A New Future for Scotlands Town Centres

This report is a review of the Scottish Government’s 2013 Town Centre Action Plan. It considers how to make towns and their centres greener, healthier, more equitable and inclusive as well as developing a revised action plan.

Date added 28 October 2021
Last updated 29 October 2021

This report is a review of the Scottish Government’s 2013 Town Centre Action Plan. It considers how to make towns and their centres greener, healthier, more equitable and inclusive as well as developing a revised action plan. The review group also evaluated the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods as part of this process. As such, a new vision was set out: “Towns and town centres are for the wellbeing of people, planet and the economy. Towns are for everyone and everyone has a role to play in making their own town and town centre successful”.

The report presents some background and contextual information including effects of COVID-19 and a vision for Scottish town centres. It argues that town centres provide both social, cultural and economic benefits to a community and whilst England has largely focused on High Streets in particular, Scotland focused on town centres due to the scope for broader societal national goals. The 2013 Town Centre Action Plan was focused around six themes:

  1. town centre living;
  2. proactive planning;
  3. digital towns;
  4. accessible public services;
  5. vibrant local economies;
  6. enterprising communities.

The report continues by looking at the related policy framework and asks two key questions. First, as to what is hindering citizen engagement and co-production in many town centres and, second, what can be done to prompt further and more rapid adoption of participatory approaches. Here, the review group linked in the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods arguing that perhaps the key was not to focus on whether the concept was suitable for smaller towns and the minutes in particular, but how it considers what the local areas can offer.

The report concludes with key recommendations (p. 33):

  1. to strengthen the existing national policy context;
  2. the need to consider stopping supporting or advancing aspects which cause harm to town centres;
  3. a stronger focus on activities and initiatives where building on and extending current approaches to renewed town centres would accelerate progress.