Two members of Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) - Phil Prentice and Mairi Donaghy - were welcomed into the Comhairle chambers, for a meeting chaired by Cllr Angus McCormack, to announce the initial results of STP’s survey of Stornoway, as part of their audit of Scotland’s towns.

Mr Prentice urged Stornoway’s residents and business owners to make improvements to the town: “A strong town centre and a strong Stornoway will be beneficial to the whole of the Hebrides.” Continuing: “Complacency is probably your biggest risk.”

During this meeting - attended by members of the public, councillors and local businesspeople - Stornoway was described as having “so much potential”, and rated very highly in terms of safety, identity and belonging, amenities, and natural space. Stornoway scored poorly in terms of housing and a sense of community within the town. 

Also highlighted was the importance of local businesses taking ownership of the town, and making steps towards improving it. Cllr McCormack stated: “We need to get the business community working with us.” 

Ms Donaghy described Stornoway as a “service centre for the whole of the island”.

Cllr McCormack said: "There has been an increase in students of UHI saying 'we want to go and study in Stornoway', this is why a planning application has been handed in for student accommodation."

With a large proportion of the island now receiving Superfast broadband, the island was highlighted as a great place for not only remote access learning, but also as a base for businesses run from home, particularly those run by the parents of children who could benefit from growing up in the island’s safe surroundings. 

Parking was a potential issue raised by a member of the public, who was concerned by the idea of having more residents in Stornoway as this could mean there would not be enough available parking. Both Ms Donaghy and Mr Prentice agreed that there is ample parking in Stornoway, and more parking than in most towns of its size in Scotland. Ms Donaghy and Mr Prentice urged everyone to make better use of public transport, to walk and cycle more. 

The main issues in Stornoway were described as being mostly “external”, with excess bins and cones, described as “clutter”, throughout the pedestrian areas in particular. 

And, although STP scored Stornoway 7.3/10 for its building fronts, it was stated that there were some building fronts that were awarded 2 or 3, bringing down the town’s average. 

Stornoway was praised for having 80% independent businesses, and it was stated that business confidence was scored 7.8/10, following interviews with local business owners. Ms Donaghy said: “I think that’s the highest level of confidence in the 15 towns we’ve seen”. And they found there to be 12% more businesses in Stornoway than there were a decade ago. 

The full report provided by Scotland’s Towns Partnership will be made available in the next few weeks. 

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