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The NFRN welcomes Audit Wales’ September 2021 report, which has published their findings and reviews of how local authorities are managing and regenerating their towns.

 

The report identifies the importance of towns in Wales from residential areas to work and cultural spaces. Audit have acknowledged the importance of town centres within Welsh life and have devised plans to sustain footfall in Wales’ local shops.

 

Currently, one every seven shops on Welsh high streets are empty, post offices have fallen by 3.9% in the last decade and between 2012 and 2020, bank and building society branches reduced by 28.8% – from 695 to 495.

 

Roughly a third of businesses (36%) believe that local authorities need to become more agile in their decision making to help businesses recover and a smaller proportion (15%) believe authorities should improve their co-ordinating of the high street.

 

Town centres are depleting due to out-of-town retail and the progressive loss of essential services– such as post offices, banks, and public services. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified these issues and, despite the welsh and local governments support in response to the struggling businesses during the pandemic, town centres continue to struggle, and Audit Wales believes this to be a national priority.

 

Welsh Government have invested just under £900 million to help regenerate town centres but Audit Wales believes following the pandemic and once the business rate holiday is over, there will be a need to create a level playing field with out-of-town retailers and online providers for both non-domestic rates but also charges like car parking. Many towns are not easy to access due to lack of efficient and affordable public transport, and town centre businesses are impacted adversely by charging for car parking to compete with out-of-town retail locations which typically advertise free parking and larger national chain stores. Transport infrastructure such as cycle ways, pavements and roads have been identified as areas which require change.

 

You can read the full report here:
https://www.audit.wales/sites/default/files/publications/Town-Centre-Regeneration-English.pdf

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