Charrette momentum needs to be maintained

Arbroath Abbey
Arbroath Abbey

Arbroath has “authenticity by the spade” according to the team behind the town charrette - who are to hold a final presentation on February 18.

The three-day ‘Arbroath Talks’ charrette saw the local community, schools and businesses feedback on a variety of topics in the town - with the lack of hotels and the A92 emerging as key issues.

Graham Ross of Austin-Smith:Lord, who organised the charrette, said: “We want to maintain the momentum gained during the first three days, where the energy and engagement of community, businesses and stakeholders built up to a positive ‘work in progress’ pin-up last Thursday”

He also spoke of the “fantastic assets” the town has, commenting: “We encountered a kind of default of folk doing the town down a bit. The key thing to put across is that Arbroath has some fantastic assets that many towns of the same size would give their eyeteeth for.”

Five key themes were identified from the charrette - Ambitious Arbroath, Active Arbroath, Accessible Arbroath, Authentic Arbroath and Attractive Arbroath.

Under Ambitious Arbroath, Graham explained that it was about harnessing the assets and history the town had to promote it locally and further afield.

He said: “We encountered people who have never visited the Abbey. One of the people involved in the charrette termed this doorstepitis - you’ve got all this stuff on your doorstep but don’t use it.”

Discussing the assets, he said: “The Abbey has a rich history, there’s a good high street - which could do with investment. There’s the harbour and coastal setting - and of course the marina.

“That’s just some of the major assets. The town has a community that is keen to make a positive change. It’s not just telling the world how good Arbroath is, but also to promote it in the local community too.”

The second theme - Active Arbroath - focuses on the high street and ways to bring empty units back in to use - even if for short term periods. Graham said: “There has been an increase in vacancies. We’ve looked at ways we could bring them back into use. We’ve been in touch with agents to see how this could work.

“We also want to look at the scope for empty buildings to be used by the college to have a role in showcasing their entrepreneurial skills and creativity. That’s just one of the initiatives that came up.”

The health and wellbeing agenda was also touched upon - with the charrette shining a light on the good work by some initiatives already in the town.

The A92 was highlighted as an issue under Accessible Arbroath, with the road acting as a divide for some residents. Graham explained: “The feedback from people suggested that there’s a feeling it separates the east of the town from the west.”

The need to ensure the town was well connected also fell under this theme, ensuring it was accessible as a visitor destination and ensuring the town was accessible as possible for people with disabilities to ensure everyone can get around easily. Graham added: “There was some passionate commentary about making Arbroath inclusive for all.”

Under Authentic Arbroath, the products produced in town were highlighted - particularly smokies and rural agricultural activities outside the town.

The final theme - Attractive Arbroath -involves promoting coastal location, heritage, culture, transport and lifestyle of the town to improve the visitor economy. Under this theme, the issue of lack of hotels was raised, with Graham saying: “One aspect that is key is hotel and bed space options. That’s important to retain visitors for longer.”

Improving the entrances to the town was also raised - with the aim to create a better impression on arrival.

Organisers behind the project will hold a final event on Thursday, February 18, at St Andrew’s Church which will focus on the town centre vision, development framework and an action plan. It will be open from noon with presentations at 2 and 7pm.

Graham concluded: “One of the benefits of the charrette was it allowed for some very good networking between residents, community groups and local business.

“No one group or organisation has got the whole responsibility to deliver on things. It will require collaboration. The council has a role but so does the community, businesses and third party organisations.

“We had a good turnout, and hope we will on February 18.”