One of our regular readers has pointed us in the direction of an interview with a certain Malcolm Fraser. Mr Fraser is an architect and he was chosen to chair the Scottish Government’s National Review of Town Centres.
Mr Fraser states: “We’ve had 60 or 70 years of believing that driving yourself around in a metal box from suburb to business park to out of town shopping centre represented the brave new future for our built environment. But it disconnects you from the world. And then we spend our holidays going to places where we feel the community and the richness and where we are able to walk to the park or the beach. Why can’t we live like that all year round?”
We are lucky enough to live in such a place as Macolm Fraser describes so compared to some towns we start with a lot of advantages. What can we do to keep it like that and improve upon the situation however? Well we can shop in the town centre. That might not be enough though, the face of retail is changing rapidly with increasing numbers purchasing from the comfort of their armchairs and the shopping centres of the big city next door will always be a seductive draw for many. Up until now there has been a steady stream of contenders willing to take on empty shops in Nairn. If this trend were to change, what could we do to keep our town centre alive? Refreshingly, Malcolm Fraser sees the answer in”bottom-up” change coming from communities: “We also want to avoid a top-down attitude, parachuting into communities and telling them what to do,” he says.
Malcolm Fraser talks about encouraging young people to move into town centres and has some innovative ideas on that. “Community Assets” is another phrase he uses: “We want to bring estate agents with vacant properties together with community groups to find new ways to fill them.” Planning changes and rate reforms are another priority for him in aiding struggling town centres.
The interview with Malcolm Fraser is available on the NewStart website and is a must read for all those interested in how such initiatives could be put into action locally. More here.
Our correspondent has read the interview and states :”It's a pity that there seems to be so little of this imaginative thinking in our part of the country.”
One could indeed be forgiven for thinking that the past twenty-plus years have seen a succession of top-down thinking emanating from the powers that be in Inverness with little room for local creativity to thrive. Will that all change now however? We have a new administration in Glenurquhart Road that has demonstrated enlightened thinking on the Sandown debt issue. Noises promoting localism are coming from Holyrood. We have a new Community Group on the starting blocks too - 2013 is make or break time for NICE, they are ready to flex their organisational muscle in redeveloping the old social work buildings – will it come to anything though? Will they find the funding to continue? River Community Council are also exploring initiatives that might help create employment in the Community. Exciting times perhaps but there is a lot of work to be done yet.