• Scottish town centres inquiry – CTA’s Response

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    • Scottish town centres inquiry – CTA’s Response
    • by David Kelly
      Director for Scotland

    Many of Scotland’s town centres are struggling. The impact of the pandemic, as well as the inexorable rise of online shopping, the unrestrained growth of out-of-town retail and other changes in public policy and consumer behaviour, have changed our local high streets. Revitalising the high street is increasingly a focus for politicians and policymakers.

    The Economy and Fair Work Committee of the Scottish Parliament is conducting a timely inquiry into ‘town centres and retail’ as we recover from COVID-19. MSPs will make recommendations to the Scottish Government, local authorities and others that they conclude will create ‘living and resilient town centres’ in this new era.

    We’ve submitted a response to the Committee’s call for views, because we believe it is important that MSPs understand the role of community-led initiatives like Community Transport schemes in building connected, thriving and sustainable communities. It’s been clear during the pandemic how many Scots rely on Community Transport to safely access town centres and retail.

    The key points of our response – which you can download here – to the Committee’s call for views are:

    • Community Transport operators are at the heart of their communities. They help people across Scotland, especially older and disabled people, to access key amenities and services like local high streets and major shopping centres
    • Many Scottish high streets today discourage walking, wheeling or cycling and are hostile to older or disabled people. The future should be liveable, walkable and mixed-use town centres which are accessible to all
    • Sustainable town centres encourage sustainable travel. Tackling air and noise pollution in town centres can make local high streets safer, more attractive and more accessible
    • Local authorities need to check the unrestrained growth of developments (e.g. out-of-town retail parks) which lock-in car dependency, undermine the high street and are incompatible with their net zero commitments
    • Local authorities should utilise Section 75 agreements to secure developer contributions to sustainable Community Transport schemes (e.g. e-bike or electric car clubs) in town centres
    • Local authorities should empower local communities and invest in community-led initiatives to regenerate local high streets, take climate action in town centres and support everyone to access retail

    We hope that the Committee will recognise that efforts to revitalise Scotland’s high streets by increasing car dependency – rather than supporting accessible, inclusive and sustainable travel to town centres and retail by investing in Community Transport – are damaging and counter-productive.

    We’re also taking our CTA manifesto to local candidates ahead of the Scottish local elections on 5 May to call on them to protect funding for Community Transport schemes and build more sustainable communities. Find out how you can join our campaign here.

    What do you think of our submission to the Committee? How do you think Community Transport can help revitalise town centres? Send your feedback to david.kelly@ctauk.org.

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