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Small towns are home to many Scots; they are places that contribute significantly to Scotland’s economy, identity and national well-being. They are of cultural importance: their buildings, streets and parks tell Scotland’s story.

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How do you evaluate a landscape? It is a question that lies at the heart of decision-making on controversial developments in the countryside, such as wind farms or new highways. Since the 1970s landscape evaluation has become a very technocratic process, much to the frustration of many non-professionals who may care deeply about a place but feel their views count for little.


Town centres are dying. The economic crisis has highlighted the malaise. There are empty shops, as people head to the edge of town supermarket. Internet shopping replaces the trip to the store downtown. Prominent buildings once used for public functions such as town halls, post offices or churches stand empty too, as services have been rationalised or public attitudes have changed.

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Water. Can’t live without it. From different places across the world comes news of growing crises in access to this most basic resource.

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The news that the Qatari emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has bought six islands in the Ionian Sea for 8.5m Euro is a further indication of changing relations between Europe and its neighbourhood. The EU - and those of us who live in it - still see Europe as the centre of the world. After all that’s what our maps show us and how our daily news bulletins are packaged. This world view is built on a long history during which time - for good and for ill - this small continent really did lead the world.

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“The planning system has a significant role in supporting sustainable economic growth in rural areas.” This statement is from the Scottish Government’s Planning Policy. However, planning decisions in rural Scotland can often be very controversial, as Cliff Hague explains in his new blog post.

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How can we make the places safer and more secure? I was prompted to ask this by the gang-rape and murder of a young woman in India that was given so much coverage in the news internationally. I did a bit of research on what women’s groups have been doing in India to focus the attention of planners, designers and police on the issues of sexual harassment and assault.

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Cliff Hague, Professor Emeritus, urban and regional planner, academic, theorist and author of the ICN blog recently went to Cyprus where he visited Paphos, European City of Culture 2017. But according to Cliff Hague Paphos is a rather unlikely City of Culture. One that is worth to have a closer look at.


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Hurricane Sandy was the largest tropical storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, covering an area 900 miles across, with 150km per hour winds bringing torrential rain. We have all been stunned by the impact that it has had on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. Without in any way belittling this, it is important to remember that it is not just the USA that has suffered.

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The idea that place is important – economically, socially and environmentally - has gathered pace in recent years. Therefore the new book Shaping Places: Urban Planning, Design and Development is welcome. It is written by David Adams and the late Steve Tiesdell, colleagues at the University of Glasgow before Steve’s untimely death in 2011.


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I am just back from spending 3 weeks in Oregon. What can IC members learn from that beautiful part of the world? Oregon in the Pacific North-West of theUSA shares a number of features with the Baltic Sea Region (BSR).

Meeting Place II_300x206The idea of making your town more attractive has been central to the Trans-in-Form INTERREG project in which several IC members are partners. Now an ESPON Report from the “ATTREG” project has researched this project and published its findings. It points to the fact that some of the places that have been seen as being very successful in the recent past are now struggling to sustain their success.

There is much concern at present about the plight of town centres, especially in small and medium-sized towns. There are many more empty shops as the economic problems hit consumers and businesses. However, there are also structural Winchester high street_300x271underlying problems. The growth and convenience of large edge-of-town supermarkets and retail warehouses has badly impacted on businesses based in traditional retailing units in the town centre.


Place brand management is the theme of an article in the current issue of Town and Country Planning, the excellent little magazine produced by the Town and Country Planning Association. Its authors, Sonya Hanna and Jennifer Rowley, Beach huts, Herne Bay_300x199stress the need to involve stakeholders in the process. This means not just local residents, but also visitors and businesses. They argue that branding is not only an exercise in marketing: rather the experience of the place is central to the process.


The fact that you are reading this blog suggests that you are used to getting information from the internet. In turn, I get a buzz from knowing that there are readers out there in, and maybe even beyond, “Innovation Circle Land”, who take the helloottawatime to read what I write and, hopefully, get new ideas. Even a decade ago it was hard to imagine just how web 2.0 would grow into the multiplicity of global interactions that connect the planet today.


Community Archaeology

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The Isle of Bute is situated off the west coast of Scotland. It is peripheral to the periphery, and has all the added problems that come with being an island. Unemployment is high, incomes are low, houses are small, people with higher education are few. It suffered as tourism changed. In the middle of the last century, the shipbuilders and steel workers from industrial Clydeside flocked to the island for their annual week’s holiday. Those days of full employment and local vacations are long gone.  However, Bute’s scenery and setting still offer qualities that are not readily available elsewhere and attract some to retire there.