Why make a plan?
- It brings key people and organisations together.
- It energises and enthuses people.
- It creates a common vision and priority projects to focus on.
- It helps get funding and support, by demonstrating to funders and decision-makers you have buy-in from local partners – including the local community.
Ideally, the partners in your town centre will begin by coming together and deciding to collaborate, agree a plan and then deliver it. But life isn’t always that simple. Sometimes somebody needs to get on and do something to encourage others to follow suit. If that’s the case, don’t forget to come together and plan as well – because every town centre needs more than one solution, and more than one organisation, to improve it.
The risks of not planning are that you don’t address the range of issues that need to be tackled, and maybe miss out on funding and resources that you might have been able to tap into if you had a plan.
When you’re preparing a plan for your town centre and deciding what projects to focus on in the future, make sure you gather community perceptions and aspirations, hard facts, and current policy and projects. This will help you prepare a plan and projects that are relevant and appropriate for your town centre.
COMMUNITY ISSUES AND ASPIRATIONS
Good community engagement will reveal local perceptions for how your town centre is now, and aspirations for the future. Lots of advice and support is available online and from community engagement experts about how to engage local communities. The National Standards for Community Engagement and the Place Standard are a good starting point.
People’s perceptions don’t always match reality, so it’s good to gather facts and figures about what’s good and bad in your town. Sometimes they can challenge perceptions! You can use facts and figures alongside aspirations to decide future priorities, and track change over the years to measure whether your town centre is improving (see Measuring success).
- Understanding Scottish Places – brings together lots of comparative data at the individual town level.
- Canmore – detailed zoomable mapping and site records of listed buildings and historic monuments.
- Census 2011 - detailed zoomable mapping across the whole country, covering every aspect of the census. Separate mapping is available showing commuting patterns.
- Co-op Wellbeing Index – comparative data on your community’s wellbeing, covering a range of indicators.
- Digital Scotland – broadband coverage map checker.
- National Library of Scotland – detailed zoomable historic mapping across the whole country.
- PastMap and Historic Environment Scotland mapping – listed buildings, conservation areas, scheduled monuments etc.
- Scotland's Land Information Services - find property owners, check if a property is on the land register, search for property prices and buy property documents.
- Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation – detailed zoomable mapping across the whole country, covering every aspect of deprivation from health and wellbeing to accessibility.
- Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey – details of local authority contacts and registered sites.
POLICIES AND PROPOSALS
It’s important to know what proposals are already in the pipeline for your town centre, and what policies and strategies are already in place for the future, like the Local Development Plan or national agendas like climate change. This will help you tap into funding. Your local authority planning, economic development or community planning departments are good places to find out.
Preparing a plan
Using the information you’ve gathered, the next stage is to prepare the plan – which involves analysing the information and identifying the ideas and options for the town centre, developing those into viable projects, and prioritising those projects into a short and do-able list. They can still be ambitious, transformative even, but they must be relevant and recognisable as agreed projects emerging from this collective process.
You might have enough skills and resources around the town centre to prepare the plan yourself, or you might need to bring in external professional support. Local authorities may be able to provide professional support, but remember that they may not always have enough resources to help.
Whether you prepare the plan yourself or get support, here are some things to bear in mind.
ENGAGING THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
- The plan should be a response to community aspirations, whilst taking account of hard facts and current policies like climate change.
- Good community engagement is essential all the way through, including agreeing the vision and projects.
AGREEING A VISION
- This helps agree a common sense of direction, secure investment and funding.
- Think long term and be imaginative, but also realistic.
- Your vision needs to inspire, but it also needs to be deliverable, even if it takes 5-10 years.
PROJECTS TO DELIVER THE VISION
- Have some quick wins (which can be completed in a few months) to build confidence and momentum.
- Don’t shy away from more complex longer term projects, but be realistic about the effort and risk involved.
- Factor in the capacity your team has to deliver the plan.
- Find out what kind of projects are likely to be supported by potential funders.
- Explain who should be involved in delivering each project.
For more information about how to prepare a vision and plan, check out these online publications:
- Preparing a community-led plan: this draft Scottish Government How To Guide explains how to go about preparing a community-led plan or Local Place Plan, which you can use as the basis for your town centre plan.
- Communities Channel Scotland has useful information about how to work collaboratively to produce a vision and plan, particularly targeted at local community organisations.
- Town centre visioning: check out this Scotland's Towns Partnership guidance on how to achieve a co-ordinated vision to reinvigorate your town centre and connect it with local communities, based on experience in Paisley.
The plan should include a programme of action and delivery so that everyone knows who is doing what and the plan doesn’t gather dust. Check out Delivery for more information.
Browse the Inspiration section for stories from towns around Scotland who have built momentum to achieve real change in their town centres.
- Plans are only as good as what is delivered on the ground. That’s why encouraging and managing delivery is so important.
- Inevitably, any plan is immediately out-of-date as soon as it is finished! Circumstances change, so you’ll need to keep your plan under review. A town centre plan will rarely last more than 5 years before it needs to be refreshed. Tracking your delivery progress will help the review: see Measuring success.