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RCT Traders have had enough, Welsh Lib Dem survey shows

April 2, 2013 7:00 PM

It will come as no surprise to anyone that town centres are struggling, but a survey carried out in recent weeks by the local Welsh Liberal Democrats reflect a mood of despair and anger according to Campaign Manager Karen Roberts

"The feedback from the survey reinforces many of the views which we have expressed in the past and which have been based on numerous discussions with local traders and residents as well as colleagues across Wales and organisations such as the FSB.

"As most people will be aware the issue of car parking charges is on which has caused a great deal of anger amongst traders in town centres. In response to a question on how they felt the increase in car parking charges had affected their business 100% of those who responded said trade had declined. Other towns have cut charges to try and attract trade, but in RCT such calls have fallen on deaf ears.

"Traders feel that communication with the Council is inadequate to put it mildly, and that both the Council and the Welsh Government need to do more to help town centre businesses survive."

The survey was delivered to town centre businesses throughout RCT. 41% of respondents said communication with the Council was non-existent and a further 46% said it was poor. 94% said they didn't think enough was being done by RCT Council to help traders

There was a general feeling that traders opinions were not being taken on board before any decisions were made. One of the highest response rates was from Tonypandy, where the pedestrianisation is judged by traders to have been a failure. There was significant opposition to the pedestrianisation proposal at the time it was suggested and traders in Pontypridd have expressed the same concerns regarding pedestrianisation there.

In Porth the changes there are again said to have been detrimental to trade - there are now fewer places where shoppers can park on a short term basis, and the by-pass has taken considerable trade from the town,

"Regeneration efforts made so far have not impressed traders." said Ms Roberts

"Only 26% of respondents who replied to this question said they thought it would be good for business - one from Aberdare and five from Pontypridd. Those same people said business had declined during the regeneration works. In all 91% said that trade had declined during the period when works were being carried out.

"It is inevitable that there will be some disruption when major works are being carried out, but more could and should have been done to try and help traders through that difficult time. Help with Business Rates for example - there was some negotiation with the valuation office but it came very late in the day. RCT Council could have used existing powers to offer rate reductions.

"The overall feeling is one of near desperation as many of those who responded are long established businesses who have invested a great deal over many years and want to see our town centres thriving - or at the very least surviving."

Out of town developments have also taken business away from town centres, a problem experienced across the country - 92% indicated that trade had declined as a result of the increase in out of town developments. Traders say they are not operating on a level playing field when such developments provide free car parking.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell was one of those who voted against the recent Talbot Green new town proposal - the Council's own report stated that this would have knock on effects for existing town centres. The final decision will now rest with the Welsh Government, and Cllr Powell says they should turn it down.

"The Welsh Government's own planning policy and their recently launched 'Vibrant and Viable Places' scheme state that we need to do more to protect existing town centres. We should be looking at what is already in place and making those centres more attractive for shoppers to visit. It is ludicrous to even think of building a new town centre when we have so many empty premises around.

"Where you have smaller independent local businesses that money stays in the local economy. With larger multi nationals yes they offer some extra employment in the area, but the profits from the business go elsewhere.

"RCT Council needs to start engaging more with traders. We have lost the Town Forums and there are complaints that when meetings are held they are only attended by Officers and not those members elected to represent the public."

The full report is available here.

ENDS