Day for Towns Marks Exciting Moment for Regeneration in Scotland

CSPP, 20th May 2015 (Edinburgh) - A full house met at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh last 13 May for Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP)’s “Day for Towns”, to learn about developments in the regeneration of the spaces in which over half the country’s population resides.

Through the Towns Tea Party networking event, STP AGM, and launch of Julian Dobson’s book ‘How to Save Our Town Centres’, it was made clear that Scotland is experiencing a promising moment for town centre development. Julian Dobson, who had come to Scotland for launch of his book, gave his observation that “there’s a lot to be excited about [for town regeneration] in Scotland”.

It was also highlighted how STP is playing a leading role in promoting the redevelopment of Scotland’s Towns. STP is a Centre for Scottish Public Policy (CSPP) sister organisation, whose work the CSPP supports. During the brief AGM meeting, STP chair Professor Leigh Sparks described STP’s significant progress in the last three months, with the STP’s new website, incorporating the Understanding Scottish Places and the Town Centre Toolkit, among other projects the organisation is undertaking.

Following from this, Julian Dobson presented his new book, ‘How to Save Our Town Centres’. Dobson is an active promoter of town centre development and is director of the research consultancy Urban Pollinators, among several other roles. A description of his book can be read here.

(Julian Dobson (left) with STP Chief Officer, Phil Prentice, after the presentation)

In his presentation Dobson used props, rather than powerpoint, to get his message across. His key idea was that town centres should become public spaces accessible to all, in which the community identifies and over which local stakeholders have control. This approach brings together issues of local property ownership, public services, green spaces, heritage, and local businesses vs. external commercial investment. A full description of Dobson’s talk can be read at STP’s Storify report of the day.  

The presentation was followed by a lively Q+A with audience members asking challenging questions about town centre development and Dobson’s views on the reasons for decline in many towns in the past few decades.

After the talk, Julian Dobson said to the CSPP of the day, “It’s been exciting, this is a place where people are engaged with the issues”.

He continued, “Town centre change takes time but there are real possibilities where change can begin to happen. I think a lot of people here have vision, what is exciting about STP is that you have people who are passionate about the places they live in”.

Meanwhile, one audience member, Anita Dhesi of Giffnock Village BID, said to CSPP, “I thought the day as a whole was informative and useful, as it was cross disciplinary and people were able to learn from each other”.

The Day for Towns was followed by a meeting of the Towns Cross Party Group convened by Margaret McCulloch MSP, Shadow Minister for Town Centres, at the Scottish Parliament. At this, Phil Prentice, STP Chief Officer, reported on activity and progress around the themes of the Town Centre Action Plan, among other contributions.

Reflecting on the day, Professor Leigh Sparks wrote, “For me, and yes I recognize I am hopelessly compromised in this as Chair of STP, the day was a resounding success. We are making strong progress and the day as a whole was marked by positivity about the things going on and the places being energized by these activities.

He concluded, “It is the start of something rather than the end, and we do still have a long way to go, but Scotland’s Towns are coming together and changing their fortunes, place by place, in a way we have not seen for quite some time. You can watch this space and/or get involved locally or nationally – places of possibility; spaces of opportunity”.

The CSPP will continue to support STP’s work in the coming period and conduct policy work on Scotland’s towns, as part of our focus on the people, and places, of Scotland.

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