"Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together."
Recently Professor Cliff Hague from Scotland went to a meeting of a project looking at small and medium-sized towns across Europe,where he spoke in a small town about branding the town. For ICN he reviews his visit and shares his thoughts with us.
Probably the outstanding example of small town regeneration in Scotland is West Kilbride. It is a coastal town about 45 kilometers from Glasgow. It has a population of just under 5,000 inhabitants. Although it has quite an affluent population, decline had set in by the mid-1990s, when about half of the retail properties on the town’s main street were empty and boarded up.
Local food networks are attracting increasing attention. This week I picked up Issue 1 of Nourish Scotland Magazine, which is produced by Scotland’s sustainable food network. Pete Richie, Director of Nourish Scotland, sums up the organisation’s basic vision. It is to “reimagine farming as a service: and a service which is increasingly co-produced by farmers and citizens.”
Small towns are home to many Scots; they are places that contribute significantly to Scotland’s economy, identity and national well-being. They are of cultural importance: their buildings, streets and parks tell Scotland’s story.
How do you evaluate a landscape? It is a question that lies at the heart of decision-making on controversial developments in the countryside, such as wind farms or new highways. Since the 1970s landscape evaluation has become a very technocratic process, much to the frustration of many non-professionals who may care deeply about a place but feel their views count for little.
Town centres are dying. The economic crisis has highlighted the malaise. There are empty shops, as people head to the edge of town supermarket. Internet shopping replaces the trip to the store downtown. Prominent buildings once used for public functions such as town halls, post offices or churches stand empty too, as services have been rationalised or public attitudes have changed.
The news that the Qatari emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has bought six islands in the Ionian Sea for 8.5m Euro is a further indication of changing relations between Europe and its neighbourhood. The EU - and those of us who live in it - still see Europe as the centre of the world. After all that’s what our maps show us and how our daily news bulletins are packaged. This world view is built on a long history during which time - for good and for ill - this small continent really did lead the world.
“The planning system has a significant role in supporting sustainable economic growth in rural areas.” This statement is from the Scottish Government’s Planning Policy. However, planning decisions in rural Scotland can often be very controversial, as Cliff Hague explains in his new blog post.