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Dumfries’ people power hailed as inspiration

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By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Dumfries’ people power hailed as inspiration

THE people power which is breathing new life into Dumfries High Street has been hailed as an inspiration for other Scottish towns.

Work which has included bringing a number of buildings into community ownership and encouraging enterprise is highlighted in a recently-launched website designed to empower and inspire those determined to make the nation’s towns stronger and more attractive.

Scotland’s Towns Partnership’s (STP) Town Toolkit aims to help local authorities, community groups, social enterprises and businesses take action to build better communities. More than 200 people and organisations contributed to the Toolkit, whose development was supported by the Scottish Government.

Dumfries is among the places highlighted as prime examples to follow – with the toolkit to be discussed at the Scotland’s Towns Conference today.

The toolkit cites the contribution of art group The Stove Network as well as Midsteeple Quarter, which is working to reinvigorate empty and underused buildings, creating new business opportunities and homes.

Nick Wright, a town planner who developed the toolkit for STP, will lead the session and said: “What’s inspirational about Dumfries is that members of the local community – largely volunteers – have stepped forward over the last decade to lead the town centre’s renaissance. Rather than complain about the state of the town centre, they decided simply to get on and do things.

“This fresh and invigorating approach has reopened empty premises on the high street, brought countless more people into the town centre for events and activities, and implemented dozens of projects.”

Midsteeple Quarter is spearheading work that will create a stronger future for the town centre – not only providing a springboard new enterprise in the High Street, by places from which businesses can grow and thrive, as well as encouraging people to live there.

The Stove Network has used arts and creativity to bring life to the town centre through events and projects, collaborating with the local authority, community organisations, local businesses and charities. Their aim is for culture, community and enterprise to work hand-in-hand to support the High Street.

Matt Baker, from The Stove, said: “We’ve found the Scotland’s Town Toolkit so helpful. It’s filled with a great range of case studies and you can take different bits from each to develop your own approach. We’re thrilled that Dumfries is now one of the ‘inspiration’ case studies in the new edition.”

Midsteeple Quarter executive director Scott McKay added: “Our core principle is that local people know the town best and have the solutions. A significant local stake in the future of the town through community ownership and control is the best route towards sustainable prosperity that is shared fairly.”

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