Town qualities shine through

Cupar town centre with its historic buildings (Photo by Dave Scott)
Cupar town centre with its historic buildings (Photo by Dave Scott)

Cupar - “a successful small town” - has used its accessibility, high-quality historic environment, good public services and well-regarded educational institutions to adjust to change over the last 40 years.

This is among the findings of a report on the town, produced by Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) chairman, Professor Emeritus Cliff Hague and Amanda Sherrington, who visited Cupar during the summer.

Last year, the Scottish Government commissioned a report on town centres while, separately, BEFS looked at a selection of smaller towns.

The BEFS report on Cupar came about following an invitation from Cupar and North Preservation Society.

The nine-page report on the former County Town looks at its history and examines several issues, such as transport infrastructure, community engagement and the changing role of the town centre.

It points out that much of the population growth was accommodated in, and driven by, new low-density suburban housing.

“Administrative and economic changes pose threats to the use and maintenance of properties that have played an important functional and visual role in defining Cupar.

“Investment in new development to accommodate growth needs to be balanced with reinvestment in the historic fabric if the town is to continue to thrive.

“To achieve this, cooperation will be needed between investors, local government, historic environment agencies, and, not least, community organisations.

“ The future of the town centre is crucial,” states the report

A “positive feature” that had helped the town to remain attractive was the active engagement of some of its citizens.

“During the summer, this is most apparent in the work of Cupar in Bloom.

“This is a voluntary group formed in 2004, which has enthusiastically and successfully initiated a town beautification project.”

BEFS adds that such local initiatives project “extremely positive messages.”

Gateways to the town have “strong visual markers,” creating an immediate feeling that Cupar is an attractive place.

While there has been recent improvements to the traffic flow in the town centre, there is little provision for cyclists.

The Haugh Park added to the appeal of the core of the town, although the River Eden generally remained an under-used asset, even as it passed along the side of the park.

Commenting on the changing role of the town centre, the report says that while the situation in Cupar is not as problematic as in some towns, there are signs of fragility and a risk of that deterioration could inflict “long lasting damage” to the town.

The report adds that while empty shops are not conspicuous, “the presence of charity shops is.”

Turning to the proposed Cupar North plans, the report states the challenge is to ensure that new development enhances the quality of the town.

The potential of housing above shops or in disused buildings within historic parts should be “actively explored,” the authors add.