Dumfries town centre revival scheme ‘unique and ambitious’


image captionThe community group is buying up shops around the historic Midsteeple in Dumfries

A community-owned stretch of shops in Dumfries has been hailed as a “unique and ambitious” example of how to save the UK’s high streets.

The Midsteeple Quarter (MSQ) project is one of six held up in a study looking at the decline of town centre shopping.

Using a variety of funding sources it has been buying up unused buildings to redevelop them.

The London School of Economics’ report praised its ongoing “community engagement and conversation”.

image copyrightMidsteeple Quarter

image captionThe MSQ hopes to encourage more people to live and work in the town

The Saving the High Street study was commissioned by the Power to Change Trust, a group supporting community businesses in England.

The report said: “MSQ is a unique and ambitious community-led initiative, one which presents an opportunity to rethink the high street in order to achieve the widest potential community and town centre benefits.

“It shows that by giving the community control over the commercial and creative opportunities in the high street, the challenges presented by the dramatic change in high street retailing can be addressed.”

image copyrightMSQ
image captionEmpty properties in Dumfries have been targeted for purchase

Scott Mackay, manager of the MSQ project, said it was being “led by the people of Dumfries”.

“It is effective because it has collaboration at its heart – collaboration between the community, public and private sectors,” he said.

“We aspire to create a new neighbourhood with a mix of uses built on principles of local prosperity and well-being.”

Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power to Change, said community ownership was “vital to the revival of the high street”.

image captionA mix of housing and business use is planned for the properties being purchased

“Communities not only care passionately about their local area, more importantly they understand the needs of local people and provide distinctive services that meet local needs,” she said.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack said he had been “very impressed” by the efforts of the Midsteeple Quarter.

“Despite setbacks, they have never given up on their goal of revitalising the empty buildings close to the Midsteeple, which is arguably one of the most iconic structures in the region,” he said.

“The group have exciting ideas and I believe many similar sized towns across the UK will be following progress at Dumfries as they look to regenerate their own high street areas.”

image copyrightMidsteeple Quarter

Analysis: By Giancarlo Rinaldi, BBC news website south Scotland reporter

This report will be a tonic for the ongoing work of the Midsteeple Quarter.

The community-led group has been busy snapping up town centre premises to help realise its vision of a brighter future for Dumfries town centre.

It wants to “breathe new life” into the area as a place to live and work.

The vision is an ambitious one, looking to redevelop a string of properties next to the historic Midsteeple.

If successful, other towns might well want to learn lessons from such efforts.

Related Topics

  • Dumfries

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