The findings from four independent town centre surveys undertaken in Girvan, Maybole, Prestwick and Troon have been presented to local businesses and community representatives in a series of information briefings – with results from a fifth survey, undertaken in Ayr – to be presented on Monday 1 December 2014.
Commissioned by the Council, the independent surveys (funded by the ERDF INTERREG IVA BIDS Project) asked South Ayrshire shoppers, residents and businesses for their views on their town centres – and encouraged feedback on how these might be improved.
In addition, the survey questioned how people used their local town centres for shopping, recreation, leisure and as a visitor destination.
Business and community representatives were invited to each of the information sessions – with further feedback encouraged and recorded on the findings.
Individual, detailed reports for each town are now being prepared and will be available online from South Ayrshire Council's website from Monday 8 December, after the Ayr session has completed and feedback noted.
In brief, the main findings from each town session were:
- Girvan presented a mixed picture for the town centre with positive community support from shoppers and residents expressed towards the town retail services and environment. However, there was a contrary and less positive view among the businesses. Empty shops came up as an issue and like Maybole shopping leakage towards Ayr was seen as an issue. At the feedback session the positives from the findings about Girvan where re-enforced by those present but felt it was felt that there is the need to get the positive message out more widely to other south Ayrshire towns.
- Maybole results indicated that the majority of town centre use is by local residents, with positive levels of local community support for shops and services. Those attending that the findings show traffic concerns in the town centre and that Maybole faces considerable challenges in minimising shopping 'leakage' from people going to Ayr town centre.
- Prestwick shoppers and residents said the town had a good variety of quality retail outlets, food and drink restaurants. Parking, traffic and public seating were flagged as concerns, but, on balance, the survey findings showed that it was seen as a well maintained town centre with a positive feel.
- Troon results showed a positive picture for the town, with a high recognition of its quality shops and local business. Those attending the feedback session were surprised by residents suggesting the town needed more discount stores. Some retailers indicated that some shoppers feel Troon only had shops offering expensive goods – and this might be driving some shoppers away from town.
Commenting on the first four information sessions, Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council said: "The town centre surveys were undertaken by an independent research firm who interviewed shoppers, businesses and residents, so we could get a really good handle on what people thought – and what was actually happening.
"I'm especially pleased the results of the survey have been made available so quickly and it's clear that people are passionate about their towns.
"What really came across was the consistency in what people said at the time of the survey and the feedback being received at the sessions.
"Both the findings and the feedback point to some interesting differences in how residents use their town centres and how local businesses perceive this. We need to get behind this and find out how – and why – those differences arise and how we can work to close any gaps.
"The information sessions offer an excellent insight into how we can improve the support we offer our town centre businesses and shops in order to help build prosperous, sustainable and vibrant town centres.
"In turn, these will benefit and attract our local residents, more businesses and shops, as well as visitors and, working together, that's a great ambition for us all to aim at!"