A few weeks ago my SNP colleagues and I hosted a public meeting on the future of Hamilton’s town centre.
As someone who was born and raised in Hamilton, I care deeply about the town and want to see it thrive.
At the meeting we discussed the progress that has been made since the launch of the ‘Our Town, Your Voice’ report.
We spoke of the progression of Wetherspoon’s planning application and the possibility of a development at the old Hamilton Town Hotel.
Both sites – currently unsightly and often used to tell the story of Hamilton’s decline – are key to its future success.
If both plans are realised, which I am confident they will be, the wooden boards covering the windows of Bairds and the Town Hotel will be replaced by functioning spaces, and instead of turning people away from Hamilton, they will attract people to visit the town.
The ambitious development of a Premier Inn on Townhead Street has the potential to completely regenerate an underused part of the town.
However, filling these two prominent buildings – although a significant step in the right direction – will not bring people, business and jobs to the town on their own.
I have have always been clear that there is no silver bullet that will fix all of Hamilton’s problems.
Instead, with a clear strategy and with residents buy-in, Hamilton can show what a successful, modern town centre can achieve.
Since becoming the new Council Administration, the SNP have been a driving force behind the efforts to regenerate town centres – not only in Hamilton, but across South Lanarkshire.
Their Hamilton Town Centre Strategy published last month goes into detail about how we can change our town for the better.
It outlines a range of actions that they plan to introduce over the short and long term, including opening up Quarry Street to traffic, reviewing the parking management system and the one-way system, installing WiFi in the town centre in partnership with the Business Improvement District and identifies a number of potential development sites in the town.
At the meeting we also spoke of increasing community participation and engagement in Hamilton and I was delighted to see attendees buy into the idea of setting up a resident’s organisation to oversee the progress of the Council’s Strategy and provide ideas to contribute to the development of the plan.
Scotland’s town partnership carried out an audit of Hamilton’s town centre.
In it they highlighted a number of challenges that we face and will continue to encounter.
But they said that one of Hamilton’s biggest assets is its sense of civic pride and the strength of feeling that people from Hamilton have for the town.
If we can harness that pride and energy into an organised group, then we can collectively shape Hamilton’s future.
Like every town across Europe, we face huge challenges ahead.
But if we take the opportunities from the challenges and remove the barriers to people visiting our town, we can and will regenerate Hamilton.