Town of the future unveiled
Shoppers' paradise? This artist's impression shows a new vision for Haddington High Street.
Report predicts Haddington could be nation's best town
EXPERTS who have compiled a vision to help transform Haddington believe the town's High Street should become "the best town square in Scotland".
But they have warned: "Keeping the status quo is not an option."
Haddington's community groups have welcomed the findings of an independent £20,000 study on the town's centre led by Edinburgh-based consultants Urban Animation, released this week.
They commissioned the study in the face of toughening economic times and on the back of a November 2011 report which showed at least 10 town centre business could consider closing within three years.
Five themes and eight key actions for Haddington's future have been identified as the culmination of the views of hundreds of town residents who were spoken to during a comprehensive consultation process earlier this year.
Community groups will now form a Community Development Trust (CDT) to implement the vision, with costs yet to be established.
Collective responsibility has also been encouraged by the study, which states: "To make this vision a reality, everyone who cares about the future of the town centre needs to play their part."
Joe Forte, chair of Haddington Business Association - one of the community groups which commissioned the vision - said: "As local traders we spend our lives talking to Haddington's people and it's great to see that their enthusiasm about the town's potential is endorsed by an independent study.
"We have so much going for us and with the right support the town can easily be transformed."
Jan Wilson, chair of Haddington Community Council, said: "The report identifies an exciting opportunity and future for Haddington. It's now down to all of us to realise the town's potential and the real work starts now."
While Andrew Robinson - chair of Haddington and District Amenity Society (HADAS) and chair of the Haddington vision committee - added: "Working with the consultants has released energy and enthusiasm within the town and we look forward to taking the ideas forward and converting them into an action programme for the future."
When Haddington residents were asked what they liked about the town during a series of consultation events, replies described it as "a beautiful place" and "a good place to live".
The variety of shops, sense of community, range of facilities, activities and festivals were also mentioned by many, as was the proximity to Edinburgh and the East Lothian countryside.
However, many commented on there not being enough to do, the 'shabbiness' of the town centre, and an unsatisfactory relationship between pedestrians and traffic.
The five themes identified for Haddington in the vision are: Haddington acting as East Lothian's hub; "telling the story" of the town; "a special place" which is among the most appealing towns in Scotland; a creative and enterprising future; and collective responsibility.
The key actions that will put these themes into place involve turning Haddington High Street into potentially the "best town square in Scotland"; an access strategy for the town centre; bringing town assets "to life"; re-using empty buildings; marketing Haddington town centre; forming the CDT; getting "more local products onto supermarket and shop shelves"; and engaging the town's "enterprising youth".
"Haddington's High Street should be one of the best town squares in Scotland: a vibrant and attractive focus for town centre trade and activity," the vision states.
"It is not difficult to imagine a bustling space where cafes and shops spread out onto widened pavements, with attractive places for people to meet, linger and enjoy themselves.
"Getting about on foot should be much easier; car access and parking, whilst important, should be less dominant.
"Keeping the status quo is not an option for the high street. The quality of the space, and its sense of place, must be given higher priority."
Another key focus is forming "a dedicated marketing and communications strategy" - including a "greatly enhanced web presence for the town".
The report's immediateto lead and implement the vision, establish priorities and detail costs.
A steering committee, including the community groups and East Lothian Council, has already been set up to establish the trust which it hopes to do by early autumn.
Mr Robinson explained: "Local people, local groups and the council will need to work together to determine the shape and form of the trust and discussion is already under way in the steering committee.
"It will obtain resources through the management of assets and an example of this might be the council's vacant offices on Lodge Street which could be leased out for social and private enterprise workspaces, evening entertainment and youth enterprise as well as providing a home for the trust itself.
"It will be open to the trust to take on other activities such as the establishing of a caravan/camp site which would help to draw in visitors and potential sites for this exist to the east of the town."
Before then, the steering committee plans to present the document at a public meeting - look out for the launch date in the Courier.
A copy of the vision has been made available to be viewed at the main desk in Haddington's John Gray Centre.
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Aug 2, 11:04
I appreciate that the economic times are hard, but many local traders seem to be doing little to help themselves. Many of the shops have paint flaking off the shop fronts, uninspiring signage and absolutely no presence on the internet.
Recommend? Yes 20 No 0
The Bald One.
Aug 2, 14:17
I think that Haddington Resident is correct - but these are key issues to be addressed by the Vision project. The majority of traders in Haddington are independent and with the best will in the world, I would question the cost-effectiveness of "stand alone" websites. As the article points out, "Another key focus is forming "a dedicated marketing and communications strategy" - including a "greatly enhanced web presence for the town". Far better to have a web strategy for the town than for independent businesses. And www.shophaddington.co.uk is worth a look at.
Recommend? Yes 9 No 1
Aug 2, 16:35
It would be wonderful to see Haddington become the best it can be, but the reality is retail costs there are way above what most small businesses can sustain.
Business owners also need to learn to invest in some decent branding and presentation.
Having individual websites for businesses where they can engage directly and imaginatively with their clientele through a blog is a brilliant low cost way to build a customer base these days - they shouldn't be relying on an 'umbrella' site to take the responsibility for that essential and important task.
Recommend? Yes 10 No 1
Aug 3, 08:55
The Bald One and InTheNameOfBetsy are both right, you need a means of marketing the town as a whole, but the individual businesses also need their own websites/facebookpages etc and to have them all interlinked. So People can keep up to date with their favorite shop or business in Haddington, as well as getting general town news on events.
Also, don't just concentrate on the retails businesses in Haddington, we need to encompass all businesses in Haddington, and show to all how we will promote a business here as a town, as this will encourage new business to the area, and help the town grow, and create new jobs for local people.
Recommend? Yes 9 No 0
Aug 3, 14:42
Aug 5, 23:14
We dont really need a website unless it is done well, and shopowners are trained on digital technology. To that end they would need good (free) wifi across the main business streets in the town as digital hubs are the future of the economy. Haddington needs higher speed Internet. Several historic buildings are now crumbling or in bad repair (ESP roofs) and the council should slam any owners who have broken their legal title to maintain a property. The oldest part of the town (Back of Brown Street) is an absolute disgrace. Reopen the railway line if you are serious about improving tourist numbers and the town's number of shoppers, and invest in an electric engine town bus service (green travel), and provide better cycle routes / places to chain bikes.
Recommend? Yes 3 No 0
East of East Lothian
Aug 7, 09:21
Here's a thought. The George Hotel is clearly not viable anymore. No-one is interested in taking it on. Meanwhile it rots away on the high street becoming ever more derelict and dragging the whole place down.
Could the council not buy it (bound to pick it up cheap after all this time) and convert it into council flats?
Recommend? Yes 4 No 5
Aug 10, 07:02
The Bald One...
Aug 10, 15:56
Aug 13, 11:29
Like I said in my earlier post, smartening up the town centre with a lick of paint and some nicer (whilst still sympathetic to the building) signage is the first step. Then a website for your business would be good. Unlike North Berwick, Haddington won't attract the same kind of 'trip to the seaside' trade. People need to know what you sell, what your opening hours are etc etc before bothering to make the trip. It's a no brainer. After the website you need to think about a Facebook and Twitter presence, special offers and so on. Anything to entice people. If you rely on passing footfall then you might as well forget it.
Recommend? Yes 6 No 0