Posted: Wednesday 20 June 2012
By Kate Dewar
Empty shops, empty homes and derelict sites across Scotland’s towns and cities rightly deserve to be a target of no nonsense initiatives by local and central Government to clean up eye sores, provide job opportunities and kick start social enterprise. Community empowerment sits at the heart of much of the thinking.
The agenda has been set through a number of Government proposals which have a dual social and community function. Take for instance, the current consultation on the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill which aims “to support communities to achieve their own goals and aspirations through taking independent action and by having their voices heard in the decisions that affect their area”.
The consultation includes a range of options for comment including giving local authorities increased powers to sell or lease empty homes and non domestic properties for the benefit of and possibly at the request of local communities. The responses are awaited with interest but community mobilisation and limited grant funding compliment this agenda and are embedded in the thinking.
Similarly, the proposed Government consultation on Empty Homes due to be launched later this year also aims to assist Councils in bringing private sector empty homes back into use. As many sit in or around our high streets this would compliment the Community Empowerment proposals.
But its not all blue sky thinking.
The regeneration of Scotland’s high streets by forward thinking communities has been given a great boost this week with the news that Retail Rocks, a pilot project designed to regenerate an Aberdeen community has been heralded as an economic and cultural success, a year after it was launched.
If you’ve never heard of Retail Rocks - and once you’ve have heard it you won’t forget it - budding entrepreneurs were given the chance to enter a Dragons' Den-style challenge to set out their business stall. Seven winners of Retail Rocks were given empty shop units rent free for a year in the Torry area of Aberdeen plus ongoing business support. The scheme backed by the public and private sector, was the first of its kind in Scotland.
Let’s hope other Councils replicate the scheme. It rocks!