- December 2, 2015
- Posted by: Carwyn Jones AM
- Category: Gazette Column
There has been a lot of discussion of late about depedestrianising Bridgend town centre and suggesting that it would help to regenerate the town. In reality, more needs to be done than that:
Here are some suggestions:
1. I would be in favour, in principle, of opening up Queen Street, Dunraven Place and Market Street to traffic. This comes at a cost of course because there would need to be measures put in place to alert blind and partially sighted people that they’re no longer in a traffic-free zone and provision would have to be made for those with mobility issues. There is a danger that a large traffic jam would be created as people chase a limited number of spaces and speed control measures would need to be put in place to control those who would treat it as a racetrack. Let’s remember that these were real issues before the town was pedestrianised. It’s worth looking at however on a trial basis.
2. Bridgend needs to work out what sort of town it wants to be. People will ask why they should shop in Bridgend. What has it got to bring them in? Working with the traders we need to create a unique selling point for the town. The events that take place can help in this regard.
3. Look again at shopping hours. 9.30-5.30 was designed for a time when many women were not in paid work and could shop during the day. Those days are gone. For most people in work Bridgend is effectively only open on a Saturday. Why not look at 11-7 for some businesses as an alternative. This would give literally thousands of people the chance to come to town during the week.
4. Encourage the conversion of some shop units into offices. More offices means more people in town during the day and more customers for the town’s businesses. In reality, we have too many small shop units and too few offices.
5. More online trading. Many people shop late in the evening and on Sunday, when town is closed. The supermarkets are simply too convenient with their extended opening hours. One way to counter this is to have a website that allows people to order online. In effect this means a business is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without physically keeping shop open for those hours.
6. Landlords need to be more flexible. We have some good and committed landlords in Bridgend but people would be surprised at the number who are absentees. They need to allow businesses to rent for three months to dip their toes in the water rather than force them to commit to 12 month or even 10 year leases at unrealistic prices before they even start up. Short leases encourage “pop-up” shops, many of whom will then become long-term shops. They won’t even start without that flexibility.
All these need to be addressed to create a vibrant town.