Welsh Government Ministers have announced an additional £24m package of support to revitalise Wales’ town centres.
- £18.4m of Transforming Towns loan funding will breathe new life into old and empty properties;
- £3.34m will help high street businesses grow and embrace innovative digital technology that will help their business thrive as part of the Year of SMART Towns;
- An additional £3m will be used to incentivise more North Wales businesses to locate in town centres.
Since 2015, the Welsh Government’s Town Centre Loans programme has funded local authorities to support landlords to redevelop empty and underutilised properties. Under this round of funding, local authorities can act directly and use their share of the £18.4m to step in to buy and redevelop properties to support the diversification of our town centres by encouraging more sustainable uses for empty sites and premises, such as residential, leisure and for key services.
Once the Town Centre Loan is repaid, the money will be recycled to fund new loans, bring empty and derelict sites back into use, help businesses to grow and prosper, and support activities to increase footfall on our high streets.
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council will benefit from £2.570m for the redevelopment of strategic sites in Ebbw Vale and Brynmawr, while Flintshire County Council will receive £750,000 to redevelop a number of premises that would otherwise be difficult to bring back into use.
Swansea City and County Council is set to receive £6m in funding to bring back into use long-term empty buildings within the city and Powys County Council will receive £2m to redevelop the former livestock market in Llanidloes.
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said:
“As part of our Transforming Towns approach, we have invested over £40m of Town Centre Loans funding over this Senedd term, enabling the redevelopment and occupation of many town centre buildings across Wales. I look forward to seeing more homes, offices and businesses developing thanks to the property improvements we will see as a result of this latest round of funding.”
The £3.34m funding for town centres will be vital in enabling businesses to plan projects which will support their economic growth as well as helping them make the best use of digital technology. This includes utilising data to help firms better understand their customer base and trends which will support businesses in their future planning and marketing activities. The funding will also help establish pop up shops and creative hubs to increase their retail offer and will drive increased footfall into the town centre.
A separate £3m North Wales town centres entrepreneurial fund will incentivise new entrepreneurs to locate their businesses within the town centres of Wrexham, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay and Bangor. The fund comprises grant and loan funding; the loan funding will be provided by Development Bank of Wales.
Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates said:
“Supporting our businesses and town centres is a key part of our Economic Resilience and Reconstruction Mission as we aim to rebuild the Welsh economy so that it’s more prosperous, equal and green than ever before.
“We have all seen the importance of digital during the pandemic, in how we connect with each other, purchase goods and access service. Embracing technology is going to crucial to the future success of businesses and I’m delighted our town centre funding will help towns and businesses do just that.
“I’m also pleased we will be able to provide important incentives to businesses so we can increase footfall in Wrexham, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay and Bangor. This funding will help attract businesses and people back into the town centres.”
Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said:
“The news on funding for Welsh high streets will be very welcome for the communities that will benefit, particularly at such a difficult time for our towns and businesses.
“There is a huge challenge ahead of us when it comes to revitalising our high streets in the wake of Coronavirus, and we’ve been pleased to work with the Deputy Minister on the Town Centre Action Group to work on a sustainable future for towns across the country and the communities that they serve.
“FSB continues to call for a Future of Welsh Towns Fund which would enable communities to pitch in for funding to create solutions for the problems that they face. For so many of the communities in Wales there is no one-size-fits-all solution and we must create opportunities for business owners and others to pitch for funding that meets their needs.
“There is also a big need to meet the new challenges of a post-Covid, and rapidly changing world. FSB Wales has called for Digital Town Centre Managers to help businesses navigate an increasingly digital landscape and, indeed, take advantage of it.
“There will be many challenging moments ahead as we all seek to navigate an economic recovery for our high streets from Coronavirus. If we cannot find a way to ensure that this recovery is felt in every town in Wales then we will all be infinitely poorer – both financially and within the communities of which Wales’ businesses are such a crucial part.”