The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) have published a ‘town centre first principle’ to encourage the public sector to invest in their own town centres, and the Local Government and Planning Minister is calling on public bodies to sign up to the principle.
The Principle requests that public bodies such as local authorities, the NHS and Police Scotland weigh up the potential impact of closing town centre facilities, against the benefits of keeping their town centres healthy and vibrant.
RTPI Scotland welcomes the introduction of the town centre first principle which moves us closer to a position where our town centres become places at the centre of public and community life, as envisaged by the town centres review.
However the application and implementation of the principle has to be monitored closely to ensure that public sector organisations robustly assess the impact of their asset management on the health and sustainability of town centres. In doing this they should engage with the relevant planning authority to ensure opportunities are explored and challenges are fully addressed. This process should be transparent to ensure that communities and businesses are made aware of why and how decisions have been made.
Craig McLaren, RTPI Scotland’s Director, said: “There is almost universal agreement that we need to do more to ensure that our town centres thrive. For this to happen we need to make sure that they are the first stop for communities and business and so we are pleased that the Scottish Government and COSLA have outlined this commitment to a Town Centres First Principle. This needs to influence the decisions and strategies of public sector organisations if we want to make real difference in our town centres.”