The Welsh government has announced a £90m investment package to revive struggling town centres across the country.
Around £36m of the Transforming Towns programme will go towards town centre regeneration projects, which the Welsh government anticipates will bring in a total investment of almost £58m.
Local authorities will gain access to £13.6m to help them take enforcement action to bring empty buildings and land back into use. Coastal towns will also get £2m.
The investment package will benefit the Town Centre Loans scheme too. This will get £10m to bring vacant and underutilised buildings back into use.
Greening projects, which will deliver environmental benefits and make town centres more attractive places to visit, will also benefit from £5m of funding for green infrastructure and biodiversity within town centres.
‘Towns are incredibly important to the people and places of Wales, and they are incredibly important to me personally,’ said the deputy minister for housing and local government, Hannah Blythyn.
‘We have great towns in Wales – towns with inspiring histories and unique assets. But we want our towns to have great futures as well as great pasts, and we know that some of our towns are facing challenges.
‘The retail sector has shrunk dramatically and this trend looks set to continue. This is why we need to refocus our efforts on town centres, transforming them to be to be fit for the 21st Century.
‘The Transforming Towns package I am announcing today will help towns do just that – giving them a much needed boost.’
Cllr Rob Stewart, the Welsh Local Government Association spokesperson for regeneration, welcomed the funding announcement.
‘Town centres play a vital role in Wales, and they have long been a hub of day-to-day life. However, it is no secret that they have faced huge difficulties in recent years in the wake of retail closures, online shopping, public sector cutbacks and continued lack of investment,’ he said.
‘I welcome the Town Centre First approach, which will ensure that their strategic importance is considered in any new planning and investment decisions.
‘Local authorities recognise the value of town centres for whole communities, which is why many councils have decided to open new civic offices, public sector offices, one stop shops, or schools in their local town centres.
‘Although a town centre location will not be appropriate for all services and facilities, this approach will ensure that these locations are given primary consideration, and that any decisions for locating elsewhere should be backed by evidence.’