Courage and changed thinking are the only way our town centres will survive, county councillors have said.
Although Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and Neyland, and Pembroke and Pembroke Dock, are identified in the Wales Spatial Plan as Pembrokeshire’s strategic hubs, they are still struggling to pull in trade, applied planning director Paul Instone told the economy, overview and scrutiny committee last Tuesday.
And because of the rural nature of Pembrokeshire, its most populous settlements needed to fulfil roles that would normally be associated with much larger towns.
Councillor David Lloyd said bringing in accommodation or office space in town centres would serve a better purpose.
“But the idea of returning trade to the high street, I suggest, is gone,” he said.
Cllr Allen-Mirehouse added: “Shopping and retail are very much an organic animal – they evolve. We need to look at a niche market, a quality market, on the high street.
“We have the advantage of a vast influx of tourists in the summer. I do not think that run-of-the-mill is going to pull people in to spend money.”
Cllr John Davies said that when it was proposed, Carmarthen’s St Catherine’s Walk was an unpopular scheme – but it worked.
He said: “We would have to demonstrate courage and do something that may well be unpopular. The right decisions are usually difficult decisions.
“We need to be far more creative and, as members, be brave and put the work in.”
Mr Instone, who gave a presentation at the meeting, said it was a case of “developing a clear strategy and sticking to it.”
Cllr Peter Stock added: “We must be prepared to offer developers what no one else is prepared to offer them – not wait for them to come to us.”
Cabinet spokesman for economy, tourism and communities Cllr David Pugh said a town centre review was currently being carried out, with an action plan for each of them.
He said: “We need to look at planning issues and create opportunities, because we cannot go back and expect a retail-led development.
That’s not going to happen.