Council officers are to prepare individual reports on the county’s town centres following a debate on the issue at last week’s planning meeting.
Officers provided a wider report on town centre improvement in Midlothian as requested by councillors, with planning chief Ian Johnson warning “there is no silver bullet” to address failing town centres. However he spoke positively about the Newtongrange town centre masterplan and the consultation on Dalkeith town centre, as well as increased footfall following the recent Dalkeith CARS conservation scheme.
Council leader Derek Milligan (Lab) is worried that it’s not just shops leaving our town centres. He said: “A lot of town centres when I look at them are reliant on public houses, bookies etc. There is now a move to start putting eateries and public houses out into the countryside and at the same time restaurants are shutting down in our towns.”
He added that if this continues it would lead to the “absolute annihilation of our town centres” and called for ideas to protect them.
Cllr Jim Muirhead (Lab) said that car parking was key as “people are not prepared to walk”.
Cllr Colin Cassidy (SNP) called for more to be done to attract big retail names into our town centres. “That’s how we regenerate the town centres,” he said.
Mr Johnson agreed that an “anchor store” would be key to any regeneration scheme. Officers will come back to the planning committee with town by town reports on how the council can help to improve them.