A councillor has demanded a major shake-up of Perth’s regeneration project saying, “We are a city now and we need to start acting like one.”
Eric Drysdale, SNP councillor for Perth City Centre, was addressing a meeting of local retailers regarding the struggles on the high street when he made the claim.
He believes the council’s City Centre Action Group (CCAG) is too focused on minor changes and lacks impetus after holding only two meetings since its inception last May.
The politician recently joined the group that comprises Conservative Council Leader Murray Lyle and Liberal Democrat councillor Pete Barrett alongside council officers.
Mr Drysdale, who replaced the SNP’s Dave Doogan on CCAG, said: “What I have to say is that from the actions I’ve seen from the minutes is there’s not an awful lot of progress being made.
“If I’m honest it needs more impetus. I’ve asked for another meeting of the group to be called as soon as possible and I’m waiting for a date for that.
“There have only been a small handful of quick win suggestions that I’ve seen from the minutes.
“They’re basically looking at small measures to improve the presentation of the city centre but if I’m honest I’ve not detected any major initiatives that are well advanced that we can hang our hats on.
“But I’ve got some ideas myself. I think we need to act big. I don’t think we can tinker and make minor adjustments and make a significant difference to the city centre.
“We are a city now and we need to start acting like one.”
Some of the initiatives that CCAG is working towards include identifying new retail or leisure tenants for vacant properties, bringing long-term vacant units back into use and marketing Perth more effectively as a “day out” destination to the central belt.
Some of the “quick win” suggestions to which Mr Drysdale referred also include assisting owners of eye-sore properties and asking those with vacant units to keep “to let” boards from their buildings.
Mr Lyle did not attend the public meeting on Thursday night but told The Courier in advance the council had a number of “ambitious plans” for Perth.
“We are already using a variety of levers to stimulate the retail sector.
“Perth City Hall is a hugely significant project for Perth and will attract approximately 300,000 visitors per annum to the city when complete.
“We are also progressing a new hotel for the city centre and I hope to make an announcement this spring in this regard.
“We have been able to attract funding for active travel initiatives and have ambitious plans for access to Perth city centre.”
Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is no question that, across the UK, many retailers are facing an extremely challenging trading environment. Perth is not immune to the significant changes that are taking place in the retail sector and we are providing as much support as we can for businesses which are being impacted.
“We are planning events which can assist with knowledge sharing so we all understand what is coming and how we can be involved to help maximise the opportunities and understand and overcome the challenges together for the good of our local business community.
“Despite the current uncertainty, we have many local independent retailers who are thriving both in the City and across Perthshire. Perth and the wider region remains an excellent base for new business, with excellent connectivity, a strong quality of life and a reputation for high quality independents.
“Investment in key infrastructure and housing is progressing at pace and just last month Perth and Kinross Council endorsed an updated Perth City Plan developed by Perth City Development Board which focuses on addressing the key challenges and opportunities for our City and wider region over the next two decades.
“These plans are a real opportunity to grow existing enterprises, attract new companies to our region, re-energise our high streets, and capitalise on emerging new sectors to diversify our wider economy.
“We will continue to work closely with our partners and are looking forward to the upcoming budget announcements to see what support can come from there.
“It is also worth ensuring that current investment efforts and plans are communicated widely throughout the community and that opportunities to engage are available and utilised.”