Erskine Town Centre Charrette

27 May 2016 | blog, charrette, town centres, working with communities

Erskine New Community brochure from 1970


The “new community” of Erskine, dating from 1970, was originally conceived to have 30,000 residents with schools, community facilities, businesses, a harbour and a town centre. Forty-five years after the first houses were built, many elements of the original plan have materialised yet Erskine needs to continue to evolve to the meet the changing needs of the community. The 2016 Erskine town centre charrette was commissioned by Renfrewshire Council as planning authority and main landowner in the town centre and riverside area, with Scottish Government support.


The purpose of the Erskine Town Centre Charrette was to consider the sustainable growth of the town centre, strengthen the role and function of the centre and provide an appropriate range and quality of facilities for the local population. A key outcome sought was to present future actions which inform the Council’s Town Centre Strategy and Action Plan.
WMUD together with AECOM, Icecream Architecture, and Steven Tolson was part of a team led by Nick Wright Planning who were commissioned to run the charrette.

The Erskine Town Centre Charrette Process:

Good engagement with the local residents, businesses and community groups is the lifeblood of a charrette. Their involvement is essential to ensure that the charrette outputs are rooted in local aspirations and ideas, and are deliverable.

The charrette had two phases of engagement. The initial pre-charrette engagement which happened during January 2016 and the charrette workshops and exhibition which took place from 2-6 February 2016.
The Erskine Town Centre Charrette workshops were themed on a daily basis:
Day 1 – the town centre
Day 2 – river, parks and green spaces
Day 3 – land and property
Day 4 – putting it all together
Day 5 – public exhibition


Theme 1: Civic heart

  • Civic space for outdoor events, performance and as a place to meet
  • Indoor community space with space for arts, culture, classes, training, nursery, youth activity, community groups
  • Build new retail/business space (see theme 5)
  • Housing for elderly people (see theme 4)
  • Additional parking as required

The proposals include a central public outdoor space which could be used for civic events and activities, as well as simply allowing people to sit and meet.

Theme 2: Riverside

  • Parkland along river edge including quiet contemplative space, children’s play, outdoor gym, woodland pockets, community growing areas
  • Better walking connections across A726 and Kilpatrick Drive between town centre / Bargarran and riverside
  • Opportunity for community cafe and even relocation of Lamont Farm if they wished
  • Activity area for low-impact mountain biking in woodland/field between Kilpatrick Drive and A726
  • Reduction in river bank erosion
  • More water-based recreation at ferry & beach

The proposals include parkland and activities along the river edge as shown on the plan overleaf. The intention is to offer a range of reasons to go down to the river – including quiet contemplative space, children’s play, outdoor gym, woodland pockets and community growing areas. If funding is available, there may be opportunities to develop a cafe, water sports and other activities.

Theme 3: Looking after Erskine

  • Recognise there isn’t enough money to maintain all paths, woodland and open space
  • Focus resources on main paths into the town centre
  • Identify key missing links for future investment
  • Neighbourhood associations or equivalent can generate additional funds and be a focus for voluntary action (linking with health, wellbeing and employability)
  • Social enterprise opportunities like Community Safety Glasgow, Stalled Spaces
  • Generate income from the appropriate use of spare publicly owned land e.g. biomass cropping or sale for development.

Tackling these issues is a huge challenge, as was discussed during the charrette. Finding practical ways to address the maintenance burden with reducing public sector resources is difficult, let alone create new routes where they are missing.

Theme 4: Places to live

This set of proposals responds to community aspirations expressed during the charrette for a greater range of housing.

  • Affordable housing close to town centre
  • Smaller homes for older people close to town centre facilities and amenities
  • Housing in landward part of the riverside area to meet a range of needs, focusing on low-cost homes
  • Approximately 500 new homes phased over a number of years
  • Council potentially acting as “place promoter”


Theme 5: Places to work

  • A greater range of business floor space developed on the area between Pandamonium and the A726, including affordable workshop units for private and social enterprises
  • In the longer term, expand the town centre beyond the A726 footbridge with new business units
  • Council acting as “place promoter”

Collaborative action between the public, private and community sectors will be absolutely essential in delivering the transformation change developed in the charrette sessions. No sector has the ability or resources to do everything alone. The local authority’s role will be critical in ensuring that collaborative action takes place and is effective. As the lead agency, Renfrewshire Council has to champion the package as a whole and ensure that the development proposals in this report are realised.

Willie Miller, the founder and principal of WMUD, died on 12th January 2021 after a short illness. Willie was a much-loved husband and father and had a huge circle of friends  and professional colleagues. He was a multi-talented urban designer whose work had a major impact on hundreds of cities, towns and neighbourhoods throughout the UK and over the past 25 years. He also worked in Ireland, the Channel Islands and the USA.

Ines Triebel has been with WMUD since 2005, and she will continue the practice, drawing on her skills as a planner and designer. Ines has worked on place strategies, masterplans, policy guidance, regeneration and development frameworks, and the design of public realm and streetscape projects. She has extensive experience of working with communities, including charrettes.

WMUD will continue its long-standing strategic partnerships with Benton Scott-Simmons, Nick Wright Planning, Kevin Murray Associates, icecream architecture, yellow book and others. Please direct inquiries to Ines at [email protected] or contact any of the practices named above.