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‘Overlooked’ town investment sparks mixed opinions – BBC News



  • By Giancarlo Rinaldi
  • South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Andrew Martin said the creation of out of town shopping centres had contributed to the town centre’s decline

It has been described as a potential “game-changer” for a south of Scotland town.

Although others have dismissed the £20m pledged by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for “overlooked” places across the UK as a political ploy.

But what do BBC Scotland news website readers make of the announcement and its potential impact?

‘Major mistakes’

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Dumfries is one of seven Scottish towns in line for a £20m investment in a 10-year deal

Andrew Martin from Kirkcudbright said he had seen the “sad decline” of Dumfries over the years.

“Some major mistakes have been made in Dumfries – the creation of shopping centres with big retailers outside the centre have contributed to the decline,” he said.

“Extra funding could give new life to the centre of town, fill empty shop spaces, give new purpose to the old buildings, bring back safe and attractive living spaces to the town centre.”

Alison Walker agreed: “The very centre of Dumfries has very beautiful old buildings and features which need to be renovated with a view to making its main street somewhere that tourists and regular visitors want to shop and sit out in cafes, on pavements that are clean and litter free.”

A wide range of issues were highlighted by Simon Hyslop, from Terregles, one of which was town centre access.

Among the moves he suggested were reversing its pedestrianisation and trying to lure Odeon back to Dumfries or lease their former cinema to a community group.

What about Stranraer?

Image source, Billy McCrorie

Image caption, Some people suggested other towns in the region were more “overlooked” than Dumfries

A number of people reacted by suggesting other places were more “overlooked” than Dumfries.

“Try looking to the west of Dumfries and Galloway and Stranraer who are continually overlooked whilst all the cash gets spent in Dumfries,” said Kevin Borland on X (formerly known as Twitter).

A further reader email said: “Stranraer has little of what Dumfries has and since the ferry company pulled out gets little in the way of visitors whilst the land left by Stena is just an empty overgrown by weeds space and a complete eyesore.”

John Reynolds said that towns like Stranraer and Newton Stewart were “completely starved of cash” and were “dying by the day”.

However, he dismissed the funding as nothing more than an attempt to sway voters.

Travel headaches

Image source, David Dixon

Image caption, The condition of the A75 across the region was highlighted as a factor holding Dumfries back

Ian Maitland from near Thornhill suggested the issue was more to do with infrastructure.

“Dumfries has an excellent town centre, with a thoughtfully-planned pedestrian area, but it is inaccessible to shoppers,” he said.

“Public transport is negligible, so shoppers need to use a car and will tend to go to one of the shopping centres outside the town centre.”

Transport was also an issue flagged up by Andrew Proudlove.

“The main reason for Dumfries’ current overlooked state is probably that the A75 should be a dual carriageway or motorway connecting it to the national motorway network,” he said.

“Instead, it is a slow single lane bottleneck.”

Bowling alley

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Bringing new businesses into empty buildings was a theme with a lot of people

Helen Keen said the town was “run down” and more needed to be done to help new enterprises to open.

“Instead of charity shops it needs the opportunity for entrepreneurs and young businesses to get a start,” she said.

“Fill empty premises with retail, not all coffee shops – have cinemas, libraries, evening classes anything that brings people into the town.”

Eleanor Smith echoed that view and suggested dropping business rates to attract more shops.

“I am not yet 60, but when I was young and educated at Dumfries Academy the High Street was full of independent retailers, likewise Friars Vennel, Bank Street, English Street, Academy Street, Queensberry Street,” she said.

“Now, the entire place is full of empty shops, charity shops and bookmakers.”

Frank Gillan also hoped to see vacant properties brought back into use.

“A bowling alley would be good – we have enough large empty buildings that can accommodate this,” he said.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, One visitor to Dumfries said it had many scenic and attractive areas it should exploit better

Caroline Porter recently stayed for two nights in Dumfries and said it should do more to build on its good qualities.

“On approach the town certainly does look somewhat down on its luck,” she said.

“However, this view was revised as I walked along its riverside paths which are really beautiful, surrounded by greenery, pristine and a credit to locals as there was not a pick of litter.

“The town itself has a most attractive market square and if a walking tour of historic interest and contemporary artist endeavour had been available, I would certainly have joined it.”

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