What is the Future for Our Town Centres and What Role can Planners have in Making it a Positive One?

Catherine Elliot from the RTPI Dumfries and Galloway Chapter outlines her thoughts on tackling issues faced by town centres

The recent announcement by Planning Minister Nick Boles on a proposed relaxation of Permitted Development rights in town centres in England and Wales suggests a diminished role for planners. In Scotland, there’s a more positive emphasis on the role we can play, outlined in the National Review of Town Centres. RTPI Scotland has welcomed the Report into the Review, which includes a recommendation regarding;

‘implementing new ways of working which take a more proactive and collaborative approach to planning, a recognition of its important role and longer term approaches to making best use of assets’.

The Report, as did the Portas Review in England, acknowledges the multi faceted causes of town centre decline and the many solutions that need to be found to give our towns new reasons for being. As planners we are well placed to have that pivotal role, pulling together the key players and facilitating change. Here in Dumfries and Galloway, we recognise that letting our town centres die is not an option. Some town centres have found new roles, such as Castle Douglas Food Town, Kirkcudbright Artists Town and Wigtown Book Town. In Dumfries and in Lockerbie, where problems seem more intractable, new initiatives are being explored, not without controversy, to help these centres find a new lease of life.

On 19 September the local RTPI Chapter is joining forces with the Chamber of Commerce to examine, with the help of a wide range of high profile speakers, the challenges that face our town centres and what we can do to meet those challenges. Find out more on the RTPI events calendar, post your thoughts and experiences on the Blog and best of all, come along to Dumfries on 19 September and join in the debate.

The Dumfries and Galloway Chapter conference Town Centres – Challenged takes place on 19 September in Dumfries

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