Challenge facing Wales’ high streets compared to 1945 Britain as one in seven shops lie empty
A new report has called for action after finding that one in seven shops on Wales’ high streets lie empty.
The report by Wales’ Auditor General compared the challenge facing the centres of towns and cities to that of post-war 1945 Britain.
Adrian Crompton found that a mixture of Covid-19, changing consumer expectations, technological advances and past policy choices were to blame for the closure of shops.
The report found that Between 2012 and 2020, bank and building society branches reduced by 28.8% falling from 695 to 495. ATMs had fallen by 18% in the last three years, down from 3,189 machines to 2,616.
He urged local authorities as well as the Welsh Government to use their existing powers and resources to revive the centres of towns and cities.
Solutions included reviewing car parking charges, and reviewing the rates paid bby businesses to ensure they better reflect the present conditions of town centers, the report said.
“The challenges facing many town centres in Wales are similar to the regeneration of 1945 post-War Britain,” Adrian Crompton said.
“Between 1950 and 1980 local authorities prioritised regeneration of town centres creating new and greater retail space.
“However, past policy choices, changing consumer expectations and technological advances are now adversely affecting many Welsh town centres. And the pandemic has now added to these problems.
He added: “Rapid change is taking place in our town centres and the full impact of COVID-19 is yet to be felt.
“Priorities for action that appeared reasonable 18 months ago no longer reflect the changes that are taking place and the challenges that now need to be addressed.
“National and local government need to deliver integrated solutions, make brave decisions and provide bold, ambitious leadership if we are to address the challenges facing our town centres.”
Since 2014, the Welsh Government has invested just under £900 million to help regenerate town centres.