Plea to save town centres from dying

John Lamont
John Lamont

AT a national level shopping and fashion supremo Mary Portas is trying to save town centres from dying, while in the Borders Conservative MSP John Lamont is on a similar mission.

In 2009 the Scottish Government introduced a £60 million Town Centre Rejuvenation Fund and Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Mr Lamont wants to see them do it again.

However, the way the fund was set up meant that eligibility for the funding was limited. Here in Berwickshire, not one penny of the £60 million fund was spent - only Duns and Eyemouth were eligible - and across the Borders of the ten projects put forward, with a combined total of £3.8 million, only two were successful. Hawick received £353,000 in the first round of funding and after being rejected first time around the Jedburgh town centre plan attracted £606,745.

No bid was made on behalf of Duns, and the £920,000 Eyemouth project was unsuccessful.

Coldstream and District Community Council were keen to see SBC work up an application for the town based on the town regneration report that SBC commissioned, plus a recent proposal by council officials that involved creating a cultural hub at the town’s Gateway Centre (the old town hall), but the town did not fall within the SNP Government criteria for the Town Centre Rejuvenation Fund.

If any Berwickshire communities are to benefit from the Town Centre Rejuvenation Fund being reactivated changes would need to be made as to which communities were eligible

Calling on the Government to reintroduce a similar scheme local MSP Mr Lamont said: “The original town centre regeneration fund helped revitalise towns across the Borders by improving our high streets. In these tough economic conditions it is even more important that we give our town centres a much needed boost and that is why I am calling on the SNP to introduce further funding.

“A recent report by Mary Portas into our High Streets found that many of them are either failing or dying out and it is clear we must do something to save these town centres from being permanently damaged.

“It is within the SNP’s power to help and having backed this initiative in the past they must do so again.

“By funding another round of the Town Centre Regeneration Fund and investing in Borders’ High Streets we can help businesses to flourish in these tough economic conditions.”