The Future of Small Towns in Wales

Project categories: 
Town centre
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

To examine the future of Wales’ towns and the policies needed today to shape how towns look, feel and respond to their long-term challenges.

March 2018 – August 2018
Project Description: 

The future of small towns in Wales will be determined by global and local factors within and outside their scope to influence. Consumer habits have changed and the role and function of our town centres need to change in order to meet these challenges. There has been a welcome focus on the regeneration of town centres in Wales. Housing played a large part in regeneration policy and there have been various attempts to bring housing back to town centres.

More recently there has been a move away from the more one-dimensional physical regeneration policies and a shift towards building more nuanced responses, involving a wider range of stakeholders, including support for developing Town Centre Partnerships. There has also been significant investment in the development of Business Improvement Districts across the country and The means has been at the forefront of that.

Towns are more than simply commercial centres and we have been close to the development of a whole-place approach. Welsh Government acknowledges that local communities need to be equipped with the tools and support to make change happen. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act takes this idea further and actively encourages public bodies to think more about the long term, work better with people, communities and each other, look to prevent problems and to take a more joined-up approach. The announcement of the Targeted Regeneration Investment programme for 2018-2021 continues the focus on partnership working, with local authorities having to apply with partner organisations in line with the aims set out in Prosperity for All.

So, important building blocks are being put in place but there remains a lot to do before the future sustainability of our towns and the communities that depend on them can be ensured. There has been a growing emphasis on City Regions but small towns too are major local economic drivers and important for many entry-level jobs. This study aims to contribute to the new thinking required to ensure town centres are able to survive and thrive for years to come.

The work was commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses many of whose members depend on small towns. The analysis looks at trends at the micro and macro level and posits a series of recommendations.

The report was launched in November 2018 at a seminar hosted by Russel George AM Chair of the Economic, Infrastructure and Skills Committee at Welsh Government.

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