Scotland’s communities secretary, Aileen Campbell, has announced the formation of a group of specialists to consult on the revitalisation of town centres in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts in town planning, public health, transport, and business will take on board views of local communities to build on the progress of the Scottish Government’s 2013 Town Centre Action Plan.
“Town centres are crucial to our economic recovery and renewal as we emerge from lockdown and it’s important we do all we can to support them. COVID-19 has changed the way we all live, work and shop, and we must develop safe spaces that meet the diverse economic, social and environmental needs of city, country, village and island populations,” said Ms Campbell.
Professor Leigh Sparks of the University of Stirling will chair the expert group, which will also include members from COSLA, the Royal Town Planning Institute, South of Scotland Enterprise, the Carnegie Trust, the Federation of Small Businesses, Public Health Scotland, Sustrans, Inclusion Scotland and the Scottish Government.
Planning for Place Programme Lead, Irene Beautyman, has been invited to represent the Improvement Service. “As well contributing our expertise, we are being asked to champion the review, promote debate and encourage groups to engage” explained Irene following the group’s first meeting in early July.
The group will help shape a refreshed vision for the future of Scotland’s towns and make recommendations to turn that into a reality. It will consider what is needed to make town centres greener, healthier and more vibrant. By their nature, town centres impact many aspects of our economy, climate and society; embracing all sectors and broad issues. The group’s focus is on improving town centre’s impact as part of broader whole system approaches.
Working with Scotland Towns Partnership, the review will consider expanding the context of its current action plan to include climate, health and wellbeing.
To involve the widest spectrum of input, review activities will include oral evidence sessions, survey, fact finding as well as desk-based research. It will report back by the end of 2020.
The town centre review is part of a wider package of renewal work happening across all parts of government, in particular the Social Renewal and Economy Advisory Boards.