Public bodies urged to invest in town centres

PUBLIC BODIES across Scotland are being urged to adopt a new approach that puts town centres first when considering new investment decisions.

Malcolm Fraser believes town centre regeneration is the key factor for breathing new life into Scottish towns. Picture: TSPL

Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay is to launch the “town centre first principle”, which calls on authorities to consider helping local high streets before thinking about developments elsewhere.

An expert group set up to examine how to breathe life into Scotland’s high streets, which was chaired by architect Malcolm Fraser, called for the approach to be adopted last summer.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Under the new principle, public bodies will be encouraged to invest in town centres, and weigh up the financial pressures of closing down any town centre facilities against the benefits of maintaining vibrant and healthy high streets.

Mr Mackay will today visit Barrhead in East Renfrewshire, which has been one of the first local authorities to adopt such an approach.

Speaking ahead of this morning’s visit, he said: “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.”

Mr Mackay added: “It is encouraging to see local authorities, like East Renfrewshire Council, applying the principle and recognising how important it is to make our town centres vibrant, attractive and safe places where people can spend their time and money.”