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Shite Idea?

I reproduce here, without editorial comment, a story from BBC News



Wedding Vale

From the Evening Times

At least 400 people are expected to attend a street party to celebrate this month’s Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

It is being held at Dalmonach, Vale Of Leven, and is the only formal application received by West Dunbartonshire Council for a street party on April 29.

Organiser Michelle Stewart said that although the event would mark the wedding, it also aimed to unite the local people and would highlight a campaign to save a community centre from being shut by the council and revamp the local park.

Televisions inside the community centre will screen the wedding.

The council is providing £1000 to help fund the event and it is also being supported by local businesses.

When Being Proved Right is Bitter Sweet

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a shop in Dumbarton. I have traded there for twenty four years, the last seventeen of which have been from the town’s High Street.

When I initially took a shop there there was 100% occupancy of shops.

There were butchers, fishmongers, fruit shops, gift shops, electrical stores, general stores etc.

In 1993 when I’d been in the High Street for a year, the council closed the street off to traffic for about six weeks in order to make repairs to a bridge.

I immediately lost 35% of my trade.

Thankfully at the completion of works things returned pretty much to normal.

Then West Dunbartonshire Council came up with the idea of pedestrianising the place.

I opposed this proposal with every fibre. Not only did I know that this measure would be a disaster for my business and of the other businesses there, I also knew it would be a disaster for the town.

However the cooncil in their wisdom were determined. Exhibitions were held in Dumbarton festooned with photos of Paisley which had just been pedestrianised. They clearly saw Paisley as best practice in the field. They only just stopped short of claiming that it was the eighth wonder of the world.

Here is a quote from a Scotland Office document from 1999

Ruining Towns a Speciality

Ruining Towns a Speciality

“A £3.7 million Paisley Town Centre Regeneration Project was today given the seal of approval by First Minister Donald Dewar and Scottish Secretary John Reid. To mark the successful completion of Phase 2 of the pedestrianisation scheme Mr Dewar and Mr Reid jointly laid a commemorative plaque in Gilmour Street.

Speaking during the visit Mr Dewar said:

“I am delighted to be in Paisley today to celebrate the successful completion of Paisley’s £3.7 million pedestrianisation scheme. The renewal of County Square and Gilmour Street has transformed the heart of the town. Paisley should rightly be proud of the efforts to make its centre more accessible, improve the environment and stimulate new development.

“Partnership projects can make a real difference. The commitment and dedication of the key sponsors involved in the Paisley Regeneration Project have helped the town become a revitalised place in which to live, work, visit and invest. The Government will continue to do everything it can to assist.”

Full article

I contacted the Traders in Paisley. It is fair to say that their version of events was somewhat different to Messrs. Dewar and Reid.

Their representative John Murphy who owned a stationers in Paisley which had been there for a century told me that the changes in Paisley were akin to a bomb being dropped on the place.

The Paisley traders were already campaigning for the pedestrianisation works and traffic limitations to be reversed.

I relayed this information to West Dunbartonshire Council. I relayed the result of my consultations with retailers in Dunoon, Airdrie, Bathgate, Kirkcaldy, Fort William, Dumfries and other places many in England where pedestrianisation/traffic management had killed small to medium sized towns.

Towns just like Dumbarton

The Council wouldn’t listen.

The Council Officials wouldn’t listen.

The Town Centre Manager wouldn’t listen.

The Trader’s representative wouldn’t listen.

It looked like the town was finished.

The town was finished.

In 2005 the traffic management scheme in Dumbarton was implemented. This according to the council was the jewel in the crown of an action plan published in 2000 that promised to “regenerate and revitalise the town within five years”.

Here is my sardonic presentation of what actually happened.

In 2007 Paisley lifted the traffic ban in two streets.

Dumbarton’s Traffic Management scheme fell soon afterwards.

However we are left with narrow streets and unfeasibly wide pavements.

Most of the shops had closed.

Meanwhile in Paisley (taken from This BBC news article yesterday )

The leader of Renfrewshire Council, Councillor Derek Mackay, said: “When pedestrianisation was delivered in the town a lot of people felt it went too far and was over restrictive.

“We want to bring people back into the heart of the town.

“By giving better access we can help showcase what Paisley has to offer and generate more activity and life in the town centre, particularly at night.”

The council insisted the move would not be an expensive one.

Mr Mackay added: “The current lay out of the High Street is very attractive and amenable to car access which would mean, with a fairly limited budget, we could bring cars back in on a shared basis with pedestrians.”

Roughly translated this reads:

“We are reversing the disastrous pedestrianisation scheme that nobody wanted”

“If we had listened to the traders and townspeople in the nineties instead of shelling out money to consultants, we might have saved millions of pounds and still had a town centre”

John Murphy’s shop, like many others didn’t survive.

Dumbarton has the highest rate of unoccupied shops in Scotland.

Can We Save Our Town Centre?

Posh sign in poignant position with derelict High Street behind.

Over at the Business for Dumbarton blog, I report on the cooncil’s decision to re-admit traffic to Dumbarton High Street. This has been somewhat of an odyssey for me going back over ten years. When I first heard the proposals to exclude car traffic in 1998 I wanted the answer to several simple questions: How does barring admission to over 60% of your customers improve an ailing town centre? What kind of monitoring of the success or failure of such a scheme will be put in place? Why with clear opposition to these plans from every branch of the community are you going ahead with this? How were we to be expected to compete with a retail park on our doorstep with hundreds of convenient parking spaces?

No satisfactory answers were ever given and in 2005 the scheme was implemented with the inevitable result that car users abandoned the town in droves. The space vacated by families and shoppers was soon eagerly taken up by specialists in anti-social behaviour. Shouting, swearing and violent behaviour has become commonplace as the pond life have found themselves an ideal habitat.

I continued to campaign with my colleagues at Business for Dumbarton to put the heart back into our community and re-admit cars to the town. Finally yesterday the council admitted the whole thing had been a big mistake and conceded the problems we have been highlighting for so long. They are going to do something about it.


The Death of Capitalism? Part 4

Insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor have announced that 323 of the UK’s retailers could go bust within the next few months. Woolworths have stopped paying their business rates and there is fevered speculation about their future. JJB Sports have had insurance for insolvency withdrawn on the back of disastrous sales figures. The report says that companies who have failed to diversify and those with weak online operations will be worst affected.

In other news West Dunbartonshire Council are about to grant permission considering an application for seven retail units, two to be occupied by JJB Sports, this morning. The units are on an out of town site and from the Council’s own figures will take a further 7% of trade away from Dumbarton High Street.

West Dunbartonshire Council are ‘commited to the regeneration’ of Dumbarton town centre.

Edit: Following late objections the matter has been continued for another month.

West Dunbartonshire Council Latest

I have written about WDC from time to time here and on the old blog. For the latest, Click Here

Action Plan Gobbledygook!

Those of you familiar with my Youtube video Dumbarton Ghost Town will have noticed my reference in the first frame to the EDAW Action Plan which was adopted by West Dunbartonshire Clowncil in 2000. The thumbnail here (double click to view) is my favourite part of the plan which is the “interpretation guide”. Never has irony been highlighted so well in two words. Quite honestly, read it and tell me that it’s not a pile of shite. Consultants are being paid fortunes to produce rubbish like this. You can just see some man in a suit at a lectern reading this bollocks out loud and doing that inverted commas gesture at the appropriate points.


I notice that they have no interpretation explanation for “dead hole” which is what their plan created in Dumbarton. The success of this plan and its predecessor a masterplan can be gauged by the fact that WDC are currently trying to push through another bloody Masterplan less than 10 years later. Another firm of consultants, another waste of money.