The UK town where a fifth of the town centre shops are empty

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Fed up residents of a UK town are calling for action, as a fifth of the high street shops are now empty.

Bridgend, in South Wales, has tens of closed and boarded up businesses, with town centre footfall down 44 percent according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

Among the reasons for the drop in trade are Covid and online shopping. While across Wales, one in six high street businesses have ceased trading.

Resident Stephen Lake, who has lived in the area for five years, said he would like to see the typical town centre reimagined.

He said: “I don’t think many people would dispute the impact that online shopping is having or that it’s likely to continue to do so.

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“Instead of pining for the past, isn’t it time to re-imagine the town centre as a social hub?”

“If implemented with vision, getting people living in some of the empty buildings could revitalise the area and at the same time help address the lack of affordable housing.”

Steve Watkins, who owns Watkins Menswear, told WalesOnline a more balanced approach is needed when it comes to pedestrianisation in the town.

He said: “Why is it taking so long to implement the quick solutions to town centre regeneration that are in the 2021 Council Masterplan?

“The relaxation of pedestrianisation during the day, to help the daytime economy, along Queen Street, Dunraven Place, and Market Street as it is in the evening was identified as the main ‘quick-win’ solution yet two years on we are still waiting.

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“The relaxation has obviously benefited the night-time trade as witnessed by the fabulous selection of new bars and eateries that we now have.”

A Bridgend County Borough Council spokesman said: “Due to the current economic climate empty shops in town centres is a national problem but we have a wide-ranging plan in place to improve the situation in Bridgend.

“Increasing footfall is one part of our approach and the relocation of Bridgend College to the town centre will inevitably see many students and staff visiting the town centre. To try and attract more visitors, three hours free parking is available at the Rhiw multi-storey.

“We are working with Urban Foundry to offer pop-up units which allow businesses flexibility and affordable space to trial an idea. To make it easier for potential businesses an index has been created on the council’s website which shows all units which are currently available to be taken over.”

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