PAISLEY is Scotland’s second largest town and home to 76,000 people, some of whom live in some of the most deprived communities and some who live in the most affluent.

It has a rich cultural heritage with a proud past and an impressive alumnus of Paisley buddies who’ve influenced politics, culture and industry around the world.

Yet, like many other town centres, it has faced difficult times as the way people live changes and negative perceptions of the town have held back the opportunities we want to create.

Two hundred years ago, Paisley was one of the UK’s original creative hubs. In the 19th century you would have found many mills feeding off the River Cart which runs through the heart of the town. These mills turned out the cotton that made the name Paisley known around the world. As the Paisley Pattern became a globally-recognised brand – as it still is today – so the weavers continued to spread their expertise around the globe.

The Victorian-era town hall in the town centre stands proud as a living reminder of the wealth that once poured through the town thanks to its textile making past.

Paisley boasts the second-highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland, second only to Edinburgh with 122 in our town centre alone.

Paisley’s past is a heritage to be proud of but we want to use this and our built environment to deliver our long-term ambitions for the whole of Renfrewshire to tackle poverty; drive economic growth; and improve the opportunities for everyone in the area, regardless of background.

Today we will set out our plans to revive that legacy for the benefit of generations at present and in the future by kick starting the collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that once made Paisley famous across the globe.

In setting out our 10-year plan to regenerate Paisley today, we want to change the game for the town. Our vision is to create a destination for international culture and heritage, building on our past to transform our future. We want to improve our digital infrastructure and provide places for people to meet, connect and do business.

We want to capitalise on our heritage and create a town centre that employers want to invest in and residents want to live in.

Just 10 minutes from Glasgow city centre and even closer to our international airport, Paisley is well placed to compete on a global stage. Our bid for UK City of Culture 2021 is part of our ambition to raise the bar for what we want to achieve in Renfrewshire, to step up our aspirations for all our communities.

We refuse to sit back and simply manage decline. We need to rise to the challenge of being bold and confident to re-imagine the role our town centres play.

We can do this by working together with public and private sectors as well as local communities to bring new life and new ideas into town centres so that they continue to play a significant role in driving economic growth and contribute to communities that can benefit across Renfrewshire.

The high street I remember as a boy growing up in Paisley is no longer the retail heart it was, which is the case in town centres across the UK. That’s not to say the town centre is dead; it’s just different. Based on Paisley’s high street, our InCube initiative and nearby accompanying store provide a one-stop shop for business advice and support for creative artists in the area.

By nurturing and supporting our new creative talents we want this to be a foundation for the creation of a new cultural and creative hub in the town, showcasing some of the rich talents we have on our doorstep.

These are challenging and uncertain financial times. As local government finances reduce, we have a duty to manage our budgets and continue to deliver first-class public services and tackle our long-term ambitions.

We cannot do this alone. We need strong leadership in local government to identify new ways of working. Through our consultation today, we will deliver a plan to secure long-term economic growth for the benefit of all.

The high street isn’t dead; it is simply being reborn. Keep your eye on Paisley. Scotland’s largest town is about to roar.

Mark Macmillan is Leader of Renfrewshire Council and Glasgow City Region portfolio leader for Enterprise.

Source: Herald Scotland

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