A bold vision for Scotland’s first ‘new town’, which would see more than a third demolished, would bring radicial changes to the area amid the decline of in-person shopping habits.
The plans for the redevelopment of East Kilbride town centre would create a new heart with a mix of urban living and civic areas.
Local residents, businesses and community groups are now being asked for their input on the proposals which would include the reduction of 42% of retail floorspace, up to 400 new homes and a new civic hub.
The plans also include a food supermarket as the anchor retailer, and a transformation of entrance points potentially including a hotel.
The ambitious proposals are a collaboration between South Lanarkshire Council, town centre asset managers, property experts and architects.
Mark Hewett, director at Scoop Asset Management, said: “The EK masterplan has been created in response to the unprecedented economic challenges facing not only East Kilbride but town and city centres across the country.
“We are confident that this visionary mixed-use development, which will see a transformation of EK town centre, will pave the way for future investment in the town over the coming years.”
Four key parts of the shopping centre have been identified for significant change, including the demolition of the Centre West area to create space for the new neighbourhood, which would feature a mix of private and affordable housing, from flats for first time buyers and downsizers to larger homes.
Anthony Hubbert, of Threesixty architects, said that following the original mixed-use vision for East Kilbride town centre in 1947, retail had increasingly come to dominate until changing shopping habits in recent times.
This has primarily been a result of the rise of online shopping together with financial pressures, which have led to the decline of in-person shopping.
East Kilbride town centre’s current retail centre is about twice the size of other shopping centres such as Silverburn and The Fort. It currently has 75 vacant units and 507,000 square feet of empty floor space.
He said: “Delivering a high-quality urban environment is key. We need to transform the shopping centre from an island in the middle of East Kilbride into the heart of the town by creating a permeable, safe and accessible environment.”
The new Civic Hub would boast a flagship building that could have a range of uses across the public sector, the arts and education.
This would be paired with a civic square that will create a new meeting place and access point to the town centre.
The council say active negotiations are also under way regarding the introduction of a new supermarket, to take over a new space at the current Olympia Mall entrance.
The hotel, which would be part of a redevelopment to replace the ageing entrance area near the bus station at Princes Mall, is also under negotiation.
It is hoped the plans will generate employment in the short-term through construction jobs and longer-term retail and leisure jobs.
Local spending with a return to town centre life could also be increased.
There are also a range of environmental conscious aspects to the plans including making cars a less dominant part of the landscape with access points for pedestrians, plus public transport connections.
The council say construction would adhere to decarbonisation principles and would seek to reuse and recycle materials wherever possible.
David Booth, executive director of community and enterprise, said South Lanarkshire Council was involved in a number of roles – as owner and occupier of parts of the town centre and as the planning and roads authority.
He said: “We are also the effective custodians of the town centre and we want a successful East Kilbride as part of a successful South Lanarkshire. Without strategic intervention the town centre will continue to decline and fall further behind its neighbours. We therefore need to show ambition in order to realise the town’s potential.”
Alistair McAlinden, head of Interpath Advisory in Scotland and joint administrator of shopping centre owners Sapphire, said: “We welcome the publication of this masterplan, which outlines a bold and exciting vision for the future of the centre of East Kilbride. We look forward to working closely with all key stakeholders over the months ahead.”
An initial phase of public and stakeholder consultation was launched on Monday with drop-ins available at a dedicated shop in East Kilbride Town Centre as well as a project website that will be launched on September 18.