Paisley, Bus Stations and Regeneration

I’ll blame @garyckerr for this one, he’s tweeting about #paisleybusstation

I grew up in Paisley in the 1970’s and 80’s and back then you caught a bus around the Piazza Centre.

Barrhead or Glenburn outside of Presto on Gilmour Street.
Renfrew Ferry under the multistorey car park.
Foxbar ones were at the What Every’s on Smithhills Street.
Glasgow Road or Gallowhill were outside Goldbergs on Gauze Street
Johnstone or Linwood buses were on the other side.

Between the four faces of the Piazza, it covered the main bus flows, either east/west between Glasgow and Johnstone or North/South between Renfrew and Barrhead.

Much has changed, bus were deregulated in the mid-80’s and we saw Western become Clydeside and Clydeside become Arriva and now McGill’s who bought out Arriva in Inverclyde turn things on it’s head and buy out Arriva’s operations in Renfrewshire.

The McGill’s I remember ran between Barrhead and Paisley and sometimes onto Renfrew Ferry, they had bendybuses and girl conductors long before Clydeside bought the London buses.

Paisley changed through the 80’s and 90’s and had a life to it.

You could go a fair way from Silk Street through Arnotts, into the Piazza, onto the High Street, down New Street and onto Causeyside Street and then back up St Mirren Brae.

Into the heart of that they built the Paisley Centre extending back the Littlewoods and Marks and Spencer shops and taking back into use the Old Co-operative buildings with a department store.

The Paisley Centre preserved frontages on the High Street, gave the town a McDonald’s which at one point was a high water mark as such things hadn’t been seen before. In many ways a clever development smack bang inside an old town centre.

The nineties saw a lively town, new housing developments on old industrial sites and a tarting up of some of the schemes.

All well and good, but some other stuff happened too, we saw roads improve, the Johnstone bypass, the completion of the Paisley Ring Road, expansion of the Airport and supermarkets coming to town at Linwood then Safeway on Neilston Road.

Things were changing, then in August 1999..

A £3.7 million Paisley Town Centre Regeneration Project was today given the seal of approval by First Minister Donald Dewar and Scottish Secretary John Reid. To mark the successful completion of Phase 2 of the pedestrianisation scheme Mr Dewar and Mr Reid jointly laid a commemorative plaque in Gilmour Street.

Speaking during the visit Mr Dewar said:

“I am delighted to be in Paisley today to celebrate the successful completion of Paisley’s £3.7 million pedestrianisation scheme. The renewal of County Square and Gilmour Street has transformed the heart of the town. Paisley should rightly be proud of the efforts to make its centre more accessible, improve the environment and stimulate new development.

The Braehead Shopping Centre opened in September 1999.

Paisley has never seen a branch of the likes of Next, Costa Coffee or Starbucks.

The Paisley Centre has a string of vacant shops despite the anchors of Marks and Spencer and Boots and the High Street itself has few multiple retailers and plenty of vacant shops.

The Piazza centre faced similar issues, but slowly and surely it’s almost fully occupied and is a reflection of good management by its owners.

A Braehead scheme was always likely to happen as roads improved and car use increased, it seemed for a while likely to happen out at Linwood.

The problem is pedestrianisation of the High Street and Gilmour Street.

The main routes through Paisley were cut. Bringing back public transport along both streets would be my suggestion, nothing that grand a vision, but taking back a flow along the high street.

No bus station required, but a return for Gilmour Street in handling buses and making an axis run through the town. Crossing points from the Piazza to County Square and the Railway Station could be made and equally buses could be marshalled past the cenotaph allowing a crossing there.

Plans for that exist, Renfrewshire Council have certainly looked at, but are yet to act.

If you want my take on the High Street, it’s solvable if money is brought to bear, the vacant shops are owned by a dispersed bunch of landlords, as investors big or small, retail forms a portion of their portfolio. In some cases they got unlucky, saw the rise of Paisley in the late 80’s and early 90’s an bought in, to then find that they’re tenants left them. In other cases they’ve picked on a bargain at Auction and are hoping for a upswing.

Retailers have maps, plans, footfall analysis, spending patterns and demographics. Each store opening decision is carefully weighed as fit out costs and staffing stores are expensive, going for a Braehead or Silverburn is expensive in rent, but certain to see shoppers.

Paisley Gilmour Street is one of Scotland’s top ten most busily used railway stations.

Three Million passengers use it every year according to Network Rail in that article. A lot of journeys by regular commuters many walk, many get the bus too.

People don’t just go to Glasgow for work or education, but a fair number also come off to work or education in Paisley too. The University and Reid Kerr College will attract in young people. Journey are made to and from the airport too.

The numbers are there, the confidence in Paisley isn’t. Retailers followed each other out of Paisley in a spiral of cost cutting, they’ll equally follow others back in if they’re given the incentive to do so.

Retailers will follow success, so my shout is as follows.

1. Reopen the High Street, Gilmour Street and Moss Street to Buses only.

2. Reestablish a pattern of bus stops as existed prior to pedestrianisation.

3. Invest in quality canopies as shelters for passengers and ideally real time information in conjunction with bus operators.

4. Selectively buy out the leases on a number of High Street shops and offer landlords 25 year lease guaranteed by public funds. Ideally buy the shops where possible.

5. Refurbish the shop fronts and clear interiors and employ local companies to do so.

6. Offer retailers first two years rent free in these shops to reflect their fit out and reduced lease terms up to the tenth year.

7. Offer retailers assistance recruiting locally and a proportion of wages in recruiting either modern apprentices or long term unemployed.

8. At least one community based use within the group of shops in a high quality unit with funding guaranteed for at least a five year period.

I’d also want to see Renfrewshire push for the extension of any Clyde Fastlink routes from Braehead into Paisley and the Airport. These services must come into the Piazza bus stops and link to Gilmour Street Station.

Renfrewshire should also push to get the offices at Smithhills Street and Gilmour Street fully occupied as a way to bring employment into town if the Scottish Government can devolve departments to the highlands it can do so into Paisley too.

Anyway. That’s my view. Thanks for reading and thanks to Gary for inspiring me to blog again.


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