South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called on the Scottish Government to provide financial backing to plans by a community group to take ownership of empty properties in Dumfries High Street to develop the buildings for housing and business space.

The local MSP made the call in the Scottish Parliament when he questioned Kevin Stewart, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning on the issue of the regeneration of Dumfries town centre.

Colin Smyth urged the Minister to make the Midsteeple Quarter Project a Scottish Government pilot scheme. At present, apart from Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Town Centre Living Fund, there are few grants available to the project to fund the purchase of empty properties. With town centres across Scotland suffering from a growing number of empty properties, Colin Smyth believes the Midsteeple Quarter Project could act as an example to the rest of Scotland. But it needs Government funding to make it happen.

Speaking in Parliament Colin Smyth questioned Kevin Stewart and said, “I am aware that the minister has met the Midsteeple Quarter project in Dumfries. Its aim is to take ownership of and refurbish disused buildings to create enterprise space and housing above shops. Does the minister agree that such a project is entirely the type of community-led fightback against the decline of our town centres that the Government should support? Will he consider making the project a pilot scheme that is backed by Government investment, so that the Midsteeple Quarter has the funds to buy back the properties?”

Commenting after the exchange Colin Smyth said, “Dumfries, like market towns across Scotland, has suffered due to online shopping and the rise of out of town developments. The Midsteeple Project totally understands that you cannot go back. You need to find a new vision for our town centres. Their proposals to breathe new life into Dumfries are exciting because they are community led. Too often in the past people expect councils to wave a magic wand despite them having to make huge savings. But the biggest challenge the Midsteeple Quarter Project have is finding the funding to buy the properties. The Government could help with this by making the project a pilot scheme and providing the funding as there could be lessons for towns in the rest of Scotland.”

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