Renfrewshire Council

Big plans to regenerate Paisley's town centre

The regeneration of our town centres is a key priority for this council - and these plans would be another step in the right direction for Paisley High Street.

We know the empty shops are a big talking point for residents - but people need to accept we just can't turn the clock back 20 years to a time where the High Street was a thriving retail hub

Of course, the council can't buy every unit - but by focusing the money we do have on key anchor projects - such as we bring people into the town, generating footfall for existing businesses and hopefully creating conditions where others can set up shop.

In this case we want to create a 21st-century library in the heart of Paisley's High Street (at 22 and 22a), which will be more in tune with what library users need in an increasingly- digital world, while also offering increased space for educational activities.

A few doors down the same street is the new publicly-accessible museum store set to open next year in the basement of Bargain Buys, while next door to that the Paisley 2021 bid team hub will open soon.

But it's not the only exciting development for Paisley's town centre.

For a decade the former Arnotts store was the most prominent and high-profile gap site in the town centre, and an all-too-visible sign of Paisley's retail decline.

Like many residents, I have fond memories of the old department store - but we all have to accept the retail world has fundamentally changed since then, and Paisley town centre needs to move forward not back.

It's great to see this site being brought back into use through a planned development - now in its third phase - which is cementing its position as a visible sign of the town's centre's gradual rebirth.

By helping bring new people into the town centre to live, we are bringing new footfall into the town centre for existing retailers and other businesses.

And there are visible signs of progress all about us, via council and private sector investment alike - more new flats on Mill Street, the Russell Institute being brought back into use, the Piazza investing more than £1m on car park improvements, and a new museum store to open on the High Street next year.

And I know we will all agree that Paisley's architectural heritage is among the finest in Scotland - and it is vitally important we keep it looking at its best for future generations.

So, with the help of our partners at the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland, we did some great work with the now-completed THI/CARS scheme which has transformed the area around Causeyside Street.

That included improvements to the public realm, restoration and repairs to tenements and to Paisley Arts Centre, and part-funded a number of new shopfronts.

We are now looking to fund a new £4m scheme that will spread the same benefits throughout an adjacent area of the town centre which needs a boost - such as the west end of the High Street, New Street and Shuttle Street.

Historic Environment Scotland has already confirmed £1m funding towards the programme, which will pay for part of the proposed scheme covering repairs to historic buildings, and we are still waiting to hear if £2m funding from Heritage Lottery Fund can be secured.

By improving the built environment across the town centre we will hopefully bring a few vacant buildings back into use, which should help bring more people into the town and benefit the local economy.

All of these projects fit perfectly with the aims of Paisley's bid for UK City of Culture 2021, which is now gathering pace, and is all about using our unique culture and heritage to transform the area's future.