The Minister was speaking in a debate on the Business and Enterprise Committee’s report into the regeneration of town centres.
“Town and city centres are the heartbeat of our communities; they play a vital role in Welsh community life, and they are continuously evolving. They are influenced by many factors, such as internet shopping, the economic downturn and with travel now so much easier, competition from neighbouring towns. Only the most adaptable, innovative, creative, high streets, where the needs of customers are understood, will survive and thrive in this global, vibrant marketplace.
“It’s clear that our town centres need to diversify. Retail can no longer be the sole driving force for our towns. As towns change, we need to explore how to consolidate retail in more focused areas, and locate housing and local services in town centres. This includes increasing opportunities to consider the role of leisure and the night-time economy as part of a town’s offer as a destination for residents and visitors.”
The debate came a day after the Minister announced funding of £800,000 for a Town Improvement Grant scheme in Aberystwyth that will provide funding to support renovation work of properties in the town centre as part of the town’s Regeneration Area Programme.
The Welsh Government also offers a similar grant scheme in the Mon a Menai Regeneration Area, while differing approaches have been employed in other town according to their needs.
For example The Welsh Government is supporting a large retail scheme, including a new supermarket and other shops that will strengthen the town centre in Bargoed. A new bus station has been completed, along with the first phases of street works that will be carried out along the entire length of the main shopping area. The town is benefitting from both European funding and Welsh Government support. Welsh Government support has also enabled a new library and cafe to open in Hanbury Chapel, giving the Listed Building in the heart of the town a new lease of life.
Bargoed is just one example of towns that have received Welsh Government support through the Regeneration Area programme; from Holyhead, Caernarfon and Rhyl to Merthyr, Ammanford, Maesteg and Barry.
European Funding and money from Targeted Match Fund is also supporting Town Centre regeneration projects in towns such as Llanelli, Pontypridd and Pontypool. There is also support available across a number of portfolio interests, through housing, transport, tourism and heritage programmes.
This holistic approach, working in partnership across government departments, with local authorities and the private sector, is being adopted in 24 town centre regeneration projects totalling around £270 million of investment in Wales.
The Minister added,
"We can do so much more for our town centres by working together I want to ensure that we are providing the right kind of leadership and coordination to our partners and that we achieve maximum impact from our regeneration investment in future years. Vibrant and diverse town centres are essential. Together we can support them to thrive.”