FOR many years, urban communities have faced more challenges than opportunities. We have spent the last two years trying to understand those challenges as the economy, public sector capacity and consumer habits all undergo drastic change.
So certain principles to be found in the publication yesterday of The National Review of Town Centres are hugely welcome. The “town centre first” principle, where public bodies will first investigate how to develop their town centres before considering development elsewhere, will bring renewed focus and investment.
Closer collaboration with housing developers should bring empty town centre properties back into use as affordable housing; and greater scrutiny on the impact of out-of-town services will support regeneration over relocation.
Scotland’s towns need innovation. They need new life, and freshness. They fundamentally need to better reflect the expectations of their residents.
The Test Town initiative aims to achieve those goals, and has produced remarkable results. It offered the opportunity for young people to test innovative entrepreneurial ideas on a real high street, selling real products and services.
Piloted in Dunfermline, teams of young people from all kinds of backgrounds submitted their cutting-edge business and social enterprise ideas, and the finalists had the chance to put their concepts into practice last week.
Test Town identified that the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of young people will be key to rejuvenating Britain’s hard-pressed town centres. Our town centres need to attract other young people, consumers and citizens, back into our key commercial and social spaces.
Scotland is learning the lessons from Test Town, and The National Review of Town Centres provides the framework and the ambition to help us achieve real change. It won’t be easy to effect real change quickly, but the review should give civic leaders, strategic transport managers and politicians the courage to really rethink, rather than patch up, our town strategies.
• Tim Metcalfe is practice and development manager, Carnegie UK Trust