Lanark Community Development Trust commissioned Kevin Murray Associates, WMUD and Nick Wright Planning to undertake a study of Lanark town centre. The Trust wished to gauge how Lanark town centre functions and then to identify future directions and opportunities.
Lanark Community Development Trust is a relatively young organisation and one that is rooted in the local community. The Trust is anticipated as having a lead role in bringing together town centre stakeholders, developing a strategy for improving the town centre, and working with partners to implement projects. One of the purposes of this study is to inform the project agenda of the Trust, alongside influencing the roles and inputs of other key players.
Despite some perceptions that the town centre has been improving – and it certainly looks a better place than it did 10-15 years ago – there remain concerns that, despite recent investment in the public realm, the town centre underperforms commercially and in terms of tourism. These concerns are reflected in the conclusions of a major study of Lanarkshire towns in 2002, which found that Lanark was missing opportunities in the retail and leisure sectors, that the streetscape was poor (although there has since been major investment in the High Street and North Vennel), and that there may be more opportunities for the town in the tourism sector.
So the focus of this commission was on key issues and priorities for the town centre, including:
- the adequacy of the current retail and service offer for the catchment population
- the prospects for developing a national, regional or local role for the town as a tourist destination
- opportunities for priorities for softer regeneration activity, including any latent tourism assets
the relationship between the linked dimensions of heritage and tourism – including whether the relationship with New Lanark has been adequately embraced
- transport and movement – especially the impact of parking on commercial vitality and viability, and the impact of heavy commercial vehicles
- the physical qualities of the town centre, particularly assessing whether the positive impacts of the High Street/North Vennel townscape improvements on the High Street and North Vennel can be extended and connected to draw people and activity into the wider town centre
Our methodology consisted of three stages based on Inquiry and Survey, Analysis and Action Projects developed through workshops with representatives of the local business and residential communities as well as the public sector.
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High priorities for action were parking, streetscape works and building facelifts, information on businesses, signage and legibility, and communication. Medium and longer term priorities included strategic connections to Edinburgh, tourist accommodation and destination marketing, cleanliness and image, developing the evening economy, and showcasing hidden gems such as the historical connections with William Wallace, a higher profile for parks and gardens, and links to new Lanark.
As a community development trust, the client group is in an ideal position to bring some of these ideas to fruition. It has a particular combination of having roots in the local community, the credibility of a properly constituted trust, a facilitative and enabling role to support local projects, and the ability to access to external funding sources. Armed with the strategy provided by this report, the trust is in a strong position to promote the kind of softer, locally based improvement activity which complements physical investment.