Having been professionally involved in urban planning since the 1960s, I disagree strongly with the “town centres first” idea favoured by Cliff Hague (Letters, 19 December).
Like many planning policies, it aims to push an obsolete spatial pattern on the public for ideological reasons, with little analysis of costs and benefits, rather than seeking to meet the great variety of people’s needs and wishes.
In the jargon, it is “top-down”, not “bottom-up”, planning.
As with many other public servants, some planners think they know best what people should get. They are “control freaks” who seek to decide what people should be allowed to have, even within their own private properties.
Retailing includes “corner shops”, local centres, free-standing mini-markets and supermarkets, strips on main roads, malls. retail parks and internet services.
People choose which to use, and their needs and preferences change frequently. The decline of town centres is a result of this. It is no more sensible to resist this than it was to spend large sums of public money on trying to keep obsolete industries in places where they were no longer viable.
Most Scottish town centres are characterised by mediocre, grey Victorian buildings and the same multiple stores as others. They have little individuality and in evenings are deserted.
Few have public squares. They compare very poorly with centres in mainland Europe, where there are such, with attractive buildings and many independent shops and markets. Most people there still prefer these to supermarkets.
In most villages shopping provision is poor or even non-existent. In suburbs many homes have no shops or pubs within easy walking distance. Bus services are limited and there are now few vans visiting the area.
With more elderly people who do not drive living there this is big problem for some.
Given that national and local aims include greatly increasing movement on foot and bike for environmental and health reasons, while the closer people live to facilities the more often they use them, it would be sensible to address this deficiency.
Most trips to town centres involve car or bus travel. These are costly, consume energy and exacerbate pollution. Increasing travel to and from town centres is inconsistent with the “green agenda”.
Internet shopping certainly is, since it helps reduce the amount of travel, and also saves people much time and money.