Housing at heart of new vision to revitalise Scotland’s towns

AN increase in town centre housing is among several recommendations contained in a wide-ranging report, looking at how to potentially revitalise Scotland’s towns.

The report – commissioned by the Scottish Government’s communities secretary, Aileen Campbell MSP, and chaired by Stirling University’s Professor Leigh Sparks – includes input from, among others, Development Trusts Association Scotland, Public Health Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA).

It is a follow-up to a Town Centre Action Plan, published in 2013.

And it says, about housing: “Whilst there have been demonstrator projects arising since the Town Centre Action Plan and some investments have been made in town centre housing and living, progress remains relatively small-scale.

“Some of this limited progress is due to the perverse incentives against such development, discussed elsewhere in this report, but there appear to be other barriers.

“We need to show how some of the obstacles could be overcome and how to build local, mixed-tenure systems.

“For example: (i) The housing sector could be incentivised to prioritise
town centre living, both to increase the volume (potentially setting proportion of housing in town centres and support ’20-minute neighbourhoods’) and the mix (social, affordable, mixed tenure).

“(ii) Local authorities could be given enhanced ability to use more flexible funding to enable town centre living schemes – this should include mixed and intergenerational schemes and development of schemes attractive to a range of users.”

Other recommendations include:

  • Amendments to Non-Domestic Rates (NDR);
  • Amendments to VAT;
  • Introduce a ‘digital tax’;
  • Introduce an Out-of-Town Car Parking Space Levy; and
  • Introduce a moratorium on out-of-town development.

In a media release issued (here) by Scotland’s Towns Partnership, which is chaired by Professor Sparks, the communities secretary, Aileen Campbell, is quoted, as saying: “Flourishing and vibrant towns centres are essential for the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of our communities.

“This year’s [Scottish Government draft] Budget includes £81.6 million for projects to support community regeneration, place, town centres and ’20-minute neighbourhoods’ – where people can meet their needs within a 20-minute walk from their home.

“Local people know their towns best and we need to trust and empower our communities and local business to thrive in their neighbourhoods. Many of us have rediscovered our towns in a new way recently and we want to harness this.

“This independent review will play a crucial role in the regeneration of our towns and town centres.

“The report develops a new vision for the future of our town centres, capturing some of the new found sense of localism, and provides recommendations to help achieve the healthier, fairer, greener, successful towns our communities deserve.”

View the report, here.

Image: courtesy of the TCAP Review Group