New measures to revitalise town centres and regenerate local economies have been published.
In response to last year’s review of the Town Centre Action Plan, a joint report by the Scottish Government and COSLA outlines actions to better embed a ‘Town Centre First’ approach to meet the needs of communities and tackle climate change. Actions include:
- ensure town centre regeneration contributes to climate action by reducing emissions, investing in low carbon transport and creating more green spaces
- make town centre services as accessible as possible to help reduce unnecessary car journeys and prevent climate change
- incentivise entrepreneurship by delivering the ambitions set out in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation
- support businesses with town centre premises by exploring a new online sales tax that helps traditional businesses compete with those operating online
- use the planning system to limit out of town development and ensure our non-domestic rates system continues to support our net zero ambitions by providing reliefs for businesses generating more energy from renewable sources
- require developers to install and optimise digital connectivity in new town centre housing developments and support community organisations delivering digital skills training
Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur said:
“This response has been developed in partnership with local government and recognises how vital town centres are for Scotland’s economic, environmental and social wellbeing.
“The actions in this report provide a framework to meet our ambitions and give communities the freedom and confidence to deliver locally. They will help improve our town centres following the pandemic and deliver net zero climate ambitions whilst promoting better planning and delivering enhanced digital capabilities for businesses and residents.
“This approach will also help us deliver the entrepreneurship ambitions set out in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation by creating enterprising communities. We all have a role to play in ensuring our towns and town centres deliver the needs of the whole community and these actions will help us deliver that ambition by creating healthier, fairer, greener and more successful towns.”
A COSLA Spokesperson said: “Towns are at the heart of Scotland’s Local Authorities’ and we welcome this response as a pathway to A New Future for Scotland’s Town Centres.
“The framework it provides will help our towns to contribute to national targets such as net zero, but also opens opportunities for towns to thrive through digital connectivity, green spaces and support for retailers.
“As long- time supporters of the Town Centre First Approach, we are delighted that this call to action puts the focus back on to Scotland’s towns and town centres and the communities they serve.”
Read the Town Centre Action Plan Review
This joint response builds on work to support town centres during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the Scottish Government’s Town Centre First approach, developed following the National Review of Town Centres in 2013. This approach aims to ensure the economic, social and environmental health of town centres is at the heart of decision making.
Professor Leigh Sparks of the University of Stirling chaired the Town Centre Action Plan Review, alongside 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.