Paisley is open – A vision for Paisley Town Centre 2030
The Paisley Town Centre Vision (published in September 2019) sets out ideas for how a traditional town centre of scale (Paisley, Renfrewshire) could potentially be repurposed and reconfigured over the next decade or so. This is a pilot project that has allowed a “lessons learned” national guidance document to be published by the Scottish Government titled “A Vision for High Street Regeneration”. This document presents a methodology that draws on the Paisley Vision to summarise a methodology that can be applied to towns facing similar challenges across the country. As a pilot project, the town centre is held up as a test bed for initiatives to achieve a High Street renaissance.
Paisley is in Renfrewshire in Glasgow city region and is renowned for creativity, innovation, industry, radical politics and social justice, Paisley with a population of 76,000, is the largest town and fifth largest urban area in Scotland after Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. Paisley is home to two major education providers, the University of the West of Scotland and West College Scotland, and is also blessed with a proliferation of listed buildings and cultural institutions that make its town centre one of the most attractive in the country.
This is a radical vision document proposing how High Street decline can be reversed in our town centres. It is the result of a unique link-up between Renfrewshire Council, The Scottish Government and Scotland’s Towns Partnership – and uses Paisley as a test case for a series of bold ideas imagining how empty retail space could be better used. The study shows a people-first approach that reconnects the whole community to their town centre. It proposes that we have an unprecedented opportunity to rebalance our High Street back to a place with a rich mix of uses.
The core ambition of this project is to re-profile the town centre to become the vibrant focus for the whole community with wellbeing, inclusion and opportunity at its heart.
The project delivered a vision to be an overarching co-ordinated and agreed guideline for the development and nurturing of a balanced and vibrant town centre. It is an immersive visual representation of spatial and physical change that breathes life into an ambitious future for the town. The vision shows the priorities and sequences of key physical moves to regenerate the High Street.
It is a clear statement of intent that demonstrates ambition to the whole community and investors alike. The process of engagement and the publishing of this vision created a shared sense of purpose and optimism that comes from having a clear goal to work towards. It defined a narrative thread that is reversing perceptions, galvanising the community, stakeholders and future partners. On a practical front, it is helping to attract investment and funding and identifies where it will have the greatest benefit.
The concept for a pilot long term vision came about through discussions between Scottish Government, Scotland’s Towns Partnership and Renfrewshire Council over a period of time and in the context of Scotland’s numerous town centres facing similar challenges in terms of: weak or no demand for floorspace, the growth in popularity of online retail purchases, the physical configuration of traditional centres and others.
Threesixty Architecture were the lead authors of this report (Alan Anthony, Anthony Hubbert, Christy Doherty, Stefano Faiella). Other key participants were: Renfrewshire Council (Alasdair Morrison, Stuart McMillan, Mark Hughes), Scotlands Towns Partnerships (Phil Prentice), The Scottish Government (David Cowan, Susan Bolt), Benson Berliner (Mike Benson), Revo (Edward Cooke, Samantha Sen, Matthew Ogg). Other Key Participant Groups via ongoing input and consultation included: Paisley Community Trust, Ellandi, New River Retail, West College Scotland, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley First BID, Abellio Scotrail, Link Group, Paisley North Community Council and many others.
The project formed the basis of a public launch and exhibition and has allowed the community to perceive a positive future for their town centre. There are a number of specific positive outcomes:
- Paisley Community Trust and Renfrewshire Council have signed a partnership agreement to deliver a community led cinema and digital arts academy. This has received initial funding and they have costed proposals. £12M of funding is being sought. This is in the location identified in the Vision as the most transformational for the High Street.
- A major shopping centre asset is under offer to a developer who is seeking to deliver a residential led mixed-use development as described in the Vision.
- Renfrewshire Council are in discussions with NHS and have agreement, subject to NHS funding, for a new medical centre to be located in the Vision study area as a major “attractor” to energise the town centre.
Paisley Community Trust have put forward proposals to repurpose the soon to be vacated M&S store to become a food hall / market, maker space and business incubation centre that they hope will be a regeneration model for other High Streets. All functions as described in the vision.
This is a pilot project that has allowed a “lessons learned” national guidance document to be published by the Scottish Government titled “A Vision for High Street Regeneration”. This document presents a methodology that draws on the Paisley Vision to summarise a methodology that can be applied to towns facing similar challenges across the country.
As a pilot project, the town centre is held up as a test bed for initiatives to achieve a High Street renaissance.
This was a 6 month study. It was tendered 70% quality and 30% price and was awarded at £70,000.
The study required a close working relationship between Renfrewshire Council and Threesixty Architecture and significant client resource was required.
The study benefitted from the in-depth public consultation process carried out in the UK City of Culture bid and this combined with group and individual key stake holder sessions were instrumental in providing a vision that met the needs of the whole community. In future town centre vision exercises, there will be a need for detailed data collection and analysis (an Insight survey).
If implemented elsewhere, it may be best to set a fee level that recognises the magnitude of rigorous enquiry and “wide focus” content and delivery and award 100% on quality. This would help avoid wide disparity and increase the potential to deliver an effective vision.
Also, if implemented elsewhere, the 22 point manifesto in the subsequent guidance document will be a critical tool in scoping the project and giving a methodology to build on.
There weren’t many lows other than some participants suffering from “vision fatigue” from previous undelivered “visions” but most of these were won round when they began to understand the depth of this exercise and the rich graphic delivery that put the individual in the story.
Highs included the launch of the vision and the universally positive feedback.
The Paisley Town Centre Vision sets out ideas for how a traditional town centre of scale could potentially be repurposed and reconfigured over the next decade or so. Aiming to inject vitality and vibrancy back into a centre that means so much to so many, that holds and evokes extensive memories and stories, and that resonates over generations.