New technology is driving the changes

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John Munro (“Our citsyscape is constantly evolving”, Letters, 26 December) provides a full and lucid explanation of our planning issues. However, he makes no mention of something that is going to change our cityscape even further.

The continuous increase in communications technology and the spread of the microprocessor is going to have further implications. In a reverse of the Industrial Revolution, working from home or sites remote to the main business centre is growing.

Many businesses which once required large administration centres now use more automation and the few remaining staff often work from home. The insurance industry, once a major employer with offices and call centres, now appears to be run by a couple of meerkats who do everything over the internet.

Even in manufacturing, robot production means much smaller workforces. In retail, there are already significant changes. The large out-of-town shopping centres might prove to be transitory. Online shopping is growing and even everyday shopping is being done by a click of the mouse.

In the remote area of Wester Ross, Tesco recently started offering online shopping. A two-day-a-week service rapidly became every day and deliveries are often fully booked for three weeks in advance.

In more urban areas, clicking the mouse to order and collecting from the nearest convenient unit is an efficient way to shop.

Some trades are disappearing. The bookshop is under threat not just from the online warehouse but also from the massive increase in e-books,.

Just as the advent of steam power changed society at the beginning of the 19th century and the internal combustion engine and development of electricity distribution changed the direction at the start of the 20th century, the development of high-speed electronic communications and the microprocessor has set the change at the start of the 21st century. Our society has yet to see all the changes this is going to bring.

Bruce D Skivington

Pairc a Ghliob, Strath

Gairloch, Wester Ross

John Munro appears to be living in the last century when the car was king. He only needs to look to Los Angeles for an example of a society built around the automobile. Where is he proposing to build McTopia?

We have a large investment in our town centres. Our challenge is to use the planning laws to shape their continuing development fit for the 21st century.

The new supermarket on the outskirts of Helensburgh was approved by Argyll and Bute Council against the advice of the planning officer, on a site that wasn’t approved for retail use and following a lax application of the sequential test. There are sites to the east of the town centre where proactive compulsory purchase orders could have been used following Scottish Government policy. The supermarket should not have been built out of town.

He cites Loch Lomond Shores with free parking.  This development at Balloch was built at a cost of £45 million and opened in 2002. The projected £35m boost to the local economy didn’t happen and the centerpiece attraction, the Drumkinnon Tower, has been turned into a sea life centre at a further cost of £3.4m. The Imax film, The Legend of the Loch, commisioned at a cost of £3m, has been junked. The free parking cost the taxpayer £51m.

Gordon Brown laid the foundation stone for the Dunfermline Eastern Expansion (DEX) in 2000. This is an American suburb transplanted to the north-east of Dunfermline. It includes retail parks and the Fife Leisure Centre. Commercial interests built cheap sheds and the low overheads and free parking attracted shoppers away from Dunfermline town centre, which is now in serious trouble.

The Halbeath Park and Ride has just opened at a cost of £10m and residents of DEX can use the facility to travel to work in Edinburgh. The new Queensferry Bridge projected to cost £1.4 billion will increase the appeal of south Fife as the designated northern suburb of Edinburgh. There are already proposals for a large housing development at Cairneyhill, to the west of Dunfermline.

Central and local government plans dictate the nature of our town centres. Where these plans are flawed, the ballot box is our only remedy. Where are the urban planners with vision?

John Black

Woodhollow House

Helensburgh

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