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£90m boost for transformation of Welsh town centres

Words: Roger Milne
Hannah Blythyn

Towns in Wales are to receive £90 million of additional investment as part of a reshaped government approach to transforming town centres.

This initiative, called Transforming Towns, includes measures to increase footfall by making sure the public sector locates services in town centres; tackle empty buildings and land to help bring them back into use; and green the centres.

The administration has unveiled a new ‘Town Centre First’ approach, which means locating services and buildings in town centres wherever possible. As part of this approach, all government departments and local authorities will put the health and vibrancy of town centres as the starting point for their location decision-making processes.

The public sector is being encouraged to support towns by locating offices, facilities and services within them in order to drive footfall and create or sustain vibrancy.

The investment just announced includes:

  • £36 million for town centre regeneration projects, extending our current capital programme for a further year and bringing in an anticipated total investment of almost £58 million.
  • £13.6 million to tackle empty and dilapidated buildings and land. This aims to enable local authorities to take enforcement action to bring empty buildings and land back into use.
  • £2 million for coastal towns to support projects to an anticipated value of £3m which will contribute to town centre / high street regeneration;
  • £10 million of additional funding for the Town Centre Loans scheme, taking the total to £41.6m,  to bring vacant and underutilised buildings back into use; and
  • £5 million funding for green infrastructure and biodiversity within town centres.

Also available is £0.5 million revenue funding to help local authorities develop masterplans, projects and provisions for town centres, including digital development and enhancing community and stakeholder engagement. In addition, £539,000 will be channelled into supporting the development of 22 business improvement districts.

Deputy minister for housing and local government, Hannah Blythyn said: “We have great towns in Wales – towns with inspiring histories and unique assets. But we want our towns to have great futures as well as great pasts, and we know that some of our towns are facing challenges.

“The retail sector has shrunk dramatically, and this trend looks set to continue. This is why we need to refocus our efforts on town centres, transforming them to be to be fit for the 21st century.”

She added: “Taken together these measures will make a significant contribution to the health of our town centres. It signals that this government is serious about transforming towns right across Wales.”