The regeneration of Barrhead and Neilston was in the spotlight at a conference in Brussels discussing town centre developments across the continent. And the proposal to create a business improvement district (BID) was described as a positive development following on from key improvements in the town over recent years.

Gillian McNamara, principal projects and programmes officer with East Renfrewshire Council, shared the story of Barrhead’s and Neilston’s transition with representatives of other EU countries.

The meeting was one of many taking place in the Belgian capital as part of the 13th European Week of Regions and Cities — a three-day conference, hosted by the Committee of the Regions (CoR).

The various debates taking place at several venues focused on all manner of issues relating to local and regional governments.

Ms McNamara was accompanied by East Renfrewshire councillor Tony Buchanan and West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell who are two of Scotland’s representatives on the CoR, a European Union body comprising local and regional politicians from all over the continent.

McNamara praised the community-led approach in Neilston that she said has been crucial to key aspects of the village’s regeneration over recent years.

And she explained how public and private sector investment in Barrhead town centre — such as the new Asda, Barrhead Foundry and the health centre — has created a platform for further optimism among local business owners who are now driving forward pans to create a BID similar to those set up in neighbouring Clarkston and Giffnock.

She said: “Barrhead regeneration happened probably as a result of community pressure on politicians to do something about their area.

“The council intervened and what’s happening now in Barrhead is that as a result of all that investment and the confidence that’s been fostered in the business community, the businesses themselves have got together and said, ‘We want a business improvement district. We want to be able to lever in the funding that will continue to make Barrhead a successful place’.”

She highlighted the fact the BID proposal was set up by the businesses themselves and described it as a “very good result”.

At the conclusion of her well-received presentation a discussion followed during which Mr Maxwell gave his take on the value of adopting a BID in town’s like Barrhead.

He said: “The business improvements districts have provided a brand, an identity for an area that maybe didn’t have one before and because of that it has helped local communities to recognise the benefits of their own communities and engender great footfall for local businesses.

“I live in Giffnock and the Giffnock BID has been a success and in fact over the last few years there had been the odd shop that had remained empty for a bit too long and that is no longer the case.”

If the majority of businesses back the Barrhead BID proposals, a five-year strategy will be adopted in the same way that BIDs have been in operation in neighbouring Clarkston and Giffnock.

The business plan is financed by a levy on firms within the BID area, with the possibility of additional contributions coming from local and national government as well as other agencies.

The ultimate aim is to create a strong local partnership which sees the private sector collectively shaping the town centre economy for the benefit of all interested parties.

A vote on whether to take the BID forward will take place early next year.

And as part of the ongoing discussions, the steering group has outlined plans for a Christmas extravaganza in the town with a Santa parade and a Christmas market just two events being considered.

A website has also been created, as well as a Twitter account and Facebook page which will keep everyone up to date with the project’s progress.

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SOURCE: Barrhead News

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