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Phil Prentice Blog: Better Place-Making

Better ‘Plaice’ Making – it’s a relatively new concept being bandied about a lot, so beware of the shapeshifters, and do we really understand what it is? STP Chief Officer Phil Prentice discusses the meaning of the ‘place-principle’ and how it can be applied to place-making in Scotland’s communities.

The Place Principle was launched in Scotland at the end of last year. It’s a Principle for taking a “place based approach”. Agreed by central and local government alongside a wide range of key agencies and stakeholders it states:

We recognise that:

Place is where people, resources and location combine to create a sense of identity and purpose, and are at the heart of addressing the needs and meeting the full potential of communities. Places are shaped by the way that resources, services and assets are directed and used by the people who live in and invest in them. A more joined up, collaborative and participative approach to services, land and buildings, across all sectors within a place, enables better outcomes for everyone and increased opportunities for people and communities to shape their own lives.

The Principle requests that:

All those responsible for providing services and looking after assets in a place need to work and plan together, and with local communities, to improve the lives of people and support inclusive growth and create more successful places.

We commit to taking:

A collaborative, place based approach with a shared purpose to create a clear way forward for all services, assets and investments which will maximise the impact of their combined resources.”

So by adopting this principle, what will a town or city centre look like and who will it be for ? Questions which have been receiving a lot of attention of late. We’ve had numerous reviews and set against ongoing complex economic and political issues; the answers are beginning to shape.

Here are some obvious ones.

The problem is so complex and involves so many stakeholders that a holistic place based approach is the only way.

Traditional high street retail will continue to shrink and delivery of public and retail services will continue to digitise.

Our demographic is changing and ageing rapidly and the relationship between people and place is evolving.

The younger demographic is behaving differently to preceding generations, they pay per play rather than own and there is still a steady drift of youth to cities.

There is a growth in demand for unique, leisure-food-drink, creative, cultural and experiential products and services.

Digital deployments and data driven opportunities are growing but we still can’t buy a haircut or a physio appointment online. We can bank and gamble though.

Given all the above, that’s a radical change in a relatively short timeframe. But the main ingredient required will not be the bricks and mortar element or the investment or funding mechanisms, those are the easy bits. The key to success will be strong collegiate leadership around a consensual vision which may demand approaches that will very often appear counter intuitive to traditional silo players.

This approach will mean that Community Planning Partnerships and Regional Economic Partnerships will need to embrace Place as a key driver to improved economic, social and environmental outcomes, and they must start working in ways that haven’t quite yet materialised, despite provocation from the Arbuthnot review and the missed opportunities from City and Regional Growth Deals. It also means that the more marginal players up to now in the Place agenda – Health, Education, Transport, Digital etc will all need to shift priorities and align. This is not simply about growth, it’s about prevention, early intervention, low carbon and inclusion. Do we have the right leadership, skills, ambition and willingness to start thinking and acting differently?

Why would a property portfolio manager in the health service shut a fairly modern satellite centre to relocate it alongside a private sector gym and health and well being centre in the heart of a town centre, and in a building that may need additional investment. Similarly, why would a University Chancellor ask for a distributed estate in multiple buildings dotted across a city scape rather than one large box on a greenfield site at the edge of the city. Why would a local authority host a banking counter and offer post office services in its HQ reception, or a bus company share information and booking space in an office alongside a train operator, Visit Scotland and some small commercial businesses.

Could a cinema operator offer some downtime space to community groups to run local theatre offerings and could the local pub host mother and toddler mornings, and matinee afternoons for the elderly. Why would Shopping centre manager provide a dementia friendly environment, host a library or museum or pay for pedestrian, cycling or EV infrastructure.

I’ve highlighted some of the key words in the Place Principle above to make this sort of approach possible – combineidentity, purpose, communities, potential, together, inclusive, successful.

Not the traditional language of town and city regeneration – shareholder value, return on investment, asset management, risk, looking after number one, but a way to start thinking and acting outside our comfort zones.

We have a series of case studies, Resources, delivery models and partnerships so join the movement today.