The plan to save Llanelli

With the news that Wilko is set to become the latest big name to quit Llanelli, a new master plan to save the town just can’t come soon enough.

It was announced by Carmarthenshire Council in January, 2022, that a ‘masterplan’ had been approved to help Llanelli town diversify and recover from Covid.

Llanelli’s economy has been pretty much flatlining for a decade, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has made it even tougher.

Read more: The department store everyone used to go to in Llanelli

Doing nothing to tackle the issues, said a report before council cabinet on January 17, would delay the recovery of the town.

Llanelli’s economic growth has increased by just 3% in the past 10 years, the lowest figure in Wales, showing just how much the town needs support and change to happen.

Llanelli is in dire need of help

The masterplan has been prepared with the contributions of local businesses and stakeholders and aims to:

  • Strengthen the features that make the centre distinctive from the out of town retail parks and support a greater mix of experiences and uses.
  • Sustain the convenience and local service role of the centre, focus on attracting families and younger people and encourage the local population to visit more often, stay longer and spend more.
  • Make it a place for living, learning, leisure and entertainment with reasons to visit the centre during the day and at night.
  • Manage the shift towards a smaller town centre with a vibrant, fully occupied central core.

Llanelli’s Wilko is set to close

It was announced last week that high street giant, Wilko, had confirmed two major store closures as a result of the pandemic in Wales.

One was the Llanelli store, which stands in the town’s shopping centre and is responsible for much of the footfall coming into the town.

Lee Waters, MS for Lanelli, said the store’s closure was a loss for the St. Elli centre and a big concern for the town.

He continued: “As St. Elli’s centre is now under new ownership, I hope that the owners will work closely with the council to find a use for such a large unit and find a way to replace the financial loss of the store.

“I have already asked the council to publish the ‘Town Centre Turnaround Plan’ that I helped them to get Welsh Government funding for and urged them to commission. Now, I want local people to see the plans they have for the centre and the ways we can improve it.

“One of the suggestions in the plan was to turn shops into smaller units because there are not many retailers which could fill such a large unit.”

Hywl in Llanelli

Jason Cross, owner of Hwyl, a niche independent restaurant and café in the town centre, said his business was doing very well but that he believed more needed to be done to encourage visitors and businesses.

“We’ve made something here that doesn’t exist in Llanelli and we just need more people to do what we’ve done. We were running places in London but we came back, because this is my home town and we’ve done really well and have such amazing customers,” he said.

“Things like parking would be helpful for businesses, if there was free parking people would just stop off here but there isn’t. People don’t like paying for parking so that could be a really simple thing the council could do to encourage more people here.”

Jason said that if there was more of a footfall in the town, more customers would be coming in and using local businesses.

He added: “There’s a lot of trouble in the middle of town and people feel uncomfortable walking through, even though there’s police stopping people, it’s just not a nice place to be and they need to clean up that and try to attract shops that people want to go to. There’s just charity shops and bargain shops here which isn’t what people are going to come for.

“I tried to take over a unit in the new development by Nando’s in the town but it was just crazy rent and rates and where we are now is really good. They build a new development and don’t even give people an incentive to go there.

“I think giving people help to start a business is a start. We’ve spent a fortune on this place and were happy we have, and it’s working but not everyone is as lucky as us. I think it is positive that they are doing something in the town, Ymlaen do food markets and bring us a lots of trade and you know it’s happening because our trade goes up massively. So if it’s something that happens every two weeks then it will help everyone.”

Ymlaen Llanelli, events encourage a lot of people to the town

There are existing regeneration projects underway in the town, and it has an active business improvement group in Ymlaen Llanelli.

Over the years, crowds have flocked to the centre for Ymlaen Llanelli’s social events that have included ’80s festivals, outdoor cinemas and the food and drink festival.

Many of the events have brought bigger crowds into the centre than have been seen in years.

Leader of Carmarthenshire Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “Town centres across Wales and the UK have been experiencing steady decline over the years, and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. But we are determined to see Carmarthenshire’s town centres recover and become vibrant places for our people and businesses once more.

“Here in Carmarthenshire we have developed bespoke recovery plans for each of our three main town centres which identify areas for improvement and opportunities for change and growth. Sitting alongside these is our 10 Towns scheme, through which we are investing significantly in Carmarthenshire’s 10 rural market towns.

“Following public consultation and with Cabinet’s endorsement, the three main town centre recovery plans will now be owned and delivered by the taskforce and forum groups in each town centre.

“As a council we will continue to work with potential funders in Welsh Government and Westminster to lever funding when opportunities arise, and utilise our capital programme funding to enable these plans.”

Glenys Davies, owner of Lavender Cauldron in Llanelli market

Glenys Davies, owner of Lavender Cauldron in Llanelli market said the town wasn’t how it used to be years ago.

“When I was working in Llanelli town years ago, if you came out lunchtime the place was heaving, but then you had WHSmith, Marks and Spencer, New Look and they were all in the town centre. For some reason it’s started having this reputation and it’s beginning to go. I know the industry has gone but there are other employment opportunities. It’s a seaside town, lets make the most of it,” she said.

Glenys said she thought that if the unit that Wilko currently occupied remained empty when the store closed the town would go downhill.

She said: “If it’s empty it will be bad again, it will be something else to hammer the town but it would be nice to see people coming to the town and deciding ‘let’s go to Llanelli and look around the shops’ but people don’t do that anymore. “

“I know that the internet has changed the way of shopping, but people still like to come out and have a chat and I think they need to try and encourage them.”

Bold plans have been announced for Llanelli town centre with a £3m regeneration scheme known as Y Linc – pictured

There are bold plans for a £3m regeneration scheme aimed at transforming the town and attracting more people. The project, led by Cygnus Holdings (Llanelli) Ltd, is named Y Linc as it will connect the town centre to Eastgate with walkways and provide new restaurants, apartments and offices.

It is expected to boast recognisable brands such as Juniper Place and Old Havana, which are both due to take up units at the development, along with coffee company Carma Coffi. It is hoped that more than 100 jobs will be created, excluding construction posts.

Last year, plans to replace the prominent building which was once home to the Altalia restaurant and the Barbican pub were revealed.

The 19th century building, which stood on the corner of Market Street and Stepney Street since the 1800s, will be replaced with commercial units and apartments as part of an investment to regenerate the town centre.

The council has said that the design of the new building gives a nod to the current one

The Market Street North scheme is one of a number of developments aiming to improve the appearance of the main shopping district in a bid to attract more commercial interest and footfall.

As well as the former Altalia building, the demolition of 8-16 Market Street is set to make way for a new proposed development which will include a mixed use arcade development, including residential, retail, office and bar/restaurant units.

The council, and traders, will be hoping these schemes, along with the rest of the masterplan, will give Llanelli new hope for the future.

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