Renaissance Town

Neilston - Scotland's First Renaissance Town

Town Charter CoverThe renaissance town approach has been used in the US, Australia and in Yorkshire, but Neilston is the first time it has been used in Scotland. It involves, community-led activity that empowers local people to lead the regeneration of their town via a Town Team. While it was led by the community, significant support was provided by key national partners including East Renfrewshire Council; Barrhead Housing Association; Glasgow Urban Lab of the Mackintosh Glasgow's School of Architecture; Architecture and Design Scotland; Urban Design Skills; and the Development Trust Association Scotland.


A Charrette format was adopted that brought different groups of people together in a collaborative approach. The aim was to design solutions for the village on a shared basis, rather than people making representation based on their own interests and needs.


The Neilston town charter was launched in January 2009. One of the first activities was to issue all households with a postcard and red ribbon to be tied to their favourite places. This was a very empowering approach for residents, businesses, agencies and councillors, and was a clear visual sign of the priorities that people wanted to see addressed.


From this initial start, the Charrette approach was adopted which incorporated a series of meetings site visits to key buildings/places across the town and an array of informal discussions. Ideas were then brought back to the Town Team Group which had been established to oversee progress. Sessions were also held with young people, to get their views and input into the vision for Neilston.


The charter was formally handed over to East Renfrewshire Council's leader at the national conference on Scottish Renaissance Towns Initiative in June 2009. The document was signed by a wide range of local stakeholders, including residents and community representatives, and presents a 20-year vision for the regeneration of the town.


Projects are ranked in timescale and set against the Scottish Government's five aims (wealthier and fairer, smarter, healthier, safer & stronger, greener). The charter is recognised by the council as being a key strategic document and will feed into the preparation of the local development plan.


What next?

The Neilston town charter is a mandate and manifesto for the community. Everybody who was involved in the process has signed up, creating strong buy-in to the future regeneration of the town.


The process itself has built significant community capacity, including skills, knowledge and expertise, but more importantly has created enthusiasm and developed commitment to create a better place to live and work.


Neilston Development Trust is now planning to take forward the Town Charter, the 20-year development strategy to regenerate the community in a self-sustaining way. It has entered into partnership with developer,Carbonfree, in the hope of developing a local wind farm. The trust has promised to direct a substantial element of the income from this to the projects outlined in the charter.

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