With news that Wilko is set to become the latest big name to leave Llanelli, a new master plan to save the town simply can’t come soon enough.
It was announced by Carmarthenshire Council in January 2022 that a ‘master plan’ had been approved to help the town of Llanelli diversify and recover from Covid.
Llanelli’s economy has been stagnant for a decade, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has made it even more difficult.
Read more: The department store everyone went to in Llanelli
Doing nothing to fix the problems, said a report presented to the cabinet of the council on January 17, would delay the city’s recovery.
Llanelli’s economic growth has increased by just 3% over the past 10 years, the lowest figure in Wales, showing how much the town needs support and change to perform.
The master plan has been prepared with input from businesses and local stakeholders and aims to:
- Strengthen the characteristics that distinguish the center from outlying retail parks and support a greater mix of experiences and uses.
- Maintain the role of proximity and proximity of the center, favor the reception of families and young people and encourage the local population to come more often, to stay longer and to spend more.
- Make it a place to live, learn, play and have fun with reasons to visit the center day or night.
- Managing the transition to a smaller downtown with a vibrant, fully occupied central core.
It was announced last week that high street giant Wilko had confirmed the closure of two department stores following the pandemic in Wales.
One was the Llanelli store, which sits in the commercial center of the town and is responsible for much of the town’s footfall.
Lee Waters, MS for Lanelli, said the store’s closure was a loss for downtown St. Elli and a big concern for the city.
He continued: “As the St. Elli center is now under new ownership, I hope the owners will work closely with the council to find a use for such a large unit and find a way to replace the financial loss. of the shop.
“I’ve already asked council to publish the ‘Town Center Recovery Plan’ which I helped them get funding from the Welsh Government for and urged them to order. Now I want locals to see the plans they have for the center and ways we can improve it.
“One of the suggestions in the plan was to turn stores into smaller units because there aren’t many retailers who could fill such a large unit.”
Jason Cross, owner of Hwyl, a niche independent restaurant and cafe in the city centre, said his business was doing very well but he felt more needed to be done to encourage visitors and business.
“We’ve done something here that doesn’t exist in Llanelli and we just need more people to do what we’ve done. We were running places in London but we’ve come back because it’s my hometown and we’ve done really well and I have amazing clients,” he said.
“Things like parking would be useful for businesses, if there was free parking people would stop here but it’s not. People don’t like to pay for parking so this could be a very simple thing the council could do to further encourage people here.”
Jason said if there was more traffic in town, more customers would come in and use local businesses.
He added: “There are a lot of problems in the middle of the city and people feel uncomfortable crossing, even if there are police officers arresting people, it’s just not a problem. nice place and they have to clean this up and try to get the shops that people There are only charity shops and bargain shops here which is not what people are going for.
“I tried to take over a unit in Nando’s new development in town but it was just crazy rent and rates and where we are now is really good. They are building a new development and not even incentivizing people to go there.
“I think helping people start a business is a start. We spent a fortune on this place and were happy to have it, and it works, but not everyone is as lucky as us. I think it’s positive that they’re doing something in the city, Ymlaen is doing food markets and bringing us a lot of trade and you know that’s happening because our trade is increasing massively so if it’s something that happens every two weeks, it will help everyone.
Regeneration projects are underway in the town and a business improvement group is active in Ymlaen Llanelli.
Over the years, crowds have flocked to the center for Ymlaen Llanelli’s social events, including 80s festivals, outdoor cinemas and the food and drink festival.
Many events have drawn larger crowds to the center than seen in years.
Carmarthenshire Council leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “Town centers in Wales and the UK have seen steady decline over the years, and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. But we are determined to see Carmarthenshire town centers recover and once again become vibrant places for our people and businesses.
“Here in Carmarthenshire, we have drawn up bespoke recovery plans for each of our three main town centers which identify areas for improvement and opportunities for change and growth. Alongside this is our 10 towns programme. , through which we are investing significantly in Carmarthenshire’s 10 rural towns.
“Following public consultation and with Cabinet approval, the three main inner city recovery plans will now be owned and executed by the task force and focus groups in each inner city.
“As a council, we will continue to work with potential funders from the Welsh Government and Westminster to raise funds as opportunities arise, and use funding from our capital program to enable these plans.”
Glenys Davies, owner of Lavender Cauldron in Llanelli Market, said the town is not what it was years ago.
“When I worked in the town of Llanelli years ago if you went out at lunchtime the place was packed but then you had WHSmith, Marks and Spencer, New Look and they were all in the center -town. For some reason it started to get that reputation and it’s starting to go away. I know the industry is gone, but there are other job opportunities. It’s a beach town, let’s take advantage -as much as possible,” she said.
Glenys said she believes if the unit Wilko currently occupies sits empty when the store closes, the town will go downhill.
She said: ‘If it’s empty it’ll still be bad it’ll be another thing to pound the town on but it would be nice to see people come into town and decide ‘let’s go to Llanelli and look in the shops’ but people don’t do that anymore.”
“I know the internet has changed the way people shop, but people still like to hang out and chat and I think they should try to encourage that.”
There are bold plans for a £3million regeneration program to transform the town and attract more people. The project, led by Cygnus Holdings (Llanelli) Ltd, is named Y Linc as it will link the town center to Eastgate with walkways and provide new restaurants, apartments and offices.
It is expected to house recognizable brands such as Juniper Place and Old Havana, both of which are expected to take units during development, as well as coffee company Carma Coffi. It is hoped that more than 100 jobs will be created, excluding construction positions.
Last year plans to replace the prominent building which once housed the Altalia restaurant and Barbican pub were revealed.
The 19th century building, which has stood on the corner of Market Street and Stepney Street since the 1800s, will be replaced with commercial units and apartments as part of an investment to regenerate the town centre.
The Market Street North scheme is one of several developments aimed at improving the appearance of the main shopping district with the aim of attracting more commercial interest and footfall.
In addition to the old Altalia building, the demolition of 8-16 Market Street is expected to make way for a proposed new development which will include a mixed-use arcade development, including residential, retail, office and office units. bar Restaurant.
The council and traders hope these projects, along with the rest of the master plan, will give Llanelli new hope for the future.
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