This week sees the publication of the report by Mary Portas on how to breathe life back into Britain’s declining town centres. There have been many reports before on the subject but to little avail. The problems that we see in Llanelli town centre are by no means unique – even before 2008 financial crisis, the impact of out-of-town shopping and internet shopping were taking their toll across Britain. But over the last two years, with the Chancellor’s disastrous policies leading to stagnation and almost zero growth, consumer confidence has fallen dramatically and one in seven high street shops has closed.
I recently took the opportunity to go into the shop next door to Boots in the town centre where I had discussion with Andrew Shufflebotham, the town centre manager and saw the display of the various schemes in progress to help put the heart back into Llanelli.
Increasing footfall in the town centre is absolutely key – it’s a chicken and egg situation: we need to get enough people coming into the town to attract shops in and we need a sufficient range of shops to attract people in.
The refurbished Llanelly House, the new cinema complex and joint working with Trinity St David’s University who will run courses in the Furnace Arts Centre will all help bring more people into the town centre.
In addition work with soon begin on a facelift for shops in Vaughan St and Stepney St with new canopies to make the shop fronts more visible and plans for more seating in front of Boots.
Now we need some action from the Portas report and a proper growth strategy from the Chancellor.