In this week's column, Dylan Jones-Evans explores the transport
challenges for town centres in rural wales.
Given the increase in traffic and the associated pollution, it is not surprising that cities such as Cardiff are looking, over time, to restrict and control the number of cars coming into the city.
And the long overdue development of the South Wales Metro could transform the way people travel to and from work across the Cardiff Capital region over the next decade.
But what about the rest of Wales?
Unfortunately, many of those living outside of our major conurbations have little option but to take the car to go shopping for their weekly goods.
Whilst cities such as Cardiff are already getting more people travelling by foot, bike or public transport, it is increasingly difficult to do the same within rural Wales especially as there is more chance of catching a cold than a local bus to your nearest shopping centre.
And whether campaigners like it or not, having a car is increasingly essential if you are living outside an urban area in Wales and the reality of this situation means that it is unlikely to change in the near future.
Of course, where consumers are not given an alternative, then it seems inevitable that those in power will take advantage of this through increased taxation or the levy of certain charges.
And this is what is happening is that rather than solving this problem, many local councils continue to charge for car parking within town centres despite increasing evidence that that restricting or abolishing these charges can actually boost local traders.
For example, it was reported that the three hour free parking introduced by Northumbria County Council in the market towns of Morpeth and Alnwick had increased sales in local firms by over 25 per cent in a year.
Yet, the lack of free car parking in many of Wales’ town centres is in contrast to the situation at those large supermarkets which are often built on the edge of many towns and which do not charge for parking.
This means that many small shops, already facing increased competition from such developments, are put at a further disadvantage because they are based on high streets where parking is restricted and charged for.
So whilst hundreds of millions of pounds of public money is rightly being spent to support travel within South East Wales, many other parts of Wales will unfortunately remain deserts when it comes to public transport funding in the next few years.
In such a situation where the car is a vital part of everyday life for many in rural Wales , local authorities should not view parking provision as a short term method to raise money.
Instead, the provision of free car parking should be viewed as a vital service for local people, and more importantly, as a way of supporting the high street in market towns across Wales.
More About Dylan Jones-Evans
Professor Dylan Jones-Evans OBE PhD FRSA was born in Bangor, Gwynedd and brought up in Pwllheli on the Llyn Peninsula. He is currently Assistant Pro-Vice-Chancellor and the chair in entrepreneurship at the University of South Wales.
Dylan has been championing entrepreneurship in Wales for the last 20 years and is the creator of the Wales Fast Growth 50 which identifies the nation’s fastest growing firms every year. He has academic publications in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation and a best-selling textbook on enterprise.