Report of Seminar held with The Scottish Civic Trust on 26th October 2017.
PERTH city centre is outperforming rivals like Dundee and Stirling.
That’s the view of Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at Stirling University.
Addressing a “Perth Past, Present and Future” seminar held at the Royal George Hotel to mark the 50th anniversary of Perth Civic Trust and the Scottish Civic Trust, he said, like other towns and cities across the country, the Fair City faced challenges.
He warned that any town which stood still in terms of enticing people and business would fall behind the competition. They had to be “attractive, active and accessible.”
Professor Spark said Perth enjoyed unique characteristics and maintained: “It is outperforming Stirling and Dundee in any measures and there are lots of good things going on. There is nowhere quite like Perth.”
He pinpointed Perth as “independent and self-reliant with a lot of quality and a self-contained city centre.”
The professor flagged-up the eagerly anticipated opening of department store Beales in the former McEwens St John Street property as a good news story.
“There were good reasons for Beales choosing Perth for their first store in Scotland. It has a catchment which looks to the city for things that are distinctive and different,” he explained.
Professor Spark cautioned that Perth’s independent streak could also be a double-edged sword.
He said: “It can also be a negative as Perth is not as well connected as some in the Central Belt. You are going to have to make more effort to give people a reason for coming here, to stay and play.
“People want memorable and unique experiences. And if you rely on one sector or group you are missing a trick.”
The seminar, chaired by Scottish Civic Trust director John Pelan, also featured Kinross-shire geographer Dr David Munro reflecting on Perth’s past, while the present was addressed by Jim Valentine, depute director of Perth and Kinross Council.
Mr Valentine noted that the local plan, influenced by the business community working with the public sector, envisaged an 11,000 population boost in new homes to the west and north of the city.
He said: “The expansion of Perth is essential if we are to enjoy the quality of life we currently have. This is a place where people want to work, live and invest.”
Key drivers involved new infrastructure – including the link road, an integrated transport hub and enhanced digital capacity - economic prosperity and enterprise, knowledge and learning, the city centre and the visitor experience.
Mr Valentine highlighted major investment in Perth Theatre, the City Hall, the museum, St Catherine’s retail park and the £30 million Mill Quarter designed to lure more visitors to the city, along with successful initiatives like the Winter Festival to support city centre retailers.