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Better nightlife key to town centre living

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By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Better nightlife key to town centre living

A LACK of nightlife in Dumfries is putting people off living in the centre of town.

That is the view of a council report which says more could be done to encourage activity – echoing the perspective of grassroots initiative The Midsteeple Quarter.
In her report, director of corporate services Lorna Meehan said: “In many towns, shops and businesses close in the early evening and this does not encourage town-centre living.
“Major towns and cities have responsive and agile centres able to respond to changing trends but this cannot be replicated in areas where populations are sparse and age/socio-economic profiles are dramatically imbalanced.”
She added: “The lack of activity in our larger towns into the evening is an area that could be a focus for improving and regenerating town centres on a more targeted basis.”
Tuesday’s report on town centre living was requested by members of the council’s scrutiny and performance committee, and came after The Midsteeple Quarter’s survey focused on repopulating the town centre came to an end last Friday.
Addressing the council’s conclusion on nightlife, Matt Baker from The Midsteeple Quarter said: “I think that echoes some of the findings that we’ve been getting.”
However, out of the 803 responses to his group’s survey, 315 expressed an interest in living in the town centre.
Matt describes the 315 as a ‘very diverse mix of people’, disputing the council’s conclusion that ‘young people are likely to be the target market’. He said: “Our own research in Dumfries suggests there could also be strong interest from older people who are looking to move into town as they retire, as well as vulnerable groups such as LGBT and people with disabilities.”
Arguing individual entrepreneurs and grassroots organisations are key to changing town centre living in ways the council is is unable, he added: “What needs to be found is a way of the council enabling and listening to changes that are required with regard to business rates and some of the provision around use of the upper floors and fire escapes.
“So the council has a role, but it absolutely has to work in partnership with people on the ground.”

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