Scotland’s Best Place

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© Copyright Gordon Czeschel and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

by Heather Cameron

Dundee waterfront has been voted as the winner of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland’s Best Places initiative, beating Loch Lomond and the West Highland Way to the title of ‘best place’ in Scotland.

The competition, part of the RTPI’s 2014 Centenary celebrations and backed by Barton Willmore and the Scottish Government, aimed to find places across Scotland which have been improved by planners, planning and the planning system since 1914. Chair of the initiative’s Expert Panel, Alistair MacDonald, commented in a recent article in Scottish Planner that ‘it has showcased places that have been conserved or that have been built from scratch or close to nothing’.

The initial 55 nominations were reduced to a shortlist of ten. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and the West Highland Way came in second and third place respectively. The other shortlisted entries were: Crown Street in the Gorbals area of Glasgow; East Kilbride New Town; the Forth and Clyde Canal; Lerwick Waterfront; Glasgow’s Merchant City; the Raploch in Stirling; and the Royal Mile and Holyrood North in Edinburgh. A great deal of interest was generated among people and organisations across the country with over 3,700 votes cast, 1,500 more than the RTPI membership in Scotland.

The winner, Dundee waterfront, is mid-way through a £1 billion regeneration programme, to create a high-quality, mixed-use, riverside urban quarter. The project covers an 8km stretch of the River Tay’s banks, with the city’s £45 million branch of the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum, due to open in 2017, at its heart. The area is divided into five focused zones: Riverside; Seabraes; The Central Waterfront, City Quay and Dundee Port. Plans include a new train station, a marina and a huge urban park.

Businesses are expecting significant growth potential with a further 9,000 jobs created through the project, increased tourism and investment. The development has been ranked as the third most active regeneration project (Planning magazine, April 2013) and is expected to become Scotland’s first sustainable community (BREEAM), offering the benefit of lower whole life development costs.

The masterplan which guides the project was designed in-house and issued in 2001. It has been described by the RTPI as ‘sufficiently robust to continue to guide development’ while also containing ‘sufficient flexibility to accommodate the inevitable changing social, environmental and economic circumstances’. Dundee’s approach to masterplanning has been described in a recent article in SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law), which explains that it follows a loosely defined urban framework, rather than a very detailed plan.

Despite the strong competition from the other shortlisted entries, ranging from outstanding countryside to greatly enhanced urban areas, it has been suggested that ‘Dundee offers the best of both worlds — countryside and spectacular views from within and outwith the city’ (Evening Telegraph, 4 April 2014).

The importance of the other places shortlisted for the competition shouldn’t be underestimated, however, as they have all been built, enhanced or protected by planners and the planning system since 1914, one of the key criteria for selection. In addition to this, they:

  • have had a significant positive and sustainable impact socially, environmentally and economically;
  • are best practice in planning;
  • have benefitted from the important role played by planners and the planning system;
  • and are nationally significant and important to Scotland.

These awards come at an important time for planning in Scotland with the publication of a new National Planning Framework and new Scottish Planning Policy document, each having a renewed emphasis on place making and highlighting the importance of delivering good place outcomes. In addition to this, Glasgow City Council’s Central Govan Action Plan, a community-led regeneration scheme, has won the UK and Ireland’s premier planning award, The RTPI Silver Jubilee Cup.

Further reading (you may need to be a member to access some material):

Scotland’s Best Places, IN Scottish Planner, No 158 Jun 2014, pp9-20

Dundee’s waterfront voted ‘best place’ in Scotland

Ambition, opportunity, place: Scotland’s third national planning framework

Scottish planning policy

Masterplanning: key aspects from Dundee (Dundee Waterfront Masterplan), IN Scottish Planning and Environmental Law, No 162 Apr 2014, pp32-33

On the waterfront (Dundee Waterfront development), IN Scottish Planner, No 145 Feb 2012, p9

Delivery of regeneration in Scotland: first report, 2014 (Session 4) (SP Paper 476)

Scottish Government response to the Local Government and Regeneration Committee report on the delivery of regeneration in Scotland

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