A unique collaboration of Dumfries-based businesses, community organisations and social enterprises have joined forces to launch a new development partnership for the regional capital, the Dumfries Partnership Action Group (DPAG).
The initiative, which has the active support of Dumfries and Galloway Council, comes as towns across Scotland struggle to keep up with a mix of store closures, flagging business and consumer confidence and public sector cuts.
The central message from the new group however is one of both confidence and a passionate belief in the town’s future. While previous initiatives have struggled to deliver lasting change, the Action Group has pledged to learn from the limitations of past efforts and focus on ideas led by businesses, community groups and creative thinkers that will gain the support of local agencies and, hopefully, major external funders.
DPAG members have already committed to producing a blueprint for Dumfries Town Centre that will see it develop as a thriving town and a place that residents, businesses and visitors view with pride. Their mission is to develop a shared vision and economic masterplan for the sustainable and long-term regeneration of the town centre which not only builds on its existing business and community assets, but at the same time looks to attracting high value inward investment. Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment & Infrastructure Committee has already committed to supporting the work of the group and is looking to hear their views on the way forward.
The most recent meeting of the group was attended by Council Leader Elaine Murray who, speaking after the session, was keen to add her voice of support to their work:
“The timing of this initiative could not be better. Like many towns of its size, Dumfries has its challenges, but I was genuinely struck by the ‘will-do’ approach of the members of DPAG. The mix of business and community interests is crucial and probably distinguishes it from the work of previous groups looking to develop the town. With a new enterprise agency coming along next year, I can see a real opportunity for DPAG to make its mark with a new programme of action for the region’s capital.”
DPAG, Chairwoman Leah Halliday of The Guild (Dumfries) added:
“I think it is really significant that the new group was unanimous in appointing a local business person as Chair of DPAG. This is a mark of the fresh approach being adopted here. That we also have some of the key movers and shakers from local community-led groups, is both significant and innovative. The Council has been genuinely supportive in recognising that we need a new kind of working partnership here if we are to have a real, deliverable and lasting impact. This is not about meetings. This is about action.”
She went on:
“Most importantly, this will be a real chance for the public and businesses to have their say in the future of the town. There is a lot happening in and around Dumfries at the moment and much of it is attracting not just local, but national attention. We will however be coming out to have a much wider conversation about where Dumfries is heading and I am determined that this will be a full and open conversation.”
The Action Group originally came together after an invitation was sent by the Council to more than 40 businesses and community groups. Membership is open to any business or group with an interest in the town and anyone wishing to get involved should contact Leah Halliday via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
A series of collaborative workshops looking at specific themes, such as Accessibility and Transport, Heritage and Culture and Public Spaces will be rolled out in the coming months and all Doonhamers will be invited to take part and air their views. DPAG will be issuing more detail in the coming weeks and months.