Over the past 48 hours, the Scottish Government and UK Government have confirmed details of new regeneration programmes aimed at supporting economically challenged towns.
The Scottish Government’s £50m Town Centre Fund, which will be delivered in partnership with local government umbrella body CoSLA, will be shared between all 32 local
authorities in 2019/20. The funding can be used for a range of purposes that align with the Town Centre Action Plan, which was developed with support from an external advisory group featuring SURF. These purposes include bringing vacant buildings back into use for housing, supporting more community led regeneration initiatives in town centres, and investing in digital infrastructure.
In launching the fund, Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, said: “Town centres are facing challenges across Scotland in adapting to a changing retail climate, and it is important that we help them to diversify and adjust to overcome these challenges. This £50 million fund will enable local authorities to stimulate and support a wide range of investments which will encourage town centres to diversify and flourish, and create an increase in footfall through local improvements and partnerships.”
Meanwhile, the UK Government’s Stronger Towns Fund, launched this morning, will provide £1.6bn to places, “that have not shared in the proceeds of growth in the same way as more prosperous parts of the country.” £1bn of the fund will be allocated to regions of England, and the remaining £600m will be used for an open grants programme for community proposals across the UK, including the devolved nations.
On launching the fund, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control. These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”
In its 2016 Manifesto for Community Regeneration, SURF articulated concerns that regeneration investment trends were favouring large towns and cities, resulting in comparatively less focus on many vulnerable small and medium sized towns. SURF therefore welcomes the new Town Centre Funds and other recent counterpoints to this trend, including the Town Centre First and Place Principles, Regional Growth Deals, Regional Economic Partnerships, the augmentation of Scotland’s Towns Partnership and the forthcoming South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.