Jean Paterson: Bring homes into high streets to bring town centres back to life

Ben Wray

Contributing to our special week of coverage on Scotland’s towns and places, CommonSpace reader Jean Paterson (name changed) says town centres can be revitalised by become a mixture of living space and business in the same area. Want to give your view? Email us at

I MYSELF live at present on an island but I come from Paisley, a town that has known many troubles over the years and has, in many ways, been neglected through a lack of initiatives and funding.  This is despite being in a prime position with excellent train, bus and flight links to the rest of Scotland and beyond.  

I would propose that towns could be greatly assisted in rejuvenating high streets and shopping areas by allowing business and retail premises to become homes so that there be a mixture of living space and business in the same area.  For too long services and shops have been separated from families.  Housing estates have alienated folks, causing hardship and expense by necessitating travel cost and time to ‘go shopping’ or use commercial services.  

Working mothers could shop where they live instead of having to travel by car, at the expense of their limited budgets and the environment.

READ MORE: CS Special Week of Coverage on Scotland’s Towns & Places

The nature of Scottish towns lends itself in its built heritage to adapt to the needs of the day.  People need homes. Families – no longer always single units – now require smaller flats and houses to accommodate their needs. Existing high streets that once only allowed commerce and retail could be converted into flats above shops and cafes.  What often are lifeless, unfriendly areas of town at night could be bustling community places, offering what folks need to exist and also bring life again to our town centres. 

Elderly folks could be included in the community by offering living space among shops and businesses where families could once again include all age groups.  Day centres could be included in shopping areas where post offices, cafes, restaurants, dentists, solicitors and food retail could all contribute to the bustle of community life.

Elderly folks are known to visit post offices and public areas just to get some company – this is what our society has been brought to.

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I would add that trees should be planted in traffic free zones and elsewhere. Nature would contribute greatly to our living environment, especially our dismal, lifeless town centres where there is little of beauty.

For too long planners have served commerce and industry and the unending and pernicious need to serve ‘the economy’.  Human lives have become secondary in this pursuit.  

Scotland has such great potential, it just needs goodwill, higher ideals and an inclusive approach to society.

I look forward to hearing the outcome of your endeavours.

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