Local MSP raises the issue of empty shops in town centres

Friday December 17th 2021

Christine Grahame MSP in Parliament Main

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame has raised issues facing town centres, particularly the blight of empty and decaying shops with untraceable landlords, in parliament.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday Ms Grahame asked if more could be done to facilitate compulsory purchase legislation sufficient to permit a local authority to take ownership and redevelop large, long-term empty shops, possibly for a mix of town-centre housing and smaller commercial outlets. In response the Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth, Tom Arthur, said the Scottish Government has committed to a review of compulsory purchase legislation, which will provide an opportunity to consider whether the current procedures are fit for purpose.

Ms Grahame herself has regularly chaired a number of meetings in towns in her constituency with local stakeholders to discuss options for town centre regeneration locally and has found empty buildings to be a persistent issue.

SNP MSP Ms Grahame commented:

“The Scottish Government has done a power of work to support the regeneration of town centres, including funding the regeneration capital grant fund, the £50 million town centre fund, business improvement districts and earlier this year launching the £10 million Scotland loves local programme to support local businesses and town centres.

“The issues facing our town centres, particularly following covid, are not simple or uniform however and we have to look at a broad range of options to deal with what’s occurring locally. In many town centres we have large, empty retail units that simply do not fit with the kind of small, independent businesses that do well on our high street, nor the move to bring people back in to town centres by providing more residential properties in the mix.

“They end up being an eyesore as they fall into decay and present issues when trying to regenerate a town centre as they give the impression of somewhere run down, as well as taking up space that could be better used. Unfortunately the owners of these building are often absent and very difficult to track down to put any proposals to or work meaningfully with and, in some cases, actively have no interest in leasing a building out as they’re simply holding onto it as a financial asset.

“It’s in these kind of circumstances that I believe increased use of compulsory purchase by local authorities could have a role to play, where other routes have failed.”

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