THE Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn MS has announced up to £5.3 million from the Transforming Towns programme will be used to fund adaptions in town centres to support traders and improve public safety in response to coronavirus. While a further £3.7m of Valleys Taskforce funding will be invested to enhance small town centres in the Valleys region.
During a visit to Rhyl, Hannah Blythyn said the £5.3m repurposed capital funding from the Transforming Towns programme, will be used to fund adaptions in town centres to facilitate trading and public safety in response to Coronavirus. This will include but not limited to; outdoor awnings, outdoor tables and chairs, outdoor heating, outdoor screening, bollards, planters, small green infrastructure schemes, electricity supply and lighting to outdoor trading spaces and the temporary use of vacant buildings and the establishment of local markets.
During the visit, the Deputy Minister saw first-hand how Welsh Government funds will be used to deliver the Greening Rhyl infrastructure schemes and to improve safety and conditions including suspending parking to increase space for pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distancing and enhance sustainable and active travel. Rhyl is already benefitting from significant Welsh Government investment including funding for the nearly-completed refurbishment of the former Costigans to provide high-quality business accommodation.
The £9m fund will complement other support targeting town centre recovery including:
£15.4 million Local Sustainable Transport fund to provide better active and sustainable travel infrastructure to make it safer and easier for people to get around their local town; and
Funding to support Business Improvement Districts’ running costs for three months.
The Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said:
“We all know that town centres are facing huge challenges in light of Covid-19 but I am committed to ensuring Welsh town centres not only survive but thrive. Investing in our town centres is as relevant as ever but as we do not yet now the longer term impact Coronavirus will have on our town centres, it is vital any short term actions have a lasting impact and enhance the look and feel of our town centres.
“This is why I’m announcing that £5.3 million will be available during the remainder of 2020-21 to fund adaptations in town centres, which will facilitate trading and public safety in response to Coronavirus. This will include things like outdoor tables and chairs, awnings and planters to ensure that areas are segregated and safe and that business can operate under current social distancing requirements. These actions will provide a sense of wellbeing, safety and confidence to encourage people to return to the high street.
As we plan to reopen our public spaces and town centres, we have a unique opportunity to re-think and to re-imagine our town centres as we would like them to be – greener, cleaner, more connected.”
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport and Chair of the Valleys Taskforce, Lee Waters said:
“The £3.7m Valleys Taskforce Funding places an important focus on enabling communities in the region to work closer to home within town centres through co-working spaces and sustainable and active travel improvements.
“This will be crucial in supporting our smaller town centre high streets as well as building our foundational economy.
“There is no denying the coronavirus pandemic has placed unprecedented pressures and challenges on our economic outlook, but it has also given us an opportunity to re-imagine how we want to not just recover, but build back better. Today’s announcement will be key to that and help ensure our towns survive and thrive long into the future.”
The Leader of Denbighshire Council, Hugh Evans said:
The Leader of Denbighshire County Council, Cllr Hugh Evans OBE, said: “I welcome this funding announcement from the Welsh Government. This support will help town centres across Wales as the recovery from coronavirus continues.
“All towns in Denbighshire are struggling during this time and supporting town centres and businesses remains a priority for the Council.
“Our plans for the recovery phase are very much in line with creating greener, cleaner and more connected town centres while supporting businesses and ensuring the safety of the public.”
Ben Cottam, Head of External Affairs at FSB Wales and member of the Ministerial Town Centre Action Group said:
“FSB is very pleased to see that Welsh Government in creating this fund, has recognised the challenges faced by town centre businesses, particularly as they grappled with issues around the current pandemic and we very much welcome the fund. In our recent report ‘Open for Business’ we identified not only some of these challenges but also some of the opportunities to overcome them and this fund provides the chance to make some of those opportunities a reality across our communities.
It’s important that this fund is supported by businesses joining with community partners and the public sector locally to identify how a collaborative approach can help town centres survive this pandemic and plot a course beyond it, recognising the long-term trends which are shaping our towns. This fund can be a catalyst for some of those conversations and partnerships locally.”
The announcement comes the day before the second meeting of the Ministerial Town Centre Action Group. The group, set up by the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government aims to determine how best to use existing funds and prioritise further actions and resources to bolster town centres in the short and long term.