Midsteeple Quarter Shares Experiences With Scottish Parliament Committee

Experiences from the mission to reclaim the High Street in Dumfries are being used to help shape a stronger future for Scotland’s towns.

Midsteeple Quarter Executive Director Scott Mackay,  top row second left, and Joe McGurk, top row second right, taking part in the Scottish Parliament session

Midsteeple Quarter Executive Director Scott Mackay and Board member Joe McGurk shared insight into the community group’s work with MSPs and regeneration leaders.

They took part in a special session exploring the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods – and the impact they can have on the nation’s towns – as part of consultation on a new national planning blueprint.

Midsteeple Quarter is working to create a stronger future for Dumfries by taking empty and neglected town centre buildings into community ownership and redeveloping them into homes and business spaces – acting in the interests of residents.

Monday’s (February 7) online event, attended by about 100 people including 20 MSPs as well as representatives of regeneration and community groups from across Scotland, was hosted by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Communities Committee as part of its scrutiny of the proposed new National Planning Framework (NPF4), which will set out planning policies.

It includes the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods, where  people are able to meet all of their day-to-day needs within a 20-minute walk, wheel or cycle from their home, making communities cleaner and stronger.

Midsteeple Quarter’s masterplan chimes with that, creating a sustainable and car-free new neighbourhood in Dumfries town centre, with the underlying principle that having everything needed close by will breathe new life into the High Street, encourage active travel and exercise, reducing commuting and carbon emissions.

Its first phase of significant redevelopment work – centred on the site of 135-139 High Street – is due to get underway this year.

Speaking after the session, Scott Mackay said: “This was a great opportunity to share insight and views from our community. We discussed how to keep town centres alive,  drive change and create resilience.
“Joe and I were able to demonstrate that what we’re doing here in Midsteeple Quarter brings together many strands of the 20-minute neighbourhood concept – encouraging walking, cycling and use of public transport rather than cars.
“We will provide a home for services which are close to where people live, which are accessible for those with disabilities and create town centre – and car-free – housing for people of all ages. We are creating cultural and community spaces and retrofitting older buildings – with net-zero and helping tackle the climate crisis a clear focus.
“On top of that, we are dealing with funding, planning and tax issues.
“Hopefully all that we had to share about the experiences of our work so far to reclaim Dumfries High Street for the community provided some positive insight into the opportunities that 20-minute neighbourhoods bring and the practical steps needed to make them a reality.”

The committee session was facilitated by Ewan Mason, of the Scottish Parliament’s Participation and Communities Team, alongside Kimberley Guthrie of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, the national organisation for Scotland’s town centres.

Joe McGurk added: “The community-centred work taking shape in Midsteeple Quarter is trailblazing. Hopefully, by sharing our experiences, we can help positively shape planning policies to help other places follow our lead to ensure our High Street thrives as part of a stronger, more sustainable, future.”

This week’s session was held  as the Scottish Parliament’s Economy and Fair Work Committee called for people to share their views as part of an investigation it’s conducting into the changing nature of retail and e-commerce and their impact on town centres.

People have until March 16 to make submissions as part of that work.

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