When Bellair bought the buildings that are now home to Falkirk Business Hub more than four years ago, my vision for creating a business hub in the heart of the town was not taken at all seriously and, in some quarters, almost ridiculed.
After just three years, we are now 92 per cent occupied, have a vibrant community with 37 tenants and have supported numerous businesses to growth.
Town centres can and should be vital social centres for communities – driving economic growth, supporting small business and entrepreneurial thinking and central to a town’s development.
I am yet to be convinced anyone has presented a definitive and workable plan that actually deals with the major issues that need to be addressed if our towns and High Streets are to be fit for purpose in the future.
No one has been brave enough to tackle the key issue – our towns were fit for purpose up to and including the middle of last century, however, they have gradually ceased to be relevant.
This is particularly the case in the 21st century, where it seems that many issues are conspiring against town centre health, including out of town retail and online shopping.
I’m very much in favour of zoning uses within town centres. For me, town centres should not be home to collections of charity shops, nail bars, tattoo parlours and hot food outlets.
Of course, there is a place for and a demand for these businesses, however it should not be within the town centre at the cost of other uses.
We need to consider how to recreate our town centre to make it attractive, placing it back on an equal competitor platform with out-of-town shopping centres. We believe we need to once again invest in town centres as the heart of communities – creating the right mix of facilities which build a neighbourhood.
Supporting small business and entrepreneurial thinking is key to the development of successful business communities.
The development of combined business space which can be shared by start-ups or growing businesses is, in my view, essential.
We need to give the next generation of business people as much support as possible through flexible license agreements, rate free units, mentoring and investment, to help them all grow in to the future of sustainable town centres.
I am investigating some further regeneration projects which take on the principles of what I am advocating here and look forward to updating you on their progress as and when I can.
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