Hamilton politicians and business chiefs this week vowed to fight for Hamilton town centre’s future – after 800 people told them what needs to be done.
It comes after a recent special investigation by the Advertiser revealed there were 45 empty units in the heart of Hamilton.
Angela Crawley MP and Christina McKelvie MSP then carried out a survey after we highlighted concerns from the public that Hamilton had become ‘a ghost town’.
And after looking at the responses, the SNP pair say it is time for everyone to pull together to find resolutions to the issues raised.
Parking charges in the town centre and the “disastrous” one-way traffic system were high on the list of complaints from the 800 replies to the questionnaire.
Ms McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, said: “The survey showed there are lots of things that need attention. It’s not one single issue – it’s parking, business rates, empty properties and the quality of what is on offer in general – it’s a perfect storm of things. It’s now time for us to build relationships and take action on what is needed.”
The two politicians hosted a roundtable meeting last Friday with businesses and organisations who have an interest in the town centre.
At the meeting the duo revealed they have secured some match funding from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Town Partnership.
It means up to £40,000 could be used to support any regeneration scheme.
They are also in the process of arranging a public meeting – with the aim of giving residents and businesses a chance to highlight some of their concerns and suggest solutions.
“This joint exercise is the first of its kind with two parliaments standing up for the people of Hamilton,”
The pair have also met with South Lanarkshire Council and expressed some concerns to them.
Ms McKelvie said: “We have asked them to check the number of empty properties they own in the town centre and to have a look at the blanket parking policy they have adopted.
“It may be that in the past the council have lacked imagination but we are happy to work together to find solutions to these problems.”
MP Angela Crawley admitted that town centres across the country are facing different challenges. The rise in internet shopping, growth of out-of-town retail parks and lack of appeal to large multi-national companies are all factors,” said the member for Lanark and Hamilton East.
“For too long, decision makers have simply accepted the reduction in footfall as a foregone conclusion.
“However, as a community we cannot, and should not, simply accept our town is failing.
“If we are going to bring people back we need to remove self-defeating barriers to trade.
“Fresh thinking and a change in direction can make our town centre busy again, and both Christina and I are determined to make the case for a strategy that will have a long-term, positive impact for years to come.”
Angela Crawley MP and Christina McKelvie MSP hosted a business roundtable to discuss the regeneration of Hamilton town centre.
Hamilton Business Improvement District (BID) are also keen to see a more vibrant town centre.
“We welcome any partners who have the same thoughts as us about developing the town centre,” said Mark Calpin, chairman of Hamilton BID. “We want to see a positive attitude adopted. We have to highlight what we have.
“It’s time to talk up the fact that shoppers in Hamilton can get what they want in the town. Our aim is to make things better and give as much assistance as we can to people coming here.”
He agrees with the politicians that there is no one solution but says that increased footfall wouldn’t be a bad thing.
And Mr Calpin added: “Accessibility to the shops is also an issue – that is something that everyone can see. We may need to make considerable changes to things as they stand at the moment.
“BID would like to see more cohesive working to get actions delivered on the streets of Hamilton in a bid to make the place busier.”
Pauline Elliott, South Lanarkshire Council’s head of planning and economic development, said: “We recognise the various circumstances which impact the continued vitality of our town centres throughout South Lanarkshire and continue to work with private and public partners on a range of activities aimed at sustaining our town centres.
“Our town centres will remain a priority for planning and economic development services going forward at both a strategic and operational level.”
Source: Daily Record