Expert gives council regeneration advice
3:10pm Saturday 22nd September 2012 in News
There is no silver bullet to transform the fortunes of struggling town centres, an expert on regeneration has told people in Pembrokeshire.
County councillors were given a presentation on the future of town centres from the Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales (CREW) last week.
Professor Dave Adamson said that Wales was suffering acutely from the issues which are affecting town centres worldwide.
He said the problems, which included the collapse in demand for retail space and the influx of low value commerce, predated the recession and were much longer-term problems.
Members heard that solutions such as retail or property- led developments were not going to be the blanket solutions they once were, and town centres had to recognise a “diminished retail function”.
Prof Adamson said possible solutions included bringing accommodation back into town centres, giving the example of older people who would benefit from living closer to shops and services, while leisure, health and education could also relocate to the centre as part of an ‘extended menu’.
“We are all going to have to accept that town centres will not look the same in ten years as they did ten years ago,” he said.
Prof Adamson explained that although parking and business rates were two of the first issues talked about, any changes would have to be part of a wider solution and would never revitalise a town by themselves.
Planning in town centres was another significant issue highlighted, and applications should be tested for their value to the local economy.
He said: “There has to be a strategic plan on a county level that will mean a real strategic think and a county wide analysis of what is happening.
“It’s about how can you identify the individual strengths of the towns and mesh them in a structure, even if, at times, they do have to make a bit of sacrifice.”
He said towns had to identify what they can do to reinforce each other without competing with each other.