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Town transformation plans revealed ahead of UK city of culture status bid

PLANS to transform a beleaguered town centre with a view to putting in a bid for UK City of Culture status have been unveiled.

Officials in Paisley hope that tapping into the area's heritage will allow the town to strengthen its economy by £45 million through tourism and create around 800 new jobs.

Paisley has suffered badly from the closure of major retailers and has one of the highest proportion of empty shops in Scotland, with around 20% of units now vacant.

But it is also home to more than 100 listed buildings, rare books and paintings and the Paisley Shawl Collection, all of which a strategy document says are of "international interest and significance".

Councillors are due to meet next week to discuss plans for the £90m investment, which include a revamp of Paisley Museum to create a new Museum of Textiles, Fashion, Costume and Design, and a new theatre space.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said: "This report is the culmination of months of work to determine how Paisley could best use its rich heritage to build a better future for the area.

"It shows that Paisley offers a tremendous range of valuable and unique cultural attractions and suggests how - with the right investment - we could use that to transform our future.

"We already have lots of good work going on - such as last year's £2.4m revamp of Paisley Town Hall, the £2m secured to transform the Russell Institute and development on the Arnotts site in the town centre, as well the continued success of our growing events portfolio - but we don't want to stop there. These plans are a bold statement of where we want to be, and we shouldn't be afraid to think big."

If successful, it is hoped Paisley could bid for UK City of Culture status in 2021.

Mr Macmillan said "I want the area's future to be one where it reaches its full potential and we should explore all options to make that happen."

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