Council initiative which aims to put town centres first wins national award

An innovative initiative by Aberdeenshire Council to put town centres at the heart of decision making has received a prestigious national award.

The authority’s Economic Development team took the Silver Scottish Government Excellence Award at the COSLA Excellence Awards 2018 for its Town Centre First Principle. 

Aberdeenshire Council is the first in the UK to adopt the Town Centre First Framework across all services, embedding the principle into all decision making processes, policy and area plans.

In essence, it means the health of town centres is put at the heart of proportionate and best value decision making, seeking to deliver the best local outcomes regarding investment and deinvestment decisions, alignment of policies, targeting of available resources to priority town centre sites, and encouraging vibrancy, equality and diversity.

It commits the organisation to a collaborative approach which understands and underpins the long term plan for each town centre.

Leader of the council, Jim Gifford, said: “Adopting the Town Centre Principle in the way we have has been a very important decision for Aberdeenshire Council. 

“This is a long-term plan to ensure our town centres have importance beyond planning. We want our town centres to be vibrant spaces where people come to visit, live, work and shop. 

“It is fantastic news that we have received recognition for being the first local authority to take this forward in such an ambitious way.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Economic Development, Belinda Miller, said: “Although our town centres are changing they still remain at the heart of Aberdeenshire. The Town Centre First Principle makes officers think about how their work will impact on a town centre and on the businesses and community there.

“Through the holistic alignment of all services within the Council, as well as the empowerment of staff and other stakeholders, this project will help to ensure town centres survive and thrive, reinvent their function, and meet the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors for the twenty-first century.”

The Town Centre First Principle was approved as a policy by the council in December 2016 and launched in June 2017. 

It was first rolled out through all committees to all decision making officers, ensuring the impacts on town centres of any decisions are taken into consideration. The principle is also embedded into council policy, strategies and area plans.

Now that this is in place the intention is to invite community planning partners and town centre stakeholders to adopt the principle in a similar way.

The overall winners of the COSLA Awards for Excellence 2017 were announced at an awards ceremony in St Andrews on Thursday, October 11.

For more information on the Town Centre First Principle, please see: https://youtu.be/m9PHuOG7_aQ