Clydebank from the air with the Golden Jubilee Hospital’s green roofs bottom centre and Dalmuir and the Forth and Clyde Canal and Duntocher Road to the left. Bottom of page: Dumbarton Town Centre from the air.
02 October 2023
By Bill Heaney
West Dunbartonshire is to benefit from another £20 million investment over the next decade as part of a drive to improve towns by focusing on local priorities.
That’s the £20 million already in the kitty for a revamp of Dumbarton Town Centre by Boris Johnston in his short-lived term as Prime Minister.
And now there is another £20 million for a face-lift at Clydebank’s crumbling Clyde Shopping Centre.
It appears to be a blessing, but big political changes – and rapidly changing shopping habits – over the next two years could mean it will never come to fruition.
And there is so much scepticism around the Westminster parliament no one is quite sure how long it will continue to operate.
Clydebank was one of 55 areas throughout the UK to receive the funding as part of the Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Government’s Long Term Plan for Towns initiative.
This is part of a plan to persuade people to vote Conservative at the General Election next year after which Labour will have the power to change it.
How West Dunbartonshire Council will be able to attract new shops and businesses to its three almost derelict town centres in Dumbarton, Alexandria and now Clydebank, is a mystery which no one in power appears to be prepared to speculate about.
A call from The Democrat to Jackie Baillie, the Dumbarton MSP and Deputy leader of Scottish Labour, initially received no response, and the SNP, including their Clydebank MSP Marie McNair and MP Martin Docherty Hughes, the MP, remain reluctant to speak with us lest we offend d them, as they claim we did, about five years ago.
Jackie Baillie later commented: “Whilst investment in our towns is always welcome, this is a clear tactic from the Tories to curry favour with Scots ahead of the next General Election.
“It is frustrating that it is being handed out randomly after West Dunbartonshire Council went through a lengthy process to apply for Levelling Up funding for Dumbarton Town Centre.
“The truth is that we are being failed by two governments, the SNP in Holyrood and the Tories in Westminster. Had we had proper investment by both governments over the years, we wouldn’t need such large sums to overhaul our failing town centres.
“Only Labour can change the fortunes of our communities moving forward.”
West Dunbartonshire Council successfully applied for Levelling Up funding in 2021 to deliver three projects which will enhance Dumbarton Town Centre, but they have never been quite able to explain in plain language what they will do and when they will do it.
The Council’s spin doctors own unattributed take on it is that West Dunbartonshire Council “will work with local people to develop plans for use of the endowment-style funding, taking long-term action to enhance the town in a place-centred approach.
Dame Jackie Baillie and Labour Cllrs David McBride and Gurdeep Singh Johal are still canvassing for ideas for Dumbarton Town Centre.
“This could include work to regenerate high streets; strengthen anti-social behavior powers to make streets safer; improve transport and grow the local economy.
“As part of the approach, engagement will be undertaken with the community to deliver a plan for consultation.
“Regeneration powers can also be used with the funding, including unlocking additional private sector investment in the area by auctioning off empty high street shops; reforming licensing rules on shops and restaurants and supporting housing in urban centres.”
It is heartening to know that the Council has at last got a few ideas to investigate since their attempts so far to bring both Dumbarton and Alexandria’s town centres into the 21st century have been abysmal up to now.
The announcement about auctioning off empty shops, reforming licensing rules on shops and restaurants and “supporting housing in urban centres” is new and needs to be explained.
The Council are still advertising for the public to come to their assistance on this matter since even yet after years under SNP control and now run by a Labour administration their own in-house ideas appear thin on the ground.
Labour councillor David McBride and Alexandria town centre.
Councillor David McBride, Convener of Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Clydebank will benefit from this funding which allows us to continue to build upon the successes we have already had in regenerating the area.”
Having raised not a few eyebrows with that statement, he added: “West Dunbartonshire Council has a successful track record in engaging with local communities to ensure there is a long-term plan for each of our areas.”
There is little evidence on the ground to back up this statement, apart from botched projects such as painting Station Road red and a few other colours.
Cllr McBride claims further: “”We have a head start with our existing Town Centre Development Framework for Clydebank, which was developed based upon local priorities, and I look forward to working with local people to deliver on their vision of putting the heart back into Clydebank.
“Together with Levelling Up Fund projects in Dumbarton Town Centre, and the Alexandria Masterplan, this investment in Clydebank will ensure improvements are seen by residents right across West Dunbartonshire for years to come.”
The Alexandria Masterplan is yet to be unleashed on the unsuspecting public who have had to suffer shopping in the dystopian Mitchell Way for years now.
Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, Vice Convener of Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, added: “I am so pleased for the people of Clydebank who will see the benefit of this funding for generations.
“The 10-year fund approach to town centre regeneration as it means there is time to consider what the best way forward is, and engage with local people to ensure their priorities are reflected, before putting that into action.
“It is right that decisions like these should be made by people who care about the area; people who know the challenges faced and have the knowledge of the town in order to make meaningful change.
“Clydebank has a proud history and heritage, and I can’t wait to see how we put this money to good use to not only attract more visitors, but make changes that will improve the day to day life of our residents.”