Chief Officer's Blog 01/12/2015

It was great to see 21 town centres across Scotland being awarded funding from the £1.7m Town Centre Community Capital Fund. I sat on the awards panel and was even more encouraged to see the sheer range and scale of applications; from town centre wi-fi, to redevelopment of derelict buildings and the creation of community enterprise space. A lot of inspired and innovative ideas to breathe new life back into our town centres.

Almost 180 projects applied for support and whilst the judging was extremely difficult, those awarded funding tended to have strong structures and governance, ie a BID or a Development Trust in place to lead with the management and delivery of the project.

As funding becomes even tighter over the coming years it's imperative that local groups consider the widest range of options to maximise their chances of achieving external funding. Your governance structure will depend a lot on what you are ultimately trying to achieve and the scale of your organisation.

From my own experience, a Business Improvement District with a charitable arm offers a solid platform for local businesses to engage collectively and sustainably, it creates a pot of funding that can be used as match and gives a reasonable timeline for delivery. The BID also provides flexibility and most importantly, a resource to enable things to happen.

Start thinking about the assets you have that could attract external funding support; historic, cultural, creative, digital, health, greenspace, space for community and enterprise, events and markets, marketing and loyalty schemes, paths and cycle paths, bus and train stations. Think how these assets could work harder for your town, would a more attractive train station encourage more people to visit? To stay longer and spend more? Would cycle racks and improved signposting encourage new customers into town? Think about evolving markets and link these to what you already have.

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are out of the way, keep an eye out over the coming weeks to see how many of Scotland’s BIDS take the lead to support local businesses and communities in the run up to Christmas, through marketing, events, and Christmas choirs and lighting festivals. http://www.bids-scotland.com/ This is community empowerment and localism at its best.

Scotland's Towns Partnership offers its members a regular funding service, we scan all the currently available funds and categorise these for easy reference. We can also support members with a half day of consultancy to try to identify funding for specific projects. So to improve your chances of success in the future, think BID and use STP’s free funding help and support. http://www.scotlandstowns.org/join

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