Policy-makers south of the border should pay attention to the Scottish Government's approach to town centres.
The Scottish Government last week published its response to the National Review of Town Centres, led by architect Malcolm Fraser. Unlike much of the policy in this area to date, there are some eminently sensible initiatives in Holyrood’s response. Decision-makers south of the border should sit up and take notice.
The headline response concerns Town Centre First. The Fraser Review recommended that this becomes more stringent, making any development having to prove that there is no sufficient town centre site available before building elsewhere, rather than just retailers. The Scottish Government has refused to tie itself to this principle, instead wanting each case to be judged on its merits. This is in line with our recommendations in Beyond the High Street. While a reassessment of the location of functions such as schools and police is to be encouraged, forcing businesses to go where they don’t want to go is not sustainable.
Other policies also chime with the recommendations in our recent work. Examples are the:
The first three bullets are much more concrete than the final four, so it will be interesting to see what specifically comes about from the latter. But there is much food for thought for English policy makers in what has been set out: there was no overt focus on retail, no calls for national market days and an implicit, if not explicit, recognition of the role of jobs in town centres.
Previous blog in the series: An alternative city centre for Cambridge
Director of Policy and Researchp.firstname.lastname@example.org
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