WHILST agreeing with much that Fraser Smith (Letters, October 17) regarding High Street diversification, I believe that the present crisis offers another, even greater, opportunity to revitalise our town centres.

There is much talk at the moment that many of those who have been forced for the last few months to work from home will have found that this has given them a better work/home life balance. They may therefore wish either to continue thus or perhaps divide their work hours between home and office.

As a result, there may well be a surplus of office space in many town centres, where offices on floors above shops may lie empty. Could this surplus space not profitably be converted into affordable flats? This would a) bring more people, particularly young folk, to live in the centre, b) provide more much-needed affordable housing fairly quickly and c) provide greater numbers throughout the day who could frequent the cafes, restaurants and takeaways who fear losing customers if not everyone returns to the office.

There may be, however, one serious hindrance, that the VAT on refurbishment can make it too expensive – a reason why we so often see substantial older buildings demolished and replaced by poorer quality, but tax-efficient, new-build. A major reduction in this tax, or even a “tax holiday”, could make it worthwhile to convert the unused office space and so bring a vibrant life back to our town centres.

At least this would create a number of jobs to support struggling trades and return some benefit from what we have had to suffer during these dark days.

P Davidson, Falkirk.

YOUR article regarding changes to Glasgow city centre becoming a more balanced one with regards retail, leisure and, most importantly, residential ("City centre plan for 2050 ... everybody needs good neighbours", The Herald, October 17), is timeous in this time of uncertainty. Surely now is the time to strike out with job opportunities in the building and associated trades, with retraining programmes to unemployed, whose numbers will soon soar

As the article stated there would be spin-off gains to all with this approach. The ends of Sauchiehall and Argyle Streets are in dire need of paring back to make the retail core more compact and there are vacant buildings and spaces which are crying out for new-build and conversion to residential already within that zone. The Watt Brothers building was recently purchased by the Easdale brothers, owners of McGill's buses, and they are already considering part-residential; the old BHS building has lain empty for far too long and there are also two new gap sites after recent fires in Sauchiehall Street alone. I must admit I have not ventured down Argyle and Union Streets in a long time as they no longer hold any appeal to me, Union Street alone being particularly depressing with the far-too-long-scaffolded Egyptian Buildings.

Stoke and other English cities are already working along these lines, so Scotland should take a lead for a change, to show that we deserve more autonomy and respect, rather than our constant bleating about being left in the wilderness. As an aside, my own wee town, like many others, suffers from this problem too.

George Dale, Beith.