News In Focus
Scotland to get own high street review
10 September 2012
An expert panel is being created to come up with ideas for revitalising Scotland’s town centres.
Architect Malcolm Fraser has been appointed by the Scottish Government to chair the National Review of Town Centres, which will begin work later this month.
Mr Fraser hopes his review will be more wide ranging than the exercise recently carried out for the UK Government by retail guru Mary Portas, which focused on England & Wales.
Among other matters it will consider rents and rates, competition and empty properties, and planning issues, seeking to encourage more people to live in high streets as well as encourage better shopping areas as Portas did.
Mr Fraser believes, for example, that changing the law to permit residential leases of up tp 150 years, rather than just 20 as at present, could encourage companies to make use of vacant rooms in mainly commercial properties without losing ownership and control of the building.
Current estimates suggest that more than 20,000 commercial properties across Scotland are lying empty.
Describing town centres as Scotland's "true 'eco-towns'", whose health was critical to the Government's low-carbon agenda, Mr Fraser said: “I like the wide-ranging brief this review has - it encourages us to examine a wide range of changes and initiatives to lever positive change."
Nicola Sturgeon, newly appointed Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, commented: “With Scotland’s high streets facing a range of challenges, we are eager to ensure that they continue to thrive and flourish to meet the needs of future generations.
“Central to that will be issues like rents, rates, planning and empty premises. Ensuring we have a joined up strategic approach to issues like this can only help our town centres thrive.
“Of course investment is also crucial and we, along with our partner agencies, will use this review to inform future budgets and investments going forward, to make sure we are collectively investing at the right level and in the right places.”