Health check for Stornoway

Stornoway town centre faces challenges in terms of identity, marketing, planning and design according to a Small Town Initiative ‘health check’.

Partnerships between key players, taking forward creative and innovative approaches, is key to the success of the town explained Built Environment Forum Scotland chairman, Professor Emeritus Cliff Hague.

A case study of Stornoway, carried out in April this year as part of the ‘Small Towns in a Small Country’ report, stated: “Even being on a small island is no longer enough to insulate a town from today’s forces of economic and cultural change.”

Professor Hague stressed: “A broad and probably formal partnership is going to be needed bringing together the Council, the Port Authority, the Trust, local traders, the University, the secondary school and civil society and cultural organisations.

“As Lord Leverhulme found 90 years ago this is not a place on which an outsider can impose a vision. But that does make it all the more important for the people of Stornoway to develop and share their own vision of their town, and then back the actions needed to deliver it.”

The report, published yesterday (Wednesday) highlighted the importance of ‘joined up action’. But it stated: “This is not so easy to achieve. For example in Stornoway there is no Town Centre Manager and the local traders have not been able to come together as a body working for the future.”

However there are already signs that the town is up to the challenge.

Tim Durbin, a member of the newly formed Stornoway Business Group, now called Stornoway Alive, agreed partnership is key to success.

He said: “Greater participation and working together is essential to building up our town again. I don’t think any aspect of regeneration can happen without partnership.”

He explained the group are often in contact with Stornoway Port Authority, as well as with the Comhairle, and also hope to build strong partnerships with the Police, Health Board and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Mr Durbin continued: “People are asking for new and different things. If what you’ve always done is no longer working, you’ve got to change.”

He added: “The town is struggling, it has seen better days. But Stornoway is alive and we are looking to build on that life that is already there.”

There are also discussions with the Comhairle regarding the possibility of employing a Town Centre Manager.

Cllr Angus McCormack, chair of the Stornoway Regeneration Group, said a Town Centre Manager “would help a great deal”.

He also pointed to ongoing projects, such as the work in Lews Castle Grounds, which he said had the capability of drawing people into Stornoway, and to create jobs.

Speaking about the town centre Cllr McCormack said: “I feel quite positive about it. We’re in the midst of a recession. In time we will recover from that.”