The other day I posted a picture of Paisley High Street. It was immediately met with negative comments about how empty the High Street looked, however in reality the hustle and bustle of shoppers and people out enjoying a rare sunny day in town was much more the case. It got me thinking, we look back at days gone by when in our memories the High Street was a bustling shopping heaven, so what has changed and how can we get back to that happy place again?
Well things will never be the same as they were, there are various reasons for this; the financial climate is probably the biggest one overshadowing not only Paisley but every shopping heartland in the country. With the banks restricting lending to small business and new start up traders what hope is there for changing the shops from ‘To Let’ to ‘Shop Here’? In addition, so called private landlords with empty properties not being renovated or marketed properly is another challenge, some of the landlords and developers really should hang their heads in shame. Something should be done to make them lease the shops at a fair price and be fully supported financially by local government. Pop up shops, seasonal shops etc could temporarily fill the void.
We all have our own thoughts on what has gone wrong; bad town planning, out of town shopping centres and a change of trends, i.e. more internet shopping.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great when people show passion for the town although sometimes it can come across negatively, but in the vast majority of comments and posts I see so many people with a soft spot for the town and want to see it thrive again, and why not?
Paisley has so much to give. Any outsider coming to the town can see we have some amazing looking buildings. We have a community based SPL Football team who this year brought Paisley to a standstill with thousands lining the streets to see them lift the Scottish League Cup. We also have the Royal National MoD coming to town this year as well as the many events staged in and around Paisley every single week. We have so much to actually be proud of, we don’t have to start from scratch and build on nothing. We need political will, not political point scoring, so much good is done, but why in the West of Scotland do we not celebrate success rather than focus on the negative, there should be focus on the positive.
So where do we begin to get the town back on track? Can the trend of decline be bucked and a potential niche market rise from the ashes of the blight that is the empty shop, like rotting teeth on our once proud High Street. I firmly believe we can buck the trend.
Individuals who have the town at heart are thinking and acting positively but it seems to be the same old faces. Once more there are plans to bring a cinema or leisure based complex to the site of the former Arnott’s store. Included is a possible bus station with the idea of Paisley becoming a first class transport hub, and with it the foresight for us to be a destination town or outlet town. (These are just ideas at this moment)
The big question is, are we prepared to promote Paisley and not put it down at the first chance we get? I don’t have the answers but I know that there is a growing number of people who are getting behind the town.
The Paisley BID (Business Improvement District) is a concept used by the likes of Falkirk and which has worked well, but this may be a few months or a good year away from happening and it still has to be voted through. Websites like paisley.org.uk who have been promoting the town positively for more than 13 years, as well as groups like the Paisley Development Trust and the Creative Renfrewshire Network are trying their hardest to bring groups and organisations together so we have some joined up thinking to move the town forward. All these things take time, but they also require commitment and dedication, and we are under no illusion that it is an uphill battle, but not impossible.
Get behind the town, don’t knock it, memories are great but the future is far more important…
(Photograph of Paisley Abbey above part of the set of Paisley Photographs for the Renfrewshire Provost Abseil, taken by Alex Kyle for www.paisley.org.uk )