Perth TOWN with Nicholas Crane


Perth

Series celebrating the forgotten world of the town. Nicholas Crane visits Perth, a royal burgh, gateway to the Scottish highlands and a town packed with history.


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Transcript


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I've seen towns explode into cities.

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I've seen towns with their hearts ripped out.

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Every town has its own tales of triumph and catastrophe.

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All of them face challenges.

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As a geographer, I believe that towns

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are the communities of the future.

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Towns will be the places we want to live.

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By 2030, a staggering 92% of us will be living the urban life.

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Congested cities sprawl across our map,

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but cities don't have all the answers.

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I believe we need to fall back in love with the places

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that first quickened our pulses - towns.

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Smaller than a city, more intimate, much greener, more surprising,

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towns are where we learned to be urban.

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They are the building blocks of our civilisation.

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Coastal towns, market towns, river towns, industrial towns.

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Collectively, they bind our land together.

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This is the story of towns, but it's also OUR story -

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where we came from, how we live and where we might be going.

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This is Perth, right at the heart of Scotland.

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With a population of 45,000,

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it's a comfortable, largely well-heeled sort of place,

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aloof from the industry and politics of Glasgow and Edinburgh,

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surrounded by majestic countryside.

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It's also a town that thinks it should be a city.

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I'm going to find out why.

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That is the mouth of the most powerful river in Britain.

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The River Tay is a giant among waterways, Scotland's Amazon.

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More than 15 million cubic metres of water

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pours from the Tay into the sea every day.

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That's as much water as the River Thames and the Severn combined.

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Perth is here because of this river.

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Perth's location is spectacular.

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It sits right at the gateway to the Highlands.

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Over there are the Grampian Mountains, soaring like a wall

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from the River Tay's floodplain.

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12,000 years ago, when the last of the Ice Age glaciers

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were disappearing into those mountains,

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meltwater flushed fantastic amounts of sand and gravel

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down to the lowlands, where it laid down the thick bed of material

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the Tay powers through today.

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At Perth, you'd have to dig down something like 45m

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before you hit solid rock.

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800 years ago, this was the first point

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where the river could be bridged.

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It was also the upper limit of navigation.

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Ships could sail up the river from the North Sea

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and unload their cargo 25 miles inland.

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They couldn't get any further.

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Right here, where the river was narrow enough to be bridged,

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yet deep enough to take ships, a town was born.

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Perth is celebrating.

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It's celebrating the 800th anniversary of a document.

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This town was granted a Royal Burgh charter in 1210

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by King William the Lion.

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So for the last 800 years, it's been a royal town.

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But Perth thinks it should be a city.

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This is a place which survived being attacked by Robert the Bruce.

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Its castle was swept away by catastrophic floods.

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A king, King James I of Scotland, was murdered within Perth's walls.

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Perth thinks it has the history to be a city,

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and it has the fire in its belly to prove it.

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So should it stay a town or become a city?

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As part of these 800th anniversary celebrations,

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images from its past are being projected onto the City Hall.

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They're showing images of Perth from the past and the present.

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They're images everybody's recognising,

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so lots of folk are stopping to admire them on the way past.

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They're images that make Perth feel proud of itself,

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make it feel bigger, perhaps, than it really is.

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Tonight marks the culmination of a year of events

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designed to put Perth firmly back on the map -

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but to put it back on the map as a city,

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not as a town.

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But what do the people think?

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Do the local inhabitants think Perth is a town or a city?

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-Is it a city?

-Well, officially not yet, but I think it should be,

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and I think most other people think it should be.

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I'd say it's a city more than a town.

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Compare it to a place like Dundee, which is a city.

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It's got a lot of history, it should be a city.

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I think it's got a city feel to it.

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-Perth is definitely a city.

-We have a cathedral, we're a city.

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-Of course it's a city!

-Not a town.

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Oh, dear!

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What am I doing here making a series on towns, if Perth really is a city?

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In 1975, Perth officially lost the right to call itself a city.

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Nearby Dundee was chosen as the administrative centre of the region,

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and Perth lost out. It became an ex-city.

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It was relegated, left out in the cold.

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Behind all the buildings,

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behind all the civic furniture that makes up a town,

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there are the inhabitants, the people.

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And people know the status of their community,

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they know where it fits on the map.

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Perth's demotion from city status

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removed it from the map of British cities, and for many,

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putting Perth back on that map is a matter of honour.

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The perception that cities are the urban elite is an old one.

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To Aristotle, people congregated in cities to live the good life.

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Cities share the same Latin root as "civilisation",

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and to this day there's a lingering suggestion

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that everything outside the orbit of the city is uncivilised.

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The most recent Scottish town to win city status was Stirling in 2002.

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That Stirling is Perth's neighbour and occasional rival

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made Perth's official designation as a town

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all the more difficult to bear.

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To mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee,

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Her Majesty will create one new city in the UK - but will it be Perth?

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Other towns are queuing up to enter the contest,

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from Luton, Colchester and Blackpool to Milton Keynes and Croydon.

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They all want city status.

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There are no special rights conferred by city status,

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no financial benefits or cultural clout.

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It's about acknowledgement of scale,

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taking a seat at the urban high table.

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It's all about image.

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Perth was christened the Fair City by fans of Sir Walter Scott's novel

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The Fair Maid Of Perth, written in the 1820s.

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And this is the Fair Maid's house.

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It's one of the oldest buildings in Perth,

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and it's currently enjoying a major restoration.

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But it's not the first time it's been given a makeover.

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This tower was added to make the building conform more closely

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with the Fair Maid's house in the book.

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Every building tells a story,

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and this story is all about making a city.

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So as long ago as the 19th century,

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this town's PR department was busy image-building.

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Throughout history, Perth has used every trick in the book to prove its city status.

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It started calling itself a city long before Scott put pen to paper.

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The town found that the best way to become a city

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was just to call itself that over and over again,

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on the grounds that no-one was going to argue.

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But it was never officially granted city status.

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Perth may have been a royal burgh, it may have been described in print

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as the Fair City, but it didn't get the documentation.

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Perth was a monarch without a crown.

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Historically in Britain, if you had a cathedral,

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you were considered a city.

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Today that's not the case.

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Only the ruling monarch can grant city status,

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and as yet, Her Majesty hasn't given Perth the nod.

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In every town, if you look into the street names,

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you can peel back layers of history. Old street names have meaning.

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They reveal a town's first markets, tradesmen.

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They take you back to a town's reason for being.

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And in Perth, those street names reveal something extraordinary -

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a town born from water.

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Medieval Perth had two main streets - High Street,

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which still exists, I'm standing on it now,

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and South Street, which ran parallel.

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It's just over there behind the shops.

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There were also a number of crossway streets known as gates.

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There were town walls pierced at a number of points by entrances, or ports.

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And encircling the town walls there was the town Lade, a canal.

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Unlike any other town in Britain, Perth had a medieval moat

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that ran around it, which was part mill race, part-canal.

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It defined the town.

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Hemmed in between the Lade and the Tay, parts of Perth

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would have once looked like a white-water version of Venice.

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Fed through a sluice further up the River Almond,

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the Lade waterway was a defensive measure,

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and, vitally for Perth's survival,

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it was also the source of power for the town's mills.

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And I should be able to find the site of Perth's old mills

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by tracing the route of the Lade today.

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This is Canal Street - a clue, isn't it?

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It still feels like the edge of town.

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'And it's not the only clue to the town's history either.

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'I'm starting to notice street names that recall leather-working,

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'tanneries, waterways and farmers' markets,

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'each name a window on a medieval street scene.'

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These alleyways, or vennels, as they're known in Perth,

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were originally wide enough to take a horse and cart.

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They would have been lined with makeshift stalls and shops,

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which were eventually replaced by more permanent stone structures,

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narrowing the vennel.

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This one, Fleshers' Vennel, was known for its butchers.

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Tracing the route of the old town Lade,

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I'm beginning to realise that it wasn't just a practical waterway.

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It delimited the vital organs of the town.

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The bits of the town which really mattered were all inside the Lade.

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It's as if the entire course of the canal has been tarmacked over.

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These street names show exactly where the Lade once ran.

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And further along the road, it finally enters Mill Street.

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Here in the centre of town, the Lade reached the City Mills.

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This is where the people of Perth ground their grain,

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using barley and wheat from the fertile farmland

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that ran for miles beyond all these walls and streets.

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For the God-fearing people of Perth, fishes may have come from the Tay,

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but the loaves were courtesy of the Lade.

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All towns have an identity.

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The buildings and streets, the stone and brick,

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cast iron, concrete and glass -

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that's what you see when you look around.

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But they're really just the clothes.

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The soul of a town, its identity, the place it thinks it is,

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is less obvious, less visible.

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And Perth has an identity crisis.

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It's grown used to thinking big.

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It's been nurtured by the biggest river in the land.

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It has a big history. No wonder it thinks it's a city.

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Perth has a population of 45,000, so it's not enormous by any means.

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But I think this town is definitely trying to get noticed.

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It seems to me that Perth is in the midst of

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an episode of extraordinary change.

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It's the very evident way that the physical fabric

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of the town is being re-invented.

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There's this dramatic new concert hall, head-turning urban sculptures.

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This town is working hard at making the grade.

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But is there something missing?

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Most cities have a defining central space.

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Think of Trafalgar Square, Times Square in New York

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or St Peter's Square in Rome,

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somewhere where people can gather on important occasions.

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Walk around Perth, and you won't find that central space.

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It's just not here.

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'Or is it?'

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This is the old City Hall,

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built by the Edwardians in that long, sunny afternoon

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between the glories of the Victorian Age

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and the outbreak of the First World War.

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Here, carved in stone, is the pride, the prosperity of an empire.

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These Ionic columns, the cornices, the cherubs, the garlands

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are cues from Ancient Greece.

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Here's a temple of culture, an Acropolis on the Tay.

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The hall opened in 1911, and throughout the 20th century

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it was the venue for Perth's concerts, dances, rock bands.

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Everyone played here, from The Who to Gerry and The Pacemakers.

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For many in the town, it's a hall of memories, the place they saw

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their first gig, where they met that boy or girl they went on to marry.

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But there's a plan to knock it down.

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Is it true that you're planning to knock down the City Hall?

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Yes, the council's considering that very seriously.

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The building has been empty for five years,

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and we've failed to find a good use for the building,

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and so we're now saying, "Should we demolish it?"

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and instead of replacing it with another building,

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actually create a civic square, a piazza in the heart of Perth.

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Why do you want to knock it down? Are there not any other places to create this central square?

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Perth, unusually for Scottish towns, has a gridiron street pattern,

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and there's actually no area of open space apart from a graveyard.

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Our thought was that we should look at creating a square

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right in the heart of Perth, something it lacked.

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One option that we did look at was partial demolition.

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The front of it I call the Brandenburg Gate,

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with the columns and quite severe architecture

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and those dreadful gnomes, I think, on the top of it.

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-Cherubs, aren't they?

-I think they're gnomes.

-Oh, really?

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I think the architect got the scale wrong.

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Far too big and ugly. But we did say, "Well, could you actually keep that bit of it and demolish the rest?"

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and turn the front into a restaurant or tourist office or something,

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but I think on balance we felt that it maybe better all go.

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And the interesting thing was,

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if you go back to the 1860 Ordnance Survey map, this was a public square.

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There was a very small city hall,

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but the area around the kirk was the flesh market, the meat market.

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We then looked more broadly to say, "What is the value of that building

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"to Perth as opposed to the value of the space to Perth?"

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If you could use that as a centre for fairs, for exhibitions, open-air concerts.

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It's big enough, for example, to have a curling rink in it.

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You could have a genuine ice rink here in the winter.

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-You could have one today, couldn't you?

-Yeah.

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And curling, have the Christmas tree there.

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To have one place that was the focus of the city, I think,

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would be very exciting.

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I need a walk around to think this one through.

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The idea of a modern city space is really attractive,

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but at what expense to the character of Perth, the town?

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Tight up against the back of City Hall

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stands Perth's oldest building, St John's Kirk.

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First mentioned in the royal documents of 1128,

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the kirk used to be the most prominent landmark in town.

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Before it was encroached upon by more modern buildings,

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St John's was visible for miles around.

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Rising from its high ground, it was the symbol of this town,

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so much so that Perth was sometimes known as St John's Town.

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The name may not have stuck for the town,

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but it's still the name of Perth's football team, St Johnstone.

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Walking around the kirk today,

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it looks as if it's sinking into the ground,

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as if it's shrunk with age, lost the stature of its youth.

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Something rather odd has happened to the church's main west door.

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It's shorter than it should be, like a lift stuck between two floors.

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If St John's once stood proud on its high ground,

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it doesn't command quite the same position now.

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The answer lies beneath these paving stones.

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Here in the centre of Perth,

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there are thousands of bodies beneath my feet..

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This was the church's graveyard for 500 years.

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When the burials began to mount up, so did the ground.

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When the congregation below the surface began to impede access

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for those above, it was time to find another burial ground.

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New urban landmarks appear through the centuries.

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The church lost its prominence as a central meeting place to the City Hall.

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And now it's the prominence of the City Hall

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which hangs in the balance.

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I'm sure the father of town planning, Patrick Geddes,

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would have had an opinion on the subject.

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Geddes was a Perthshire man with visionary ideas.

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He wrote in 1910, "Civic architecture and Town Planning

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"are expressions of local history, of civic and national changes

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"and contrasts of mind.

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"Each generation must make its own contribution

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"in its own characteristic way."

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So it's up to the people of Perth to decide what Perth should look like.

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City Hall, or no City Hall?

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That is the question.

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To get a better view of the controversial piazza,

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I'm going up the church tower.

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As Perth's most historic building,

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and as part of its bid for city status,

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the kirk's interior is currently being renovated

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at a cost of almost £3 million.

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It was in this church in 1559 that John Knox,

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the Scottish clergyman and Protestant reformer,

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delivered a fiery sermon raging against the sin of idolatry.

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It was the speech that launched the Reformation in Scotland,

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revolutionising religious practice throughout the land -

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another big, historical event that Perth can claim as its own.

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Right outside today, another radical reformation

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could be about to take place.

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Now I'm up here, I can see what Roland means.

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Take out the City Hall and you create a magnificent square.

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The planner would have it lined with cafe tables,

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couples strolling arm in arm,

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but...but, but, but, there's always a but...

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I do wonder whether the people of Perth

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would see this new square

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as a focal point, or as a gaping void.

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It's freezing up here today, there's snow on the mountains,

0:23:210:23:25

and there's an icy wind cutting across the rooftops.

0:23:250:23:29

If you create a big open space here,

0:23:290:23:33

it's going to be like walking across a tract of the Siberian tundra on a very bad day.

0:23:330:23:39

Now, Perth is an intimate town.

0:23:390:23:42

The buildings huddle together for companionship and warmth.

0:23:420:23:46

The buildings are separated by narrow alleys,

0:23:460:23:48

vennels, crooked streets.

0:23:480:23:51

Everything's close-packed, very friendly.

0:23:510:23:54

You create a vast open space in the middle of a town like this,

0:23:540:23:58

and it just feels out of place.

0:23:580:24:00

I don't know, my feeling is that

0:24:020:24:05

to put an Italian piazza here in Perth

0:24:050:24:08

is rather like building a centrally heated shopping mall in the Sahara.

0:24:080:24:14

I don't really think it should be knocked down.

0:24:140:24:16

In the past, rivers were vital arteries of trade and communication.

0:24:540:24:58

They could be harnessed to power mills, they could be fished for food

0:24:580:25:03

and used for irrigation, drinking water

0:25:030:25:05

and a multitude of industrial purposes.

0:25:050:25:09

The bigger the river, the more it had to offer,

0:25:090:25:12

and the Tay is a big river - the biggest river in Britain.

0:25:120:25:16

There's something more fundamental, though,

0:25:210:25:24

something that goes right to the soul of this town.

0:25:240:25:27

Perth has always existed at the whim of this mighty river,

0:25:270:25:31

the river that brought it here in the first place.

0:25:310:25:34

The Tay is Perth's alter ego, the other half of its psyche,

0:25:340:25:38

the untamed lifeforce that brought it into being,

0:25:380:25:41

the monster that rises from its lair to wreak havoc.

0:25:410:25:45

It's like balancing on a gigantic muscle!

0:25:580:26:02

Very scary river.

0:26:020:26:05

Catastrophic floods have swept away bridges, castles,

0:26:090:26:14

property and people.

0:26:140:26:17

Perth has always been a flood town.

0:26:170:26:20

In January 1993, the river burst its flood banks

0:26:250:26:28

and poured through the town.

0:26:280:26:31

2,000 cubic metres per second of water

0:26:310:26:34

thundered under the bridges and over the streets.

0:26:340:26:38

It was one of the most severe floods in Perth's history.

0:26:380:26:41

The worst affected area was North Muirton,

0:26:430:26:46

a Perth housing scheme built on the flood plain.

0:26:460:26:50

NEWSREADER: More than 400 people were evacuated from houses

0:26:500:26:53

on Perth's North Muirton estate last night.

0:26:530:26:55

At one point, the Army and Navy were called in to help.

0:26:550:26:58

Like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina,

0:27:000:27:02

it was those who were less well off who were hit hardest.

0:27:020:27:05

1,500 houses in Perth were seriously affected by the floodwater.

0:27:050:27:10

900 of those were in North Muirton.

0:27:100:27:14

£40m worth of damage was caused in just one weekend.

0:27:140:27:19

It was a disastrous time for the town.

0:27:190:27:21

After the floods of 1993,

0:27:360:27:38

Perth's relationship with the Tay changed forever.

0:27:380:27:43

Never again would the river be allowed to terrorise this town.

0:27:430:27:47

£25m was poured into a hi-tech flood-defence system.

0:27:470:27:54

Now, an impressive 81 floodgates, seven pumping stations,

0:27:540:27:58

plus miles of embankments, holding ponds and strategic flood areas

0:27:580:28:03

are in place to protect the town.

0:28:030:28:05

It's a flood-defence system to match any in the world,

0:28:050:28:09

and this morning they're putting it to the test.

0:28:090:28:13

If a flood is on its way, the flood-defence team

0:28:130:28:17

get only a few hours' warning

0:28:170:28:19

to close the gates and protect the town.

0:28:190:28:22

This is one of Perth's best-kept secrets,

0:28:220:28:26

a feat of engineering and ingenuity.

0:28:260:28:30

-Like closing up all the bulkheads in a ship.

-Pretty much, yeah, yeah.

0:28:300:28:33

-A door-slamming exercise.

-Yeah.

0:28:330:28:35

How high does the water have to rise before it goes over the top of your defences?

0:28:390:28:44

The whole design of the system is based on the 1814 flood,

0:28:440:28:49

which is the worst inundation that Perth has ever had.

0:28:490:28:52

We've got that, plus half a metre is built in for climate change,

0:28:520:28:57

and another 300 to 400mm for freeboard,

0:28:570:29:00

which is basically wave action etc.

0:29:000:29:03

So hopefully we would never actually be in a situation

0:29:030:29:07

where the defences would be overtopped.

0:29:070:29:10

It's Perth's unique location that makes it so vulnerable.

0:29:100:29:14

The volume of water pouring downstream

0:29:140:29:17

from a massive catchment area, swollen by snowmelt

0:29:170:29:20

and aggravated by tidal surge from the mouth of the Tay,

0:29:200:29:25

exposes Perth to sudden inundation.

0:29:250:29:28

At Smeaton's Bridge, the major crossing to the town,

0:29:280:29:31

the ravages of previous floods have been methodically recorded.

0:29:310:29:35

So, we have the big inundation of 1814,

0:29:350:29:40

that's the mark here.

0:29:400:29:42

The water level actually got up to this height.

0:29:420:29:45

-That's...

-That was the big flood?

0:29:450:29:47

Yeah, that's the worst recorded episode.

0:29:470:29:50

We have some more recent ones.

0:29:500:29:53

For example, we have 14th December 2006,

0:29:530:29:57

and the 1993 flood that we had actually reached this level here.

0:29:570:30:02

It's a fair height when you see how high up this would be going

0:30:020:30:07

compared to these properties there.

0:30:070:30:09

-That would have flooded the road here and flooded those houses over there.

-Yeah.

0:30:090:30:14

-So the '93 flood, the water's up to here.

-Yeah.

0:30:140:30:16

and the water was pouring in...

0:30:160:30:18

All of these properties, the basement areas would have been absolutely inundated at that particular time.

0:30:180:30:24

-It doesn't look like a floodgate, does it?

-No, the design is such

0:30:240:30:28

that it's supposed to blend in nicely with the sandstone walls,

0:30:280:30:35

and it's as aesthetically pleasing as a floodgate could be

0:30:350:30:38

under the circumstances.

0:30:380:30:40

Would you like to have a go at closing one of these gates?

0:30:400:30:43

The small boy in me would love to close a floodgate.

0:30:430:30:46

There's a fair weight in it,

0:30:460:30:48

and once we close them, as you can see,

0:30:480:30:51

the rubber seals would make contact with the metal plinth along here.

0:30:510:30:56

-OK?

-Yeah!

0:30:560:30:58

You wouldn't want to shut your fingers in it, would you?

0:30:580:31:01

No, I think you might lose a few.

0:31:010:31:03

-Here we are.

-Blimey!

0:31:030:31:06

London has the Thames Barrier.

0:31:090:31:11

Perth has 81 barriers to protect its land and its people

0:31:110:31:16

and perhaps its future ambitions as a city.

0:31:160:31:19

You can walk through Perth and miss every one of those floodgates.

0:31:220:31:26

They're disguised, they're discreet.

0:31:260:31:30

If one of them does catch your eye, it's a reassuring reminder.

0:31:300:31:34

"Don't worry about the river", it says, "we've contained the beast".

0:31:340:31:39

Towns habitually go with the flow,

0:31:590:32:02

adapt to their changing environment and times.

0:32:020:32:05

The way they work and look is shaped, in part,

0:32:050:32:07

by that continuous engine of change, progress,

0:32:070:32:12

the never-ending demand for a better standard of living

0:32:120:32:16

and a more resilient economy.

0:32:160:32:18

But progress can be brutal.

0:32:180:32:22

Perth had a medieval wall,

0:32:220:32:23

until the Georgians pulled it down in the 18th century.

0:32:230:32:27

Now the City Hall is under threat.

0:32:270:32:31

Towns evolve in fits and starts, and sometimes the fits can be explosive.

0:32:310:32:36

Throughout the 18th century,

0:32:390:32:40

an influential group of families were controlling affairs in Perth.

0:32:400:32:45

They were known as the Beautiful Order,

0:32:450:32:47

because, as one Edinburgh wit put it,

0:32:470:32:49

they'd got everything here so beautifully stitched up.

0:32:490:32:53

Wealthy, powerful, they took it on themselves to change the public face

0:32:530:32:59

of this somewhat architecturally chaotic town by the Tay.

0:32:590:33:03

The look they were after had already transformed Edinburgh and Bath.

0:33:100:33:15

Now Georgian architecture reclothed Perth.

0:33:150:33:20

Influenced by classical ideas, it was elegant, understated, ordered.

0:33:200:33:24

Here, it was the vision of one man above all - Thomas Anderson.

0:33:310:33:36

Anderson meticulously planned the expansion of the town,

0:33:360:33:40

acquiring land and developing the sites.

0:33:400:33:43

This remarkable document is the MacFarlane map of 1792,

0:33:430:33:49

and it shows everything that Thomas Anderson had planned.

0:33:490:33:52

Here to the north of medieval Perth is a mathematical grid of streets,

0:33:520:33:58

lines on this map. He says what they mean in the key.

0:33:580:34:01

"The black and dotted lines are the new intended streets

0:34:010:34:05

"which, when finished,

0:34:050:34:06

"will make Perth one of the most delightful towns in Europe".

0:34:060:34:11

It's a big urban dream, and so is the scale of it.

0:34:110:34:16

Anderson's new town was going to more than double the size of Perth.

0:34:160:34:22

The man he chose to realise his vision

0:34:220:34:25

was his son-in-law, Thomas Marshall,

0:34:250:34:27

and one of the first streets Marshall built was Rose Terrace,

0:34:270:34:30

named after his young wife, Anderson's daughter, Rose.

0:34:300:34:34

Anderson imposed strict conditions for Rose Terrace,

0:34:420:34:45

which set the tone for the whole of Georgian Perth.

0:34:450:34:48

If you bought a plot of land on Rose Terrace,

0:34:560:34:59

you had to build on it within two years.

0:34:590:35:01

The house you constructed had to be of stone

0:35:010:35:04

with an ashlar, a squared stone front.

0:35:040:35:07

It had to have a roof of blue slate.

0:35:070:35:10

It also had to be the same colour as all the other houses in the street.

0:35:100:35:15

It was also compulsory that it should consist of a vault,

0:35:150:35:19

a ground floor, two upper stories and garrets.

0:35:190:35:22

Each householder on Rose Terrace

0:35:240:35:26

was also given land behind their property.

0:35:260:35:29

But there were strings attached to this too.

0:35:290:35:32

Gardens were not to be used for,

0:35:320:35:34

"The making of soap, candles, glass or vitriol,

0:35:340:35:39

"nor for boiling yarn, slaughtering or coppersmithing,

0:35:390:35:42

"nor for a chemistry's laboratory."

0:35:420:35:46

Basically, nothing that would upset the neighbours.

0:35:460:35:49

Anderson was prescribing a new urban order.

0:35:500:35:55

His Georgian development wasn't going to look like anything

0:35:550:35:59

Perth had ever seen before.

0:35:590:36:01

The higgledy-piggledy buildings

0:36:010:36:03

that had contributed to the shape of the town for centuries were old.

0:36:030:36:07

Anderson's was a new town,

0:36:070:36:09

disciplined, clean, a model of urban civilisation.

0:36:090:36:14

Yet behind these civilised streets,

0:36:170:36:20

a less honourable saga was unfolding.

0:36:200:36:23

Thomas Anderson may have been able to impose his authority

0:36:270:36:30

on the character of Georgian Perth,

0:36:300:36:32

but he had less control over his daughter.

0:36:320:36:35

Rose Terrace isn't exactly a monument to domestic bliss.

0:36:390:36:44

By the time the street was completed,

0:36:440:36:47

Thomas Marshall and Rose were divorced.

0:36:470:36:49

While Thomas had been away in London and Edinburgh,

0:36:490:36:52

organising the building of Perth's new town,

0:36:520:36:55

raising a Perth regiment, advancing his position within the council,

0:36:550:37:01

Rose had been a-wandering.

0:37:010:37:03

She became involved with the Earl of Elgin, he of the Marbles,

0:37:090:37:14

and later met a young military doctor

0:37:140:37:17

whom she showered with letters and gifts.

0:37:170:37:20

As scandal whispered along the new stone pavements, Rose left Perth.

0:37:200:37:25

So, she and her husband, Thomas Marshall,

0:37:250:37:28

never did live together here in Marshall House,

0:37:280:37:32

the grand residence Thomas had planned for them.

0:37:320:37:35

Marshall did become Lord Provost of Perth,

0:37:370:37:40

but he died a lonely man aged just 38.

0:37:400:37:44

The moral of the tale, perhaps -

0:37:440:37:46

don't neglect your wife for civic glory.

0:37:460:37:48

Perth's status as a Royal Burgh was well deserved.

0:38:030:38:07

Just across the River Tay sits Scone Palace,

0:38:070:38:10

the original home of the Stone of Destiny

0:38:100:38:12

on which Scotland's kings and queens

0:38:120:38:15

have been crowned for centuries.

0:38:150:38:17

In the 1420s, after his release from exile in England,

0:38:230:38:26

James I of Scotland chose Perth as his main residence.

0:38:260:38:31

Of the 16 Scottish parliaments he convened, 13 were held in Perth.

0:38:310:38:37

During his reign, Perth became regarded not just as any city

0:38:370:38:41

but as Scotland's first city.

0:38:410:38:44

But it was not to last.

0:38:450:38:48

SINISTER MUSIC PLAYS

0:38:480:38:50

Perth has a dark stain on its name,

0:38:520:38:55

something that is probably more responsible for its loss of city status

0:38:550:38:59

than this town would care to admit.

0:38:590:39:02

In 1437, with the King often in residence,

0:39:040:39:07

Perth was effectively the Scottish capital.

0:39:070:39:10

But then there was a murder.

0:39:100:39:13

This is where the King was killed.

0:39:170:39:19

-Probably not actually in here, but on the site.

-Regicide in Perth?

0:39:190:39:23

Absolutely, yes, James I was killed here.

0:39:230:39:27

That's a pretty black stain.

0:39:270:39:29

I guess it is, yes.

0:39:290:39:32

I mean, James seems to have really liked Perth,

0:39:320:39:34

but he got his comeuppance.

0:39:340:39:36

Now, tell me why James I mattered, which king was he?

0:39:360:39:41

Well, he is the grandson of the first Stuart king,

0:39:410:39:45

so the great-grandson of Robert the Bruce,

0:39:450:39:48

and he had actually spent his formative years in England,

0:39:480:39:52

and this very much affected him

0:39:520:39:53

because he was very impressed by the English kings Henry IV and Henry V.

0:39:530:39:57

When he came back to Scotland, he wanted to upgrade Scottish kingship

0:39:570:40:02

to be a lot more like England,

0:40:020:40:04

which meant he also has to acquire a lot of wealth to do that.

0:40:040:40:07

Scotland didn't like taxation,

0:40:070:40:09

and so he actually also acquired land by slightly dubious means,

0:40:090:40:13

pressurised people into giving up their lands

0:40:130:40:16

and generally made people feel very, very insecure.

0:40:160:40:19

-So, he wasn't very popular.

-He was absolutely not popular,

0:40:190:40:22

to the extent that some people were calling him a tyrant.

0:40:220:40:25

Who had it in for him in particular?

0:40:250:40:28

Apart from just about everybody?

0:40:280:40:30

Walter, Earl of Atholl's grandson, Robert Stewart,

0:40:300:40:33

was one of the King's closest... well, companion,

0:40:330:40:37

and he arranged, on the night of 20th February 1437...

0:40:370:40:41

So, this is a betrayal?

0:40:410:40:43

Absolutely, from the heart, from the family,

0:40:430:40:46

it is a sort of nest of vipers.

0:40:460:40:48

He's just totally vulnerable,

0:40:480:40:50

because it's a man from within his own household

0:40:500:40:53

who has let the conspirators in.

0:40:530:40:54

Not only is this, you know, a Kennedy moment

0:40:540:40:57

in the sense that you are killing the King,

0:40:570:40:59

-but it's an inside job as well.

-Absolutely. It had to be.

0:40:590:41:02

This is all starting to get slightly creepy,

0:41:020:41:04

because you're talking about something that...

0:41:040:41:07

The cellars are under this building?

0:41:070:41:09

Pretty much, yes. This is the site.

0:41:090:41:12

-Shall we have a look?

-Oh, come on, then!

0:41:120:41:14

James was warned that armed Atholl men were after his blood.

0:41:190:41:23

In desperation, he prised up the floorboards of his bedchamber

0:41:230:41:27

and dropped into the sewers.

0:41:270:41:30

So, sewers have outflows, so why didn't the King just run down the tunnel and escape?

0:41:360:41:40

Ah, very good question!

0:41:400:41:42

And if he'd had to do it three days earlier, he'd have been fine,

0:41:420:41:46

but the King was a lover of the game of tennis, the royal game of tennis,

0:41:460:41:50

and he used to play just outside.

0:41:500:41:52

Unfortunately, his tennis balls used to roll down

0:41:520:41:55

into the gubbins in the bottom of the sewer, so he had it boarded up!

0:41:550:41:59

So, when he found himself down here,

0:41:590:42:02

hearing the men above, up above his head, there was no way out.

0:42:020:42:07

And that's it. I mean, he really is like a rat, stuck in a sewer.

0:42:070:42:12

They're hacking at him and, you know,

0:42:120:42:15

this is an absolutely appalling, horrific end

0:42:150:42:19

to an anointed King of Scots.

0:42:190:42:21

Game, set and match to the House of Atholl.

0:42:240:42:28

After the murder of James I,

0:42:280:42:29

the seat of royal power moved swiftly to Edinburgh.

0:42:290:42:33

His son's coronation was held in Holyrood, not Scone,

0:42:330:42:37

which was never again to accommodate a parliament.

0:42:370:42:40

Perth had lost its city crown,

0:42:400:42:43

and it's still trying to get it back.

0:42:430:42:45

All towns have a regional magnetism,

0:43:000:43:03

drawing people and goods inward to markets, shops and businesses.

0:43:030:43:07

Towns are economic and cultural hubs, places where people mingle.

0:43:070:43:11

And in the centre of this magnetic town,

0:43:110:43:16

people seem drawn to one meeting place in particular.

0:43:160:43:20

This is the Harrods of Perth - McEwens.

0:43:200:43:25

This is the shop that brought French couture to Perth in the 1860s

0:43:280:43:33

and put on some very stylish window displays.

0:43:330:43:36

You came here for the latest fashion, the latest gossip.

0:43:380:43:43

It was a meeting place, a hub.

0:43:430:43:45

McEwens brought the country crowd to town.

0:43:450:43:48

Although the heyday of town department stores is long past,

0:43:500:43:54

the clientele here still seem to come from far and wide.

0:43:540:43:58

-Can I ask where you've both come from?

-Fife.

0:44:000:44:02

I've come from Dunfermline.

0:44:020:44:05

So, how far away is that from Perth?

0:44:050:44:07

23 miles.

0:44:070:44:08

23, and I'll be about 30.

0:44:080:44:10

Where do you come from?

0:44:100:44:12

Tillicoultry. It's nine miles from Stirling.

0:44:120:44:15

-That's a long way!

-Yes.

0:44:150:44:17

You look as if you're having a family gathering here.

0:44:170:44:20

Where have you all come from?

0:44:200:44:22

-Well, we're from Perth, and Mark's from down south.

-OK.

0:44:220:44:27

-How often do you come to McEwens?

-Um...

0:44:270:44:29

Probably once a month, once every two months, for lunch or coffees.

0:44:290:44:33

How often do you come to McEwens?

0:44:330:44:35

Three times, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

0:44:350:44:39

And how many years have you been doing that for?

0:44:390:44:43

Oh, about 17 years.

0:44:430:44:45

Of course I've got a free bus pass.

0:44:450:44:48

Well, I used to work here 20 years ago as a waitress when I was at school, so,

0:44:480:44:52

and Anne was my boss 20 years ago.

0:44:520:44:54

And also, before that my grandparents used to come,

0:44:540:44:57

so I've been coming here since I was a small child, so 30-odd years ago.

0:44:570:45:00

-So you're the third generation in your family to be coming to McEwen's for lunch?

-Yes.

0:45:000:45:04

-Well, I'll let you get on with your lunch.

-OK, thank you.

0:45:040:45:07

-Sorry to interrupt.

-Bye-bye.

-Bye-bye.

0:45:070:45:09

'How long have you been manager here, Anne?

0:45:090:45:12

'Em, I've worked in McEwens for 35 years.'

0:45:120:45:15

So, for most of that time I have been the manager

0:45:150:45:18

on and off up in the restaurant, yes.

0:45:180:45:19

You seem to know everybody by their first names.

0:45:190:45:23

Yes, it's fantastic. We have... it's quite a core for the store this.

0:45:230:45:28

We know the customers that come in on Saturdays and Mondays and their families.

0:45:280:45:31

We have a few generations that, you know, use the restaurant,

0:45:310:45:34

so, yes, we know them quite well.

0:45:340:45:37

McEwens proves that Perth is really a town not a city.

0:45:430:45:45

Knowing all your customers by name, seeing families grow up,

0:45:450:45:51

as generations pass through your store...

0:45:510:45:53

That's warm-hearted town life...

0:45:530:45:55

the opposite of city anonymity.

0:45:550:45:58

As a town, Perth can enjoy the best of both worlds,

0:45:580:46:01

being as intimate as a village and as cosmopolitan as a city.

0:46:010:46:05

But there is another side to being a thriving hub.

0:46:120:46:15

Successful towns are consumer hotspots.

0:46:150:46:20

Along with all of that buying, selling and satisfying consumption, there's a lot of waste creation,

0:46:200:46:26

and in Perth, that means Grampians of garbage.

0:46:260:46:29

45,000 inhabitants are putting stuff in their bins every day.

0:46:330:46:38

The only way a town can handle so much waste is by investing in systems -

0:46:380:46:42

systems which export the rubbish elsewhere.

0:46:420:46:46

But this town has always been clever with its rubbish.

0:46:460:46:50

In the Middle Ages, waste was organic.

0:46:520:46:56

People in towns gathered their muck and their rubbish

0:46:560:46:59

outside their houses in private middens, like compost heaps.

0:46:590:47:03

Once it rotted down a bit,

0:47:030:47:05

they carted it away to use as manure on their share of the towns fields.

0:47:050:47:09

By the 1450s, with more people in the town

0:47:120:47:14

and fewer people growing their own food, you begin to find references

0:47:140:47:19

to the middens becoming a nuisance and an obstacle in the streets.

0:47:190:47:24

Middens that were not being regularly cleared were auctioned off.

0:47:240:47:29

Farmers from outside town competed to buy the rich waste.

0:47:290:47:33

They used it as fertiliser on their crops and come market day

0:47:330:47:37

the produce it helped to grow was brought back into town.

0:47:370:47:41

So town and country fed each other.

0:47:410:47:44

It was perfect recycling, and that legacy continues today.

0:47:460:47:50

What rubbish is we're collecting this morning?

0:47:500:47:53

Basically, it's bottles...

0:47:530:47:55

a lot have the tops on them.

0:47:550:47:57

Papers. Tin cans.

0:47:570:47:59

So that's all the stuff that goes up to be turned in to other things?

0:47:590:48:03

-That's it. 42%.

-What, of Perth's rubbish?

0:48:030:48:05

-Yep.

-42%?!

-42%.

-That's a lot!

0:48:050:48:08

That is a lot.

0:48:080:48:10

'It is impressive that Perth recycles 42% of its waste.

0:48:100:48:13

'That's a lot more than Glasgow, Birmingham or London.

0:48:130:48:19

'The success of a recycling scheme depends on

0:48:190:48:21

'the attitudes of households council support and a competent infrastructure.

0:48:210:48:27

'Perth seems to tick all the boxes.'

0:48:270:48:29

And are people quite disciplined about putting...

0:48:290:48:32

about separating?

0:48:320:48:34

Oh, they're very disciplined. Very. I mean, you just need to look in...

0:48:340:48:38

There we go, there's nothing wrong with that.

0:48:380:48:40

Papers... There we go, newspapers...

0:48:400:48:43

That's it, as long as the tops aren't on it...

0:48:430:48:45

-perfect.

-That's a really diligent householder.

-Oh, it is that.

0:48:450:48:50

Spot on with that one.

0:48:500:48:52

'Perhaps a town is better placed to deal more effectively

0:48:540:48:57

'with our rubbish than a city.

0:48:570:48:58

'There seems to be a great pride

0:48:580:49:01

'in keeping the place clean and efficient

0:49:010:49:03

'and everything is on a much more manageable scale.'

0:49:030:49:06

The waste we've spent the morning collecting - the bottles, the cans,

0:49:110:49:15

the paper and the cardboard - is taken to a processing site just outside the town.

0:49:150:49:19

Now this is the, eh, materials reclamation facility that we use.

0:49:270:49:32

You can see the digger dropping stuff into the hopper,

0:49:320:49:35

and it gets sent to this machine here where it all gets separated out.

0:49:350:49:38

The cans are separated using magnets,

0:49:380:49:40

you can see the pile of steel cans here.

0:49:400:49:42

All the different materials, you know, that we separate,

0:49:420:49:45

each get sent off to different re-processors throughout the UK,

0:49:450:49:51

who'll each recycle these things back into new materials.

0:49:510:49:54

Steel cans for example, can be recycled over and over again.

0:49:540:49:57

And a recycled steel can is just as good quality as a virgin one,

0:49:570:50:01

so, a great thing to do.

0:50:010:50:04

And all the other bits and pieces the men sort it out by hand.

0:50:040:50:08

They physically sort out the paper from the cardboard,

0:50:080:50:10

and the bottles from the other bits and pieces.

0:50:100:50:14

-It's not a dump so much as a factory.

-Absolutely, yeah.

0:50:140:50:18

I really enjoyed my morning with the bin crew, but it turns out

0:50:230:50:27

that picking through the rubbish is not as straightforward as it looks.

0:50:270:50:32

Up on the picking line, there are two fast-moving conveyor belts.

0:50:320:50:37

The first pickers grab the biggest chunks of paper and card,

0:50:370:50:41

the next team of pickers have to separate the tins and plastic.

0:50:410:50:46

But concentrating on all the rubbish passing by is like looking out of a car's side window,

0:50:460:50:51

trying to focus on every passing verge-side detail

0:50:510:50:54

while travelling at 70mph.

0:50:540:50:57

So, Graham, how long do you spend on the picking line before you go mad?

0:50:590:51:03

Ha! That is a hard one!

0:51:030:51:05

Doesn't it do your head in? Watching this stuff come by makes your eyes go peculiar.

0:51:050:51:10

You actually get used to it after a while.

0:51:100:51:14

The first two or three days it's more like motion sickness,

0:51:140:51:17

you know, sea sickness.

0:51:170:51:18

I'm starting to feel dizzy already!

0:51:180:51:21

Is it difficult to find people to work on the picking line?

0:51:230:51:26

It is.

0:51:260:51:27

Most of them last two or three weeks. Some have lasted as short as a day.

0:51:270:51:32

-Really?

-Because of the motion in it all the time, you know.

0:51:320:51:35

Trying to get your eyes to focus on different things coming down.

0:51:350:51:40

This is really, really horrible.

0:51:400:51:42

I'm feeling quite sick.

0:51:420:51:44

It's the, eh, continual readjustment of your eyes,

0:51:440:51:48

trying to refocus the whole time on new rubbish coming through.

0:51:480:51:52

It's not a nice job.

0:51:540:51:56

Recycling glass, paper, steel, aluminium...

0:51:560:52:00

uses a lot less energy than it takes to create these products from scratch.

0:52:000:52:05

Making new paper...

0:52:050:52:06

everything from felling trees, to pulping and pressing the wood...

0:52:060:52:10

that uses 65% more energy than recycling paper.

0:52:100:52:14

Manufacturing new aluminium goods produces 95% more carbon dioxide

0:52:160:52:20

than recycling old aluminium objects.

0:52:200:52:23

Everything recycled in Perth

0:52:230:52:26

goes on to be made into new materials within the UK.

0:52:260:52:30

The glass goes to Alloa in Scotland, the paper to North Wales,

0:52:300:52:34

cardboard to Glasgow, steel and aluminium to the Midlands.

0:52:340:52:39

Perth is a champion of recycling.

0:52:390:52:41

The drive to regain city status has given this town a tangible energy.

0:52:570:53:04

And that energy is attractive.

0:53:040:53:06

People want to move here.

0:53:060:53:09

But the town, like the old banks of the Tay, has its limits...

0:53:090:53:13

What happens when a town runs out of space?

0:53:130:53:17

There's only so far Perth itself can expand.

0:53:170:53:22

The town has grown up on the west side of the river.

0:53:220:53:25

On the east side, development is blocked by Scone Palace and its land,

0:53:250:53:30

by the steep slopes of Kinnoull Hill, and by some very exclusive private estates.

0:53:300:53:37

Not much room for affordable housing there.

0:53:370:53:41

If the town keeps expanding to the west then it risks becoming

0:53:430:53:46

severed from its centre...

0:53:460:53:49

Its historic, riverside heart will end up on the edge of town.

0:53:490:53:54

But Perth might just become a city by stealth.

0:53:540:53:57

The Council proposes that the rising population should spill into the nearby small villages.

0:53:590:54:05

There are plans to build four entirely new communities

0:54:050:54:09

within a 5-mile radius of the town.

0:54:090:54:11

At Bridge of Earn, Almondbank,

0:54:110:54:15

Bertha Park and just west of Perth.

0:54:150:54:18

Of course, this level of development would have a knock-on effect.

0:54:180:54:23

You can't build 2,000 new homes without planning for the extra traffic.

0:54:230:54:27

To ease that pressure, a new bypass is proposed,

0:54:270:54:31

together with a new bridge over the Tay.

0:54:310:54:36

As a town, Perth can only grow so far.

0:54:360:54:39

As a city, it would absorb its hinterland.

0:54:390:54:42

It would begin to eat further into its surrounding countryside.

0:54:420:54:47

Tonight Perth has taken to the streets to celebrate

0:54:580:55:01

the 800th anniversary of the document that confirmed its status as a Royal Burgh.

0:55:010:55:07

It's the closest thing to a city charter that Perth's ever had.

0:55:070:55:11

It's below zero, a freezing November night

0:55:160:55:19

but the people of Perth have turned out in their thousands.

0:55:190:55:23

This is the kind of civic exuberance you see on the Thames,

0:55:230:55:27

or above the roofs of Edinburgh.

0:55:270:55:29

Talk about sky-high ambition!

0:55:290:55:32

Perth wants to be seen as a city.

0:55:320:55:34

But the only person who can officially grant Perth her desperately desired city status

0:55:370:55:42

is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.

0:55:420:55:44

And Perth is doing its best to be noticed.

0:55:440:55:47

There's no royalty here tonight but I'm sure Her Majesty will hear about it.

0:55:500:55:54

What a night!

0:55:540:55:55

So should Perth become a city?

0:56:200:56:22

It's certainly building a solid case for itself.

0:56:220:56:26

We've seen this town cope with flood, with regicide,

0:56:260:56:30

with radical replanning.

0:56:300:56:32

Perth is no stranger to challenges.

0:56:320:56:34

It's had its fair share of ups and downs, of triumphs and disasters.

0:56:340:56:38

Perth has a history of recovery.

0:56:380:56:41

But, with the construction of its 81 flood barriers,

0:56:420:56:45

the people of Perth have taken control.

0:56:450:56:50

The Tay was both a real threat, and a metaphor for the way history

0:56:500:56:53

inflicts sudden reversals on communities.

0:56:530:56:57

Now that the river's no longer the physical threat it was,

0:56:570:57:00

it's as if Perth has taken possession of her own destiny.

0:57:000:57:03

This is a pivotal moment.

0:57:070:57:10

Perth has tamed its monster - the river.

0:57:100:57:13

But the big question I have to ask is...

0:57:130:57:15

in its obsession with city status is Perth creating another demon?

0:57:150:57:21

Cities by nature are over-whelming, voracious.

0:57:210:57:25

And Perth's not like that.

0:57:250:57:27

For my money, I'd rather be a close-knit town than an over-stretched city.

0:57:270:57:32

Perth is at a crossroads.

0:57:320:57:36

For a free booklet about what makes our towns work

0:57:430:57:46

call 0845 366 8024 or go to:

0:57:460:57:52

And follow the links to the Open University.

0:57:560:57:58

Next time I'll be in Totnes in South Devon,

0:58:020:58:05

a town that has become a safe haven for new ideas.

0:58:050:58:09

A rickshaw running on cooking oil this model's a chip fat GTX...

0:58:090:58:14

And whose visionaries change the face of our towns forever.

0:58:140:58:18

The changes are coming - let's do it now before the problems start.

0:58:180:58:22

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:350:58:38

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:380:58:41

We live in one of the most urbanised countries on earth. By 2030 a staggering 92 percent of us will be living the urban life. Congested cities sprawl across our map, but they are not the only way to live. Smaller than a city, more intimate, more surprising: this series celebrates the forgotten world of the town.

Perth, the gateway to the Scottish highlands, is a town packed with history. It has been a royal burgh since 1124, has survived a regicide within its walls and rebuilt itself after devastating floods. It is also a town that wants to be a city, and geographer and adventurer Nicholas Crane is on a journey to find out why, what benefits that brings, and what the town has to do to achieve its ambition.


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