Commercial property sector slammed for not un-tapping the potential

Published: 19 Dec 2014 09:30

Commercial Property

PROPERTY marketing agents have been criticised for ignoring the potential of innovative community-based business opportunities – which could help to boost town centre economies.

Iain Scott, who is championing Can Do Towns

Iain Scott, who is championing Can Do Towns

Iain Scott, who heads the Scottish Government-backed Can Do Towns Innovation Challenge has stepped forward to voice his concerns – and believes there needs to be a step-change.

He has pinpointed that agents are not doing enough to realise the impact that a ‘new breed of community entrepreneurs’ can bring to local towns.

Scott claims everyone involved in the commercial property sector should look to un-tap the potential that already exists in communities - instead of focusing on securing highest rents or only dealing with private or commercial partners.

He also believes community entrepreneurs need to be given a platform – which could allow for local economic growth.

Scott said: "There is a new breed of entrepreneur out there in Scotland, driven by pride in where they live and enthusiasm for their local communities.

“These entrepreneurs want to breathe new life into unused places and spaces - and that new life will create thousands of opportunities for aspirant entrepreneurs.

"Sadly, property agents still seem stuck in the property boom mindset and are unaware or unwilling to look at working with community entrepreneurs who have ambitious plans to revitalise empty or underused properties or estates.

"These agents need to start thinking more about flow and not footfall. The need to think more about the overall value a community-led project can bring, instead of solely thinking about securing the highest lease.

“It stands to reason that healthy and buoyant town centres can look to boost the fortunes of everyone with a stake in the town centre- helping to support growth and attract new investors.”

Scott is fronting The Can Do Towns Innovation Challenge, a ground-breaking initiative which aims to give Scotland's ambitious community activists the chance to turn their town centres into multi-million pound business hubs, in a bid to change the structure of commerce within local towns.

The project equips local residents with unique support, advice and skills to bring creative ideas to transform their town centres to reality – helping to substantially boost town centre economies and revive community spirit.

Fifteen towns are currently involved in the programme – and this week two experienced mixed fortunes in their development plan.

The Peebles Community Trust lost out on a bid for community ownership of a local estate – previously owned by Standard Life.

The Trust intended to turn the estate into a thriving business hub with plans in place to boost the local economy via accommodation facilities and new transport links.

Scott believes the bid’s failing is another clear example of the marketplace making the wrong decisions in regard to the future growth of communities.

He said: “This was a very disappointing outcome for Peebles more because it shows lack of vision on Standard Life’s part.

“Here was a superb opportunity to work with a community, to create new opportunities for new entrepreneurs - and to strengthen the local community.

"However, this news was positively balanced with the announcement that the Crieff Community Group had won its Community Right To Buy (CRTB) application for local establishment, The Drummond Arms.

With the intent of turning the property into a thriving economic hub for the community – long term plans are now underway to ensure a viable business plan is created and adequate funding is secured.

In April this year, more than 1500 people signed a petition in support of the Crieff CRTB –which proves that dedication and passion for town centre change is already prevalent within Scottish communities.

Iain believes the knowledge gained from these experiences will provide the towns involved with opportunities for new ventures.

He said: “The Can Do Towns Challenge has shown us what can be achieved when community groups come together to share their ideas and enthusiasm.

“It's a fantastic learning process, and the feedback we've had from the groups involved so far has been incredible.

“I have no doubt that Peebles, Crieff and all the towns involved – will now bring what they have learned on the Can Do Towns Challenges to a new opportunity.

“This is very much the tip of the iceberg for the challenge – and I personally can’t wait to see the local towns and community groups continue to flourish in years to come.

“Hopefully property marketers and the commercial property market in general will start to notice the community revolution which is starting to take place among local entrepreneurs and local business collectives.”

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