PARKING in town centres in Neath Port Talbot will be free for the month of August 2021 to give support to town centre based businesses whose trade has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet approved the idea at their meeting on Wednesday, July 28 th where it was argued as well as helping businesses, the move could also give some assistance to families suffering hardship during the pandemic.

Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, Cllr Ted Latham said: “Unfortunately the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on businesses with many surviving but a number closing down.

“This has not only involved small independents it has hit household names across Wales and the UK and while we can’t influence these commercial decisions we can support our town centre retailers by making them a more attractive destination.”

The council provided a range of support during the pandemic including: administering financial support schemes; promoting ‘Buy Local’ to encourage residents to spend money in their local economy and providing advice on the application of Covid restrictions during the lockdown and opening up phases.

Following the reopening of non-essential retail in July 2020, the council introduced a number of measures to make its town centres more attractive and safer places to visit, supporting traders to implement safe operating procedures, providing access to safety signage and bringing in safe queuing measures.

These measures were also supported initially by town centre rangers providing advice and guidance to traders and the public. In addition the council provided free car parking in town centres until the end of August 2020. Again this was intended to encourage increased visits to the centres.

A report by the council’s Director of Environment and Regeneration, Nicola Pearce, said: “The provision of free car parking for a restricted period does demonstrate to retailers, town centre visitors and the public, that the council has confidence in its town centres and is supporting its retailers with a range of local initiatives to reinforce the attractiveness of our town centres.“

The report added that among the initiatives to reinforce the attractiveness of town centres were multi-million pound bids to the UK Government’s Levelling Up fund which, if approved, will see a series of public realm improvements and major investment in commercial properties.