TAG | Regeneration
I attended the public meeting at the Mechanics Hall in Brechin to discuss the Town Centre Regeneration Fund project.
I would like to thank Jim Milne for chairing the meeting and Angus Council for organising it, in the hope of giving Brechin residents the opportunity to hear the background and delivery of the project and to raise their concerns.
I was disappointed that so few local residents got the opportunity to air their views. With Councillors from all around Angus, MSPs and political party activists turning the event into a political circus.
I attended with a view to listening to the views of local people, and hoping to discover what lessons could be learnt. My fellow candidates for Angus North and Mearns in the upcoming Scottish Elections, Nigel Don and Alex Johnstone, came to be heard, not listen. Their questions demonstrated either their lack of knowledge of the project, or willful aim at political point scoring. In particular Mr Johnstone suggested that a Compulsory Purchase Order could have been used when he knows full well that would never have been possible.
It is not surprising that politicians get a bad name, given that point scoring was more important for many who attended, rather than establishing the facts and learning lessons.
It would appear that the SNP in Angus, faced with justifying the SNP Government’s decision to withdraw funding promised to Brechin, have decided that offence is the best defence. They have tried to throw mud at Angus Council’s handling of the project, which from my 15 years experience as a Project Manager, has been excellent.
In particular I was very disappointed at the deeply personal attacks made on Council officers who have clearly worked extremely hard to bring £1m of investment into Brechin and are clearly deeply personally disappointed at not having been able to secure the remaining £800,000 from the Scottish Government.
I was well aware of the issues in advance of the meeting and was very impressed with the council officers as they presented the facts, and it was very clear to me that they could not have done more to reach a satisfactory conclusion with the property owners involved. The reality was that they were undone twice by property owners who broke their promises to sell to Angus Council.
Furthermore, it appears that all Councillors had the opportunity to raise their concerns throughout the period of the project, at various meetings both in Forfar and in Brechin, but did not do so. As was said last night, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and all councillors, as well as those involved in the Brechin Town Heritage Initiative and the Brechin Area Partnership were given regular updates, as well as given the chance to ask questions and make suggestions.
Let us welcome the £1m of investment in Brechin, along with the private investment in the old Woolworths, and learn lessons for the future, rather than take every opportunity to turn Brechin’s economic circumstances into a political football.
in a recent article in the Brechin Advertiser about Kevin Hutchens writing to the disbanded City of Brechin and District Community Council, I was reported as being “unavailable” for comment. I should have stated clearly to Brechin Advertiser reporter Steve Mitchell that even had I not been away on a family break, I would have chosen not to comment in any case.
Whilst Mr Hutchens should really have known about the very disappointing demise of the Community Council, I would not take the opportunity, as my SNP and Conservative opponents, Nigel Don MSP and Alex Johnstone MSP, have done, to stick the knife in to a fellow candidate.
That is because I believe that the Scottish Elections should be about local issues and policy, not about personal attacks. There are far more pressing concerns for people in Brechin, not least of all the lack of a Community Council.
The town is still reeling from the loss of the Town Centre Regeneration Funding promised by the SNP Government, just as the town had lost its voice through the Community Council. Also, Brechiners will still want to know whether the Scottish Government will help to prevent further flood damage in the town.
I will be focussing, in my campaign, on local issues, not on taking cheap shots at my opponents.
The Scottish Government’s decision not to release the remaining Town Centre Regeneration Funds for Brechin is a disappointing decision
The SNP Government has really let down people in Brechin again. By denying them access to over £900,000 of funding, it will be a bitter blow for attempts to give Brechin’s town centre a much needed boost.
Given that the money was already budgeted, the SNP must explain where the money has gone and where they have spent it instead of Brechin.
The whole Town Centre Regeneration Fund has been handicapped by the SNP from the start. A sensible proposal for investment in town centres across Scotland by Conservative MSPs, has been hobbled by a poor implementation by the Scottish Government.
With short deadlines, poor communications and no committment to make the funds available when needed, the government has made the process as difficult as possible and clearly begrudged creating the fund in the first place. It is yet another case of the SNP’s ‘Not Invented Here, We Know Best’ attitude.
The Town Centre Regeneration Fund is precisely the sort of investment that towns like Brechin desperately need during difficult economic times.
It is little surprise then, that people in Brechin will see this as just another broken SNP promise.
Brechin recently secured Town Centre Regeneration funding (TCRF) from the Scottish Government. As widely reported, Brechin has secured £1.8m for plans to improve the High Street.
Brechin’s success is great news for the town and could not come at a more crucial time for Brechin. Visiting the High Street, and seeing how many shops have closed in recent years, it is a worry that Brechin could lose its heart. Thankfully, these funds can help Brechin secure its own future.
The loss of Woolworths was a big blow for Brechin. Winning this funding will help Brechin attract businesses back to the High Street. In particular it is an opportunity for the Council to make the most of its Buy Local campaign, keeping the High Street’s individual character and supporting local suppliers.
Loss of High Street services hits young people particularly hard as they do not have access to transport to take them to out-of-town shops and amenities. I would support calls by local young people to take the opportunity to provide them with activities in the town centre. It is crucial that towns ensure there is plenty for young people to do, and places for them to go.
There is concern that the requirement that all TCRF money needs to be spent by March 2010 is too strict. I sincerely hope that the Scottish Government will be flexible about time scales for spending these grants.
Hopefully the SNP will not politicise this unique opportunity to halt the decline of our High Streets. And, in particular, that should let Brechin complete its redevelopment in the most sustainable, long term way.