AM calls for dedicated support for coastal and market towns

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Assembly Member Angela Burns has called for more targeted funding to be made available to support towns and villages in west Wales.

During a Welsh Conservative debate held on Wednesday into Community Regeneration Angela highlighted how towns the length and breadth of Wales are changing and raised her concerns that a contribution of changing customer expectations and high rates are driving a significant increase in shop vacancy rates.

A recent House of Lords enquiry found that “the seaside and our coastal heritage is a vital part of our country's greatest assets” however they concluded that “their location on the periphery of the country places them on the periphery of the economy, bringing consequential social problems. This combination of challenges warrants dedicated attention and support.”

Mrs Burns said that a Welsh Conservative Government in Cardiff Bay would look to establish a seaside town fund and a market town fund to help regenerate local communities which would see £200 million earmarked to be invested over a five-year period with the aim of creating a more level playing field around investment between towns and cities. It would also plan to give more power to local communities to take control of their local regeneration efforts.

Commenting later Mrs Burns said “The constituency of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire is home to such diverse towns and communities as Laugharne, so closely linked to Dylan Thomas, through to Whitland with its ties to Hywel Dda, Tenby and its wonderful beaches and in the far west, Pembroke the birthplace of Henry Tudor and the historic military town of Pembroke Dock where royal yachts were built.  We are blessed to live in such a varied constituency but what links all these areas and many others throughout Wales is that they have all seen better days.

“After visiting the Christmas Fair at Pembroke Castle I walked back along the length of the High Street. It really brought home to me how the High Street has changed over the past decade. Banks gone, boarded up shop fronts and the growth of charity shops. This scene is replicated elsewhere in my constituency and we need imagination, focus and resource to reinvent our high streets for today’s public expectations.

“We believe that strong towns will help to develop strong communities, and cohesive and engaged communities will help to improve the whole area for the benefit of all. And that has an enormous spin-off effect into education and health and the economic drive.

“We need to remind the Welsh Government that they need to look further than the cities along the M4 and the South Wales valleys to stimulate economic growth and regeneration and that there are other parts of Wales which also need support.

“I am disappointed that the Welsh Government were not able to back our motion, but will continue to press for towns across my constituency to gain the support from the Welsh Government that they desperately need.”