Town centre regeneration
Flintshire’s Cabinet will note the progress made in town centre regeneration and note the resource implications for the programme to progress as agreed when it meets on Tuesday, 18 May.
Smaller town centres across the UK have been facing challenging economic circumstances for many years due to changing customer behaviours. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated these trends although it remains too early to understand the long term impacts of this.
There are a number of challenges facing all small towns in the UK, including:
- Changing customer behaviour, which has accelerated during the Covid pandemic, has dramatically reduced expenditure through high street shops. It is not expected that this will return fully to pre-Covid levels leaving towns with more shops than they can sustain.
- Smaller shopping centres are struggling to remain viable with considerable difficulties in attracting tenants.
- There are a small number of longer-term vacant properties in towns which can have a blighting effect on their locality.
The Council’s forward-thinking programme looking again at town centres and helping to shape them for the future includes:
- reducing the number of long-term empty properties in town centres;
- finding more sustainable uses for retail units and increase community enterprises on the High Streets;
- planning to repurpose less viable shopping centres;
- developing starter units for new retail enterprises in town centres; and
- co-ordinating and supporting all interventions with a consistent approach to ensure the regenerative effects of investment and resource are used to their maximum advantage.
Flintshire County Council’s Chief Officer for Planning, Environment and Economy, Andrew Farrow, said:
“Despite delays created by the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been significant progress made including:
- Development of an ambitious programme of active travel investment across Buckley and Mold;
- Securing Welsh Government investment in active travel and public transport infrastructure in Deeside;
- Establishing Shotton Masterplan governance structure and work streams.
- Successful promotional campaigns for businesses in the towns and in the tourism and hospitality sectors."
In order to continue to deliver this programme effectively, there will need to be increased resources available. The regeneration team currently stands at two individuals with recruitment for a third currently underway. It must also be recognised that the proposed approach will place demands on other teams in the Council to deliver specialist advice and support, for example property and legal services.
“More funding will also need to be available. Since the last report in March 2020, new opportunities for investment in towns have emerged and the Council intends to take full advantage of these new opportunities to support the growth and development of our town centres.”