The determination of a Glasgow community to transform its fortunes has been hailed as a trailblazing inspiration.
The people of Possilpark, in the north of the city, have created the UK’s first Community Improvement District, spearheaded by the group Remaking Saracen.
It’s a move that is bringing residents, businesses and organisations of all kinds together, empowering them to take action needed for the area to prosper.
Centred on Saracen Street – the district’s main thoroughfare and shopping area – it’s work that is already making an impact.
With complaints about decades of underinvestment, Remaking Saracen has already kickstarted a programme of shopfront improvements, enhanced street cleaning and encouraging people to get behind businesses as part of the Scotland Loves Local campaign.
This work – and more – is the beginning of what supporters hope will be an ongoing drive to build on community pride and tackle anti-social behaviour while improving the look, feel and fortunes of the area.
It’s the first time anywhere in the UK has embraced the Improvement District model – best known for its Business Improvement District work throughout the country – in this way to bring the wider community together to decide its priorities and take action.
That’s made financially possible by monies raised through a levy paid by business owners in the area, which is levered to attract greater investment.
The model is one that communities across the country are being urged to embrace to help drive their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the climate emergency and cost of living crisis.
Remaking Saracen’s work has been supported by Scotland’s Improvement Districts (SIDs), the organisation driving the expansion improvement districts nationally.
SIDs’ national programme director Phil Prentice said: “The work being led by Remaking Saracen in Possilpark really is an inspiration, pulling the whole community together in order to make a positive difference.
“It’s galvanised people in a way that will be a trailblazer for other places across the country, showing how the improvement district model can be completely inclusive and deliver for all.
“We are telling community leaders across Scotland – and further afield – about how this has worked for Possilpark and how it can work for them.
“I expect lots more Community Improvement Districts to be developed, thanks to the lead that’s been taken by Remaking Saracen.”
Housing provider ng homes made history by becoming the first registered social landlord to be the anchor organisation of an improvement district by getting behind Remaking Saracen.
It has played a key role in drawing businesses and the wider community together.
John Devine, chief executive of ng homes, said: “We’re delighted at how the improvement district has put the area on the map.
“Our hope is that the improvement district kickstarts Saracen Street and stimulates more investment in the area. Creating a place where people want to stop and shop will lead to more activity from which everyone benefits.
“If other communities can benefit and learn from what we’re doing here, that can only be a good thing.”
Scotland’s Improvement Districts – and the wider Scotland’s Towns Partnership family – have supported Remaking Saracen to get it off the ground and to start making its mark, with much of that work taking place despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
Brian Kelly, chair of Remaking Saracen and owner of Eyepad Opticians on Saracen Street, said: “With a commitment to working together for positive change and the energy that brings, things are on the up and looking very positive.”
Gary Walker, of Walker’s Butchers on Saracen Street, added: “This is a great way for us all to work together and make our voice heard. We always hear people say how good Saracen Street was. We want to make it that way again.”
Scotland’s Improvement Districts is urging communities of all kinds across the country to consider what model of district could deliver for their area as they build for a better future with localism at its heart. Start the discussion by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.