Strathaven Town Centre: improving viability and vitality
We were commissioned as part of a team led by Kevin Murray Associates including Nick Wright Planning and Hamilton-Baillie Associates to undertake a brief study of Strathaven town centre in collaboration with the local community. The aim of the study was to suggest ways in which the vitality and viability of the town centre could be improved, with an emphasis on harnessing the energy and ideas of the local business and residential communities. The client group included Adam’s Community Trust, South Lanarkshire Rural Partnership’s Market Towns Initiative and South Lanarkshire Council.
The study’s guiding principles and action programme emerged from analysis of:
- the current policy context for Strathaven town centre
- our appraisal of the town centre’s physical environment
- discussions with the local community – including young people, community groups, businesses and residents – to identify local concerns, aspirations and ideas for change
The key issues relating to the physical environment of Strathaven are firstly a historic environment that is appreciated and well liked but that is in need of considerable maintenance and repair. Coupled with this, public spaces and streetscape are dominated by traffic and fall well below contemporary expectations for comfort and usability. It is a relatively heavily trafficked environment in which large goods vehicles penetrate the historic core at the expense of a comfortable pedestrian environment. Although the built environment of Strathaven town centre is attractive, interesting and largely intact, it requires some major interventions. It is dispersed over a relatively wide area and is diverse and multi-faceted but requires better social infrastructure. There is also a need to link up greenspace into a cohesive network of facilities.
From the analysis, a set of guiding principles and a programme of proposals were established which act as a framework for the action programme and act as a test for any new projects or proposals that might emerge:
- think LOCAL: Does the idea strengthen the local community and support locally-owned businesses?
- think YOUNG: Does it improve the quality of young people’s lives?
- think ENTERPRISE: Does it promote the town centre as a place to trade and exchange goods and ideas?
- think TOGETHER: Does it help local people, businesses and public services to work better together for the good of the town centre?
- think CHARACTER: Does it enhance the town centre’s charm and character?
- think OUT OF HOURS: Does it attract people to the town centre at evenings and weekends?
The programme of proposals consists of thirteen prioritised action themes. Although emerging from the local community, these have also been informed by the consultant team’s experience elsewhere. Themes which were considered to be essential by the local community included culture and heritage, the built environment, maintenance and repair, marketing and promotion, public spaces, and traffic and parking.
The recommended next steps include:
- Identify roles and responsibilities – the Council, the Town Centre Steering Group and local organisations need to agree who will be responsible for taking forward the action themes identified in this report and then review these roles regularly
- Input and influence strategies – successful implementation of the action programme will depend on integration with other strategies and plans, particularly future reviews of the Local Development Plan and Local Transport Strategy. We recommend that the study’s guiding themes and action programme are incorporated into supplementary planning guidance for Strathaven town centre.
- Develop, refine and fund projects for delivery – prepare a delivery programme with outline costs, timescales and responsibilities, taking account of varying amounts of preparatory work required for different projects.
- Ongoing promotion and PR – to ensure that the action programme takes root.
- Further survey work – particularly on the impact of the new Sainsbury’s store on town centre businesses, we suggest around 12-18 months after its opening (i.e. mid-late 2011).
- Monitor progress – regular review of progress using existing governance and monitoring systems.
- Maintain dialogue – between the local community and Council officers, particularly those involved in the transport and planning functions. Successful implementation will rest upon trusting relationships and good communication between all concerned
The programme of action proposals and next steps emerging from the study will be used to inform the medium term of the local Adam’s Community Trust, as well as other stakeholders’ activities in the town including South Lanarkshire Council.