The Welsh Liberal Democrats have launched a package of radical policies to revitalise Wales’ struggling high streets.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM was in Newtown on Saturday 7th November to promote 'High St Wales' the new Welsh Liberal Democrats plan to empower local communities torevitalise town centres.
An excellent example of what can be done is the newly refurbished Glanhafren Market Hall in Newtown, where local people have had the drive and determination to secure funding for this wonderful old building, now well used by local businesses and community groups.
Graham Winchester and Margaret Evitts of the Mid Wales Food & Land Trust kindly showed Kirsty and Jane Dodds, Welsh Assembly Candidate for Montgomeryshire around, together with Newtown Councillors Gemma Bowker and David Selby.
The refurbished Market hall is supporting new start-up businesses and social enterprises, and offer excellent and affordable meeting rooms.
Jane Dodds, Assembly Candidate for Montgomeryshire, said:
“Our visit to Glanhafren market in Newtown was an inspirational vision of what is possible if local people have the resources to improve their towns.
This new policy is offering fresh, innovative and enterprising ideas to revive our high streets. Our ‘High Street Wales’ policy would empower people to drive the regeneration of their local communities and continue to improve them for the people who live there, local businesses and for those who use their services.
We will also put powers back into the hands of local people by enabling them the opportunity to save key local services.”
William Powell, AM for Mid and West Wales, added:
“The Labour Welsh Government has been content to sit back and witness the decline of our high streets; this complacency must end. The retail sector is Wales’ largest private-sector employer and high streets are vital in supporting the many jobs that it offers.
We recognise that high streets and town centres are more than just economic hubs; they also strengthen the social fabric of our communities. It is time for new ideas to regenerate town centres and the Welsh Liberal Democrats would ensure that enterprise is at the heart of a Welsh Government.”
DIWEDD / END
In government, the party would establish a ‘High Street Wales’ body to empower people to drive the regeneration of their local communities and tackle dereliction and decay. Based on the ‘Main Street’ movement in America, it would offer education, hands-on-training, online resources and facilitate connections and conferences to share best practice and build strong communities.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats would also give more powers to communities by introducing a ‘Community Right to Bid’ so that people can work together to protect key local services such as libraries, post offices or pubs.
Other initiatives proposed in their policy report ‘A Diverse Welsh High Street’ include:
A new ‘Reoccupation Relief Scheme’ – slashing business rates by 50% for new occupants of premises that have been empty for a year.
· Tackling the proliferation of betting shops by giving them their own use class to give local communities greater say over where they are placed.
· A statutory requirement to consider walking and cycling at an early stage in new development schemes to ensure a more accessible and pleasant high street environment.
· Supporting the development of Business Improvement Districts with the development of a BID learning network to share lessons and support the development of future BIDs.
· The encouragement of local authorities to offer limited free parking schemes near the town centre to support struggling high streets.