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Challenge facing Wales’ high streets compared to 1945 Britain as one in seven shops lie empty

02 Sep 2021 2 minutes Read
Commercial Street, the main shopping street of Newport, Wales looking south-southeast toward the junction with Charles Street. Picture by Sionk (CC BY-SA 3.0).

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.

‘Brave decisions’

“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.

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hdavies15
hdavies15
25 days ago

The pattern of retail has changed irretrievably. Covid accelerated a change that was already under way. On line shopping with click and collect or home delivery will not be retreating from our behaviour patterns. Small independent traders are embracing this trend and it’s a lot harder for them than it is for likes of M&S, Tesco et al, but by adopting quality and distinctive product ranges they can have a crack at competing. This leaves city and town centres looking a bit depressed but greedy landlords helped that decline with stupid rentals. Now all those property developers who have donated… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
25 days ago

People don’t live in these towns. What you do is, build six storey blocks of service flats for older people/pensioners. Add pre-school centres. This could bring in boutiques offering clothes, shoes, etc that are generally unavailable for this older group.
Dentists, occulists might also move in offering services very close to residences.
Pre-schoolers bring parents with them, so the town gradually comes to life? I’m sure other readers can add their own ideas.

Last edited 25 days ago by j humphrys
hdavies15
hdavies15
25 days ago
Reply to  j humphrys

Good thinking. There have been some worthwhile examples of redundant offices and commercial buildings being repurposed for a variety of residential requirements. Big stores are a bit harder because of the way space is laid out but I’m sure there are people out there who could come up with workable ideas which would help with solving our disgraceful housing and homelessness issues.

What Ismyname
What Ismyname
25 days ago
Reply to  j humphrys

What makes you think older people want to live in a poky leasehold flat in a concrete town centre wasteland? Nothing would induce me to move to such a dump from my own house where I am not beholden to anyone else’s rules! And why do think that as an older person (nearly 70), I have difficulty in finding clothes and shoes or that I need anything different to what is otherwise available, such as jeans, hoodies, trainers, maxi dresses, etc., etc?

David Russell
David Russell
25 days ago

It is hardly surprising that so many shops big and small are closed or soon to close.The overheads,health and safety issues plus exorbatent rents,rates,bank charges,vat and a huge hike in insurance and the result is the death of our High Streets. No one with a modicum of sense would run a shop today.

What Ismyname
What Ismyname
25 days ago

A shop with limited 9-5 opening hours and limited stock will never be able to compete with online retailers. I can fire up my browser any time day or night, search to find exactly what I want and then find the supplier offering it at the lowest price or with the most convenient delivery options. Why waste the time and money to go into the town centre? I am only 15 minutes walk away, but cannot guarantee to find what I need there. I would only make that effort if I could visit an independent outlet offering something unique and… Read more »

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