters back into the old town small scale streets, is traffic calmed, pedestrian permeable and includes modest urban spaces, small scale shops, cafés and a cinema in the original market hall –”

Section 4 of the document ‘Place Analysis’ provides useful context for how the town has evolved historically, and illustrates and describes areas within the present town centre which are problematic, and where there are opportunities for positive urban regeneration and development. The socio-economic profile, section 4.6, helps to illustrate this in more detail including further statistics on town centre footfall and vacant retail units along the Cowgate.

Particular reference is noted being given to opportunities for potential re-use of the vacant Town Hall building as a ‘Community, Arts & Cultures Centre’ as identified in ‘The Masterplan’ diagram (p.30) and described in more detail under potential projects, 6.2 ‘Heritage & Built Fabric’ (p. 46).

In addition to a long term vision being developed for the town centre, objectives identified (p.27) to help underpin this vision offer an opportunity to reinforce key messages raised by the panel previously regards suggested areas for initial resources and investment.

3.02 The previous advice stated:
“The Cowgate has good basic substance in form, scale and massing – still a serviceable backbone, if needing some repair. Improvements could be made, for example by removing or replacing the existing canopy along the retail on the west side and which appears tired and depressing, and by introducing residential activity directly onto the street. In addition, the encouragement of the use of ground floor units as accesses to small and medium size enterprises located at upper levels could add further activity, and unite the lower and upper levels.”

As point 3.01 above we welcome key principles identified for development as part of the vision for the masterplan which include aspirations to “improve the condition of the built fabric of the town centre” and “bring first floor accommodation back into use for modern business premises”.
We are encouraged to learn that works are being undertaken to improve parts of the poor quality canopies along Cowgate and that if successful this could set a model of good practice to replicate in other areas within the town centre.

We also support initiatives being explored by the Council, and in working with stakeholders, to populate vacant floorspace as outlined in the document (p.61).

3.03 The previous advice stated:
“The Regent Centre in its present form and location is highly detrimental to the life and fabric of the town and should be top priority regards further study and masterplanning. In addition to its offering various “blind” elevations to the street, we understand that a number of the retail units located off the mall are currently lying empty, and are therefore not realising value for the centre owners. We would suggest exploring the potential for regeneration of the centre through developing a vision for a strong retail offer which activates the street frontages, providing desirable, street-facing retail units. Such a vision might include, for example, closing the vista to the car park beyond, or incorporating a farmers’ market to create an active retail experience whilst interfacing with the town centre public realm.”

We note reference made to the Regent Centre in the socio-economic analysis, identifying a number of vacant retail units, and also in section 6.4 ‘Economic Development’ – siting Tesco as an important anchor store within the Centre for the town and suggesting the potential for holding a regular market in Regent Gardens opposite. The Panel felt strongly about the negative effects the Centre is having on the town centre in its current state and we suggest that ideas for how this might be addressed could be strengthened and made more explicit within the document – for example by highlighting the need for regeneration of the Centre as an objective for the future of the town centre, and in developing this as a specific project, or linking with proposed projects for the Cowgate and Regent Gardens.

3.04 The previous advice stated:
“On the southwest side of the town there is huge potential (which has already begun in a few locations) for large and small scale pedestrian linkages into Peel Park, the old primary school, the conservation area, churches, routes to the schools and the canal. A significant spend in the area of Regent Gardens could kick start the enhancement of those relationships, for example by enhanced containment at its present scale and/or enhancing its role as a green route to the west. Again a town hall refurbishment would assist in this greatly.”

We support the aspirations stated in the document to enhance connections to Peel Park by reinstating paving at West High Street and Peel Brae, and potential for establishing a heritage trail around the town centre (pp. 47-48), together with ambitions to redevelop Regent Gardens to provide a better quality public space and improved setting for the potential redevelopment of the Town Hall.

3.05 The previous advice stated:
“As described above, the proposed relocation of the existing primary school away from the town centre and onto the Canal seems to run counter to the Council’s ambitions for increasing activity in the centre itself. The Council are recommended to be mindful of the potential impacts of the increased travel by car via parent drops offs to the new school as a consequence of the relocation, the subsequent potential for change in shopping habits, and to address this where possible.”

The document notes that the departure of land uses traditionally located in or around urban centres can have impacts on vitality through removing activity, spend and footfall, and includes the relocation of Lairdsland Primary School to the Canal side adjacent to Southbank Marina as a recent example of this within the town. This concurs with the Panels concerns above and we would encourage the Council to be mindful of this when considering further development within the town centre if ambitions for regenerating and activating the town are to be realised.

3.06 The previous advice stated:
“By contrast the existing Lairdsland Primary School building is well located and connected within the town centre and could continue to offer a considerable asset to the community if developed sympathetically. We would encourage the Council to find a suitable alternative use for the building, and to consider this and the playground adjacent concurrent with that of the Regent Centre in terms of areas of opportunity.”

We note inclusion of site options for redevelopment of the existing school site within the document, as were previously discussed with the Panel, and would reiterate our comments above.

3.07 The previous advice stated:
“Areas for potential long-term development are identified to the north east of the town centre across the bypass. This part of the town suffers from a number of difficult constraints in terms of its orientation, topography and traffic flow and development connected to the town centre will therefore be particularly challenging, perhaps insurmountable. Residential development fronting directly onto New Lairdsland Road may not be desirable, given its proximity to the road and the shear retaining wall to the rear of the shops and therefore might better be developed with open space fronting the roadway. The area fronting onto Luggie River does however appear to be appropriate for residential development as suggested. In any event it is important that initial resources are concentrated on improvements to the town centre to the southwest of the bypass.”

We note that indicative proposals for residential development onto New Lairdsland Road and Luggie River have been updated to suggest more open space and a protective green edge to the road. We support proposed improved pedestrian links from New Lairdsland Road to West High Street in principle, and note how the indicative designs have developed since the previous workshop. We would however reiterate our suggestions above regards concentrating improvements to the town centre to the southwest of the bypass in the short term.

4.00 Summary

4.01 We welcome the development of a masterplan for the Kirkintilloch Town Centre and support the Council in their initiative to develop a long term vision for the town. The scope and influence of a masterplan needs to be matched by sufficient ambition, commitment and also the capacity of client and stakeholders to deliver the plan. We recognise that the delivery of these ambitions will therefore require collaborative efforts from all parties involved and encourage the Council to maintain an active lead role in championing the vision for the town centre.

We continue to support the variety of public realm improvements being proposed around the town centre, but would continue to encourage the Council to invest initial resources in identifying and improving those parts of the town centre that stand out as being problematic and in making interventions that help to attract investment into the centre in the short term.

We support the recommendation that EDC develop an urban design framework for the Canal Corridor and South bank area, in partnership with landowners and Scottish Canals, to help inform future local policy guidance and would be happy to offer further support to the Council on the development of such guidance in due course.

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