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FOR Cardiff were pleased to see the publication of the Welsh Government’s town centre position statement. It is clear that this is very much a statement for towns but even so much of it is relevant for Cardiff city centre and as ever we encourage Welsh government to consider the potential of this uniquely urban space within Wales.
A key element of the position statement is supercharging the town centre first principle. This was one of the key recommendations of our Recovery Manifesto for Cities and Towns published in 2021 and it’s positive to see a renewed commitment to this approach in the position statement. Positioning the necessary functions of daily life in urban centres is a key footfall driver and often provides better environmental and accessibility options than out of town delivery.
We were also pleased to see the commentary around local capacity to deliver and agree with the Welsh Government that ‘turning things around for our towns cannot be a government top-down action’ and that a variety of local actors need to collaborate to effect genuine change. It was disappointing not to see Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) specifically name checked as local actors when the Welsh Government have historically supported these organisations and 14 currently exist across Wales driving change for their locations.
The position statement also accurately recognises transport and connectivity and addressing private car dependency as vital factors in improving town centre vitality. This was another factor featured in our 2021 manifesto document. The continued development of reliable, accessible and affordable public transport connecting people directly to our town and city centres is a key function for both the day to day use of services and accessibility to the cultural and creative activities which thrive in urban spaces.
We would have liked to see more on business rates, following the recent public consultation on the topic, and the issue of community powers and ownership which has been under recent review by the Senedd. Both of these areas were key factors in our 2021 manifesto which are not really touched on in this position statement. The position statement also strongly focuses on retail (and the transition to online shopping) and public services and has little to say on office space, the hospitality industry, or cultural and leisure uses more generally. An active focus on developing multi-functional centres where people want to be when they do not have to be will be a vital step in addressing town and city centre decline.