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July 1, 2009

The Renaissance of Neilston

Last week saw the culmination of years of hard work, with the publication and official launch of the town charter and the ‘crowning’ of Neilston as Scotland’s first Renaissance Town. The charter sets out a 20 year vision for the village and it draws together a wide range of agencies and local individuals into what’s known as the Town Team whose job it is to make it all happen. With everyone now signed up, the missing piece in the jigsaw is the funding

The residents of Neilston descended on Eastwood Park Theatre last week to formally handed over their charter for the future of their village to East Renfrewshire Council’s leader Councillor Jim Fletcher.

The colourful and detailed 80 page document describes and illustrates the process of creating a charter for Scotland’s first renaissance town.

Created by the residents of Neilston it documents their 20 year vision on how to inject new life into their village.

The charter was produced by the Neilston Town Team, East Renfrewshire Council, the Glasgow Urban Laboratory Macintosh School of Architecture, GSA, Architecture and Design Scotland and Urban Design Skills. The work was also supported by Barrhead Housing Association, the Lighthouse, SUST and the Development Trusts Association Scotland.

Although similar renaissance projects have been undertaken in the USA, Australia and in the Yorkshire towns of Wakefield, Doncaster and Scarborough, this is the first of its kind in Scotland.

The renaissance town movement is led by Alan J Simpson, professor of architecture and urbanism at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, who has a wealth of experience in urban design and planning.

Professor Simpson said: “This initiative seeks to help bring about a revival of the village and at the heart of the renaissance is the fundamental belief in the value of local empowerment.

“A need is recognised to more fully engage and empower local communities in order to release their latent skills, knowledge and desire to improve their towns or villages as places to live, invest and visit.

“The renaissance project involves asking the community what they want for their village or town. It aims to leave a legacy of something better for future generations and to make people proud of their community.”
Pauline Gallacher, of Neilston Village Regeneration Group, said: “The aim of this initiative is to create a new Neilston. It’s all about looking forward and to make the village a better place to live and to create a good quality of live for its residents.”

“And the local people will have a real say in what their village will become. The Neilston charter is a clear outline of what the community wants and where it should be headed.”

Councillor Tony Buchanan said: “The renaissance town movement has proven its success in Yorkshire and this could be a real opportunity to make a lasting difference to Neilston.

“The people of Neilston have embraced the concept of re-designing their town by combining the history and heritage of the village with a vision of modernisation and sustainable economic growth. Ultimately the success has been resulting collaboration and support of the local community in discussing our collective future.

“The charter is not a fixed text but instead a living document that will grow and develop in accordance with future generation’s wants and needs.”

On accepting the charter Councillor Fletcher said he would certainly sit down and read through what he could see was a most impressive document.