Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Williams has called on the Welsh Government and Neath Port Talbot Council to provide greater focus on Neath Town Centre in order to tackle the issue of empty shops, anti-social behaviour and reducing footfall.
Sioned Williams raised the issue with the First Minister Mark Drakeford at the Senedd today (Tuesday, June 22nd 2021).
Sioned Williams has spoken to a number of retailers and market traders within the town who are concerned about the current reduced football and anti-social behaviour in the town centre. There are currently 18 empty retail units in Neath Town Centre’s main streets.
Sioned Williams stated:
“Having spoken to retailers and market traders recently it is clear that Neath town centre is struggling at the moment in terms of tackling anti-social behaviour and of reduced footfall.
“The development of the swimming pool, café and library in town will hopefully help in bringing additional footfall but there is a feeling that that alone will not do it.
“Only last week it was reported to me that there are currently around 18 empty retail units within the town centre’s main streets. More needs to be done to ensure that new businesses are established in the town centre, and that we see a reduction in the empty retail units that we currently have.
“It is worrying that that the Neath Town Centre BID seems to be coming to an end, as there is not enough support amongst businesses to see it continuing.”
The Plaid MS felt that tackling the anti-social behaviour within the town and improving the town centre offer were integral, adding:
“The anti-social behaviour and reports of drug taking that we hear of need to be tackled head on, and the Welsh Government needs to be working with Neath Port Talbot Council and South Wales Police on that issue.
“Talks of developing a Piaza in Neath will not get very far if these types of issues are not tackled.
“As Covid restrictions are relaxed, we need to see cultural, musical, arts and community events being planned for the town centre to draw in visitors.
“The Welsh Government needs to carry out additional work with Neath Port Talbot Council to try and develop and support a greater range of offer within the town centre, including local independent traders. Ensuring lower business rates and rents will be key to that.
“We cannot continue to see empty units in the town centre, and the Welsh Government and Neath Port Talbot Council are integral to solving that situation.”