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Renaissance on Tayside

Dundee’s executive director of city development, Robin Presswood, tells Jo Plant and Jay Skinner about the 30-year vision to transform the city.

The opening of the V&A Dundee in September 2018 attracted international acclaim and admiration for the city and realises a 30-year vision to transform not only the Waterfront but the city as a whole.

Indeed, the Waterfront development is rightly viewed as a catalyst for the city’s renaissance, given its proud history of innovation, industry and resilience. It also signifies the changing of the guard, with Robin Presswood taking over from Mike Galloway as executive director of city development at Dundee City Council.  Latterly head of economy, planning and employability at Fife Council, Robin’s successful career to date includes posts with Angus Council, Tayside Regional Council, and various positions with Dundee District Council, NHS Tayside and the Scottish Arts Council. 

Having witnessed the ongoing renaissance of Dundee, Robin is buoyed and delighted by the recent re-emergence of the city. “Dundonians can feel immensely proud of their city,” he said. 

Dundee is thriving, as evidenced by the V&A Dundee, a new multi-million-pound cultural hub and museum developed as part of the £1 billion Dundee Waterfront project. 

The site covers some 240 hectares and comprises retail, leisure, commercial, residential and public realm uses. While there is still much to do, the project has already had a positive effect on the economy and vacancy rates in the city centre are continuing to fall. Robin commented: 

Both the V&A Dundee and the wider Waterfront project have been some 30 years in the making and pay homage to the tireless efforts of a group of individuals across a range of sectors, organisations and backgrounds in bringing the development and vision to fruition.

Chief among these innovators was Mike Galloway, whose unwavering support for the Waterfront scheme has been pivotal in its success to date. And Robin is certainly not resting on his laurels. One of his key tasks is to attract further investment to the city to facilitate the delivery of the remaining development opportunity sites and ensure the Waterfront’s legacy is realised. 

A key objective of the project is the creation of several thousand new jobs, which will benefit not only Dundee but the wider Tay City region. Robin continued: 

A renewed focus on employability is essential in continuing to realise the potential of this long-standing vision. 

Collaboration will continue to be key in successfully delivering the whole masterplan vision. 

Political unity helped facilitate decision making and the relatively small size of Dundee as a city has been a strength in encouraging positive discussions during the formulation of the proposals.

This allowed a strategy to be put in place that reflected an agreed long-term vision with engagement at its core. 

There remains a need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to deliver the Waterfront masterplan, and robin is encouraged by the commitment given to this by the Scottish Government and key infrastructure providers. 

Robin, who has lived in Dundee for 30 years, added: 

I have both a professional duty to and a personal attachment to the city. I want to ensure that there continue to be tangible outcomes from the Waterfront project, specifically the ongoing creation of jobs and business opportunities for the local community which the developments should serve first and foremost.

It is clear that while robin welcomes the positivity surrounding the Waterfront project and the ongoing renaissance of the City as a whole, he is very much aware of the work still ahead. His enthusiasm for and dedication to Dundee and its inhabitants is evident. 

The Waterfront project allows Dundonians to reclaim an area of the city that is held dear by many. By effecting positive change, the local community can take pride in the Waterfront and promote the city and its strengths on a global scale. From economic and cultural perspectives, the continuing work will help to secure the ongoing renaissance of Dundee as it once again takes centre stage as a driver of innovation and enterprise.