- October 15, 2015
- Posted by: Carwyn Jones AM
- Category: The Gem
Much has been said this week about the number of empty shops in Bridgend and what needs to be done for the town centre so this week I thought I would share some thoughts on what I think needs to be done.
1. Give people a reason to visit the town centre. Why should people go there unless it has something different to offer? It means that the traders need to sign up to a common vision for the town centre that looks forward not back to the way things used to be.
2. Accept that there are too many shop units that will never be filled again because they are too small. The supermarkets and online trading has taken away much of their trade. However, there are not enough offices. Why not look to convert more from one to the other. Then you have more people in the town centre during the day, creating the footfall for shops and cafes.
3. Look at opening hours. Where is it written that shops have to be open from 9-5.30? Most people will never be able to get to them in the week so they will go to the supermarkets because they are open later. Those hours were designed for a time when more people worked in town and fewer women were in paid jobs so could shop during the day. Times have changed. There is a limit to what you can ask small retailers to do, but what about experimenting with 11-7?
4. Wholesale reintroduction of traffic into the town isn’t the answer. When Bridgend was open to traffic it was chaos. Heavy traffic, widespread illegal parking and little room for pedestrians, especially those with mobility problems were normal. Is there a case though for allowing traffic in at specific times of day? I’m not convinced it would help but it might be worth a try.
5. Work on the town’s strengths. A lot of money leaks out into the surrounding out of town centres and to Cardiff. Bringing more of that back will help the town considerably. Why not create a virtual shopping centre where people can order online from shops in town. That creates the interest for people to actually come to the shops and browse.
6. Above all, create a theme for the town. Narberth is known for food. Cowbridge for luxury goods. Hay on Wye for books. Carmarthen for its market and small shops. We need to think about what Bridgend should be.
So, lots to do, but I think the potential is there. I’ve lived here most of my life, and I want to see the town centre thrive.