Business News Wales Section Editor
Businesses in six Mid Wales town centres are being urged to apply to a funding pot which is due to close later this month.
The £1.5 million Town Centre Property Investment Fund is designed to revitalise town centres by bringing vacant commercial, residential and retail space back into use.
Owners of empty properties in Newtown, Llandrindod Wells, Brecon, Lampeter, Llandysul and Tregaron are being encouraged to apply for funding ahead of the deadline on September 14. Almost £200,000 of funding is still available.
Proposals to use buildings for offices, leisure, retail and food and drink, as well as town centre residential accommodation, will be considered, and applications need to demonstrate that they would contribute to revitalising the economy of the town.
Councillor James Evans, Powys County Council’s Cabinet member for Economy, said:
“This is a great scheme for people with an entrepreneurial mindset to look at a building and think, ‘I could do something with that’.”
The scheme is administered by the Growing Mid Wales Partnership, a regional partnership made up of representative bodies from across the public, private and voluntary sectors. Funded by Welsh Government, the package of support includes loans, private investment and grants. Applicants need to demonstrate that existing grant and loan finance options have been properly considered and exhausted before they seek funding.
The six towns earmarked for regeneration had been set by Welsh Government, said Councillor Evans, but he is hopeful that future funding will be made available to all towns.
“We don’t want any part of Powys to be left behind,” he said. “I have asked for different funding pots to be broadened. There should be more flexibility in the schemes so that Growing Mid Wales can set our own destiny.”
Each rural town should be free to determine its own vision, said Councillor Evans, with town councils, local businesses and communities having input into regeneration plans.
But his overarching vision for town centres across Powys is one of diverse high streets which encourage residents to shop local and have huge appeal to visitors as well.
“Tourism contributed just short of £1 billion to the economy of Powys last year,” said Councillor Evans. “Those tourists want to see thriving high streets. If you go to Cornwall or the Cotswolds you see diverse high streets, and I want all our towns to be like that, not just certain towns.”
He cited Crickhowell, which won the accolade of the UK’s best high street in 2018, as an excellent example of what a Powys town could achieve.
“They have everything – Crickhowell is an amazingly diverse high street. I do worry about some other towns becoming full of coffee shops and charity shops.”
Councillor Evans added that the proposed Mid Wales Growth Deal – for which the UK Government announced an initial investment of £55 million last November – would be a “massive opportunity to rejuvenate rural economies”.
Powys County Council is managing the administration of the Town Centre Property Investment Fund, and anyone interested can visit www.growinpowys.com/gmw or www.ceredigion.gov.uk/business/funding-grants/town-centre-property-investment-fund/ for more information.