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Calls for depedestrianisation in Bridgend town centre

Image of Bridgend Town Centre (Pic: Lewis Smith LDR)

CALLS to scrap pedestrianisation in Bridgend town centre have once again been discussed by councillors.

Like a number of areas across the UK, Bridgend had several of its streets pedestrianised in 2004, which led to claims of a drop in footfall from traders, with many asking that the town centre now be depedestrianised in order to spark regeneration.

Pedestrianisation is the process of converting a street or public area into a place for pedestrian use only, with the aim of improving safety, reducing pollution, and promoting walking by making it more appealing to members of the public.

Even though it is seen as being largely beneficial for urban town centres, others claim there are many downsides to the process, particularly for shop owners who face increased competition from online retailers and the rise of out-of-town shopping parks, which are more accessible for cars.

Speaking to Bridgend County Borough Council’s cabinet member for regeneration at full council questions, Councillor Ian Williams of Oldcastle asked what was being done to increase daytime footfall in Bridgend over the next three years, as well as addressing issues with a lack of public transport in to the town.

He said: “With no assurances that bus routes will be projected, which could lead to a potential drop in footfall in Bridgend town centre, huge amounts of money  being spent in Maesteg and Porthcawl in the last few years when Bridgend is not even thought worthy of enough funding to depedestrianise its town centre, keep public toilets open, or fund the shop mobility scheme – all of which excludes many residents from our town centre – what plans do the council have to revitalise the daytime economy in the town centre in the next three years?”

The question came after long-standing discussions resurfaced earlier this year, with reference to a public consultation in 2016, in which residents and local businesses were said to have been “resounding” in their backing of at least partially re-opening the town centre to traffic.

Councillor Rhys Goode, who is cabinet member for housing and regeneration, responded by saying that while he would now look at the situation again with county councillors and Bridgend Town Council, to improve daytime access in Bridgend, he also felt the move away from pedestrianisation may not be a silver bullet for the issue.

He said: “In terms of footfall and depedestrianisation, I know there’s been a lot of discussion around the depedestrianisation of the town centre.

“I must say I don’t think it’s the silver bullet that everyone thinks it will be. However, I’m more than happy to look at what we can do to find a best of both worlds solution to this.”

Cllr Goode also said while he was pleased with developments in Maesteg and Porthcawl, more could always be done to support Bridgend, and added that because many properties are privately owned in the town, it was sometimes more difficult to plan regeneration there.

It followed comments from chief executive Mark Shephard earlier this year, who gave assurances that options around pedestrianisation were being considered for Bridgend town centre that balanced both feasibility and affordability.