On Tuesday 5 February 2019 the Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, Professor Leigh Sparks, was interviewed on BBC Good Morning Scotland. The discussion focused on the future of Scotland’s towns and high streets in the face of pressures on retail and other challenging trends for towns. Matt Baker of the Midsteeple Quarter initiative in Dumfries also took part in the feature.
Professor Sparks said that towns were being pressured by how the economy and society had been changing. This included the decentralisation of services and facilities that used to be in town centres, the rise of the internet, changes in consumer behaviour, and a tougher economic environment for those businesses which still operate in towns. “What you need in places are things that are distinct, that are different, and actually give people reasons to go to a particular place, as Matt [Baker] is trying to do in Dumfries [with the Midsteeple Quarter]”, he explained.
STP’s Chair, who is also Professor of Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, explained that high streets and town centres are two distinct concepts. Town centres are the centres of places which host mixed developments including retail, residential, work, meeting, community and leisure spaces; and it is this mix which is key to attracting different groups into towns.
The interview also examined the Midsteeple Quarter project in more detail as a possible model for other towns to follow. The full feature can be listened to here, from 1hr35mins.