Tue, 6 Mar 2012 Taro Naw


Tue, 6 Mar 2012

Materion cyfoes o Gymru a'r byd. Current affairs from Wales and the world.


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Tonight, on Taro Naw, we can reveal how much money...

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..has been spent on regenerating town centres in Wales.

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The golden age has gone for hundreds of high street stores.

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But will millions of pounds save them, or is it already too late?

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Our society centres around the high street.

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If people stop going shopping, they stop communicating...

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..and what do we have then?

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We have a castle, a dock, an excellent town centre...

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..but on their own they're not enough.

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We need more attractions and events.

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No matter how many attractions you have, you need to sell it.

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Subtitles

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Caernarfon is one of many towns across Wales...

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..where the high street faces a difficult time.

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It's a challenge.

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20% of the units in Wales are empty...

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..and, in some towns, the situation is worse than that.

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Online shopping, supermarkets and the economy...

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..all contribute to the problem.

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What is the future of the high street?

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Empty windows, closed doors.

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Caernarfon is among the five worst town in Wales...

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..in terms of empty shops.

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Three shops belonging to one businessman...

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..have closed in Y Maes - an iconic centre for shoppers and tourists.

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19% of units here, almost double the national average, are empty...

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..and the number is rising.

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Ioan Thomas is the mayor and a town and county councillor.

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He and his fellow councillors are concerned about the deterioration.

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To help, regeneration plans were put forward to invest millions pounds...

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..in protecting the history and safeguarding the future.

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Ioan Thomas is also a businessman who owns a cafe and a nightclub.

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He admits that things are quieter these days...

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..but argues that it's not a problem in Caernarfon alone.

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There is a high turnover of shops.

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I don't think there's a long list of people...

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..waiting to invest in the town.

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But Caernarfon isn't unlike other towns.

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I'm sure many towns are worse off.

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I'm originally from Llanelli...

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..and the situation there isn't good.

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I'd say Llanelli is much worse off than Caernarfon.

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Having invested in the town, he's obviously looking to the future.

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He's keen to emphasise the positives...

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..highlighting a three-year council scheme...

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..to bring shoppers and officials together...

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..to tackle the effects of the recession.

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Caernarfon has a big advantage and excellent resources.

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Its history and its castle.

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Hundreds of thousands of people visit every year.

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We're looking at a World Heritage Site.

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We are in the same bracket as the Taj Mahal and other places.

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We are attracting tourists and we should do a lot better.

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There is potential for local people and visitors.

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In Y Maes is the Silver Stars Holidays company.

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The company went into administration last year...

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..but Gavin Owen and 12 members of staff have kept their jobs.

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He watches what's happening carefully...

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..and contributed by organising a Christmas Fair last year.

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He says it's the way forward.

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The intentions of the Chamber of Commerce are good...

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..but we need more young people with the experience...

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..and qualifications to help organise these things.

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While he's willing to work hard, he says more needs to be done.

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He thinks the answer is professional advice...

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..and a full time manager for the town.

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We need a person or a team of people who are dedicated...

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..whether they work for the council or not...

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..developing and selling the town.

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We've got a castle, a dock, an excellent town centre...

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..but on their own they're not enough.

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We need more attractions and events.

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No matter how many attractions you have, you need to sell it.

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We need someone to manage and sell the town to attract people here.

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Eirian James owns the Palace Print book shop.

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She faces a challenge from companies like Amazon and the supermarkets...

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..where books are sold at competitive prices.

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Her policy is to put the customer first and to organise events.

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It's hard work and sharing the burden is important.

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It's nice to have other people help organise things.

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I think that the way forward is people doing what they can...

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..contributing what they can, in terms of time and resources...

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..and moving forward together.

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Eirian moved from Cardiff to Caernarfon 10 years ago.

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She is delighted that the shop has done better than expected...

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..but emphasises that attracting local people is what's important.

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She makes sure there's plenty of choice for them.

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I think we're very lucky that we're on Palace Street...

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..in Caernarfon, where there is a good mix...

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..of small, independent shops which support each other...

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..and complement each other.

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But shopping trends are changing and fewer people are going out shopping.

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More people are shopping online.

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In a recent survey...

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..more than 50% said they will spend more online in future.

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We've invested a little in online shopping...

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..so we can sell online.

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But we've got to keep organising events in the shop...

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..which draw people in.

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The customers will determine the fate of the high street.

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It's a pity. I've been brought up here.

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I remember Woolworths and other little shops.

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It's a pity.

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It's a sad sight, to be honest. The shops are doing their best...

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..but they don't get the support from the council.

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The big shops are killing them.

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I prefer Caernarfon to Porthmadog because there's a New Look.

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I think it's better, to be honest.

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It's an historic town.

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We've got the Roman fort. There's plenty of history here.

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Maybe Caernarfon isn't sold the way we'd like it to be.

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It is a romantic Valentine's Day wedding at the Celtic Royal Hotel.

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The young couple live locally and tried to support local shops...

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..but they didn't get much luck.

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How much of your dress did you buy in Caernarfon?

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None. None at all.

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Why?

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There's nothing here.

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Nothing aimed at weddings at all.

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Do you always do that? Do you shop in Bangor?

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I always go to Bangor.

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You never go to Caernarfon. How about you, William?

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Emma does my shopping for me.

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No. I've been looking for grey shoes for the wedding...

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..and I couldn't find them in Caernarfon. I went to Bangor.

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We'll travel from Caernarfon to another town in North Wales...

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..after the break with a successful businesswoman...

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..who'll assess the mistakes and the successes of the high street.

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One of Carmarthen's most successful independent shops is Pethau Bychain.

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The owner is Marian Ritson, originally from Caernarfon.

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She ventured into business after a career in education.

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She has a definite view on the future of the high street.

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If you don't attract customers...

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..nothing gets sold and there is no turnover.

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There's no doubt that the high street has to adapt.

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It has to change, the shops have to change...

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..the way they sell and respond to customers.

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We have to offer something which makes it worthwhile...

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..for people to leave their homes, not shop online...

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..because they'll have a different experience.

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We took the businesswoman from Carmarthen to Caernarfon...

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..to hear her response to the situation there.

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They need trees and greenery and a lot more spirit.

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What about the number of people?

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It's half term. It should be very busy.

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But there are very few people here.

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There aren't many shops here to attract people.

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Somebody needs to take the marketing of Caernarfon...

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..seriously.

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After her visit to the town...

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..we discussed the situation over a cup of tea.

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She injured her leg recently in an accident.

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What were her views on Caernarfon?

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I was disappointed by the square.

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It needs a lot of urgent attention.

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There are three empty shops which look very run down.

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I saw one shop with too much stock. It was spilling on to the pavement.

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That needs to be sorted out.

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I walked down Palace Street and there were attractive new shops.

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I was disappointed there weren't shops like that on the square...

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..which would attract people.

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It's important and the money is there.

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The image of the shop has to be welcoming...

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..and of the highest standard.

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There are historic remains and efforts to modernise everywhere.

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One local group has bought 19 shops and attracted tenants.

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But many people believe change is inevitable.

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The main reason is that the retail areas - the shops...

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..have become too big, and they need to be restricted.

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The other problem is that town centres...

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..are very quiet in the evenings.

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Years ago, in Caernarfon, the owners lived above the shops.

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They have now moved out to nearby villages...

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..and the first and second floors of some shops are not used.

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We need to make better use of the buildings...

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..to energise the town centre.

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Problems like these have been causing concern...

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..for the Welsh Government for many years.

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Between government spending and European funding...

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..we can reveal that almost £300 million has been spent...

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..on regenerating towns in Wales over the last five years.

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The Assembly Member for Arfon, Alun Ffred Jones...

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..was on a committee that published a report...

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..on town centre regeneration.

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It emphasises that town centres are vital to the economy...

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..and the recommendations include better marketing...

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..and flexible hours.

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The shopping areas in some cities and towns have become far too big.

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You won't fill all those shops.

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The problem is that the shops fill up with tat, to be honest.

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It doesn't attract people.

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For example, the high street in Bangor...

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..is one of the longest in Wales, if not Britain.

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Is it reasonable to fill it with shops...

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..or should you turn some of it into homes?

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The report also says we need to turn the empty units...

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..above shops into homes...

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..because if people live in town centres they'll buy goods there.

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A big challenge for high streets is out-of-town supermarkets.

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They can no be seen across Wales.

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People can do their shopping in one same place.

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The report calls for better planning and more research.

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There is no doubt that the failure of the Planning Act...

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..to control supermarkets has been tragedy.

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They are built before you realise it.

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To be fair, supermarkets aren't all bad.

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There's a wide range of choice...

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..you wouldn't get in small towns or villages.

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There are advantages, but we've put them in the wrong places...

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..and we've allowed too many of them.

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That's a big weakness in the Planning Act.

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In Britain, and America in particular...

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..the idea is to allow big businesses to do what they like.

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Research by Taro Naw shows that local authorities in Wales...

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..are considering 29 planning applications...

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..for out-of-town stores.

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Until recently, Caernarfon was among them...

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..but local opposition meant it was rejected.

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In his food shop in Porthmadog, Geraint Hughes is aware...

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..of the threat that's posed by supermarkets...

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..and suggests other options should have been considered.

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We've missed an opportunity to try something different.

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Almost every town in Wales now has a supermarket...

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..so we could stand up and say, "We're not having a supermarket."

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We could have tried to develop things that make us different.

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It was disappointing that the argument wasn't put forward.

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You'll hear the same complaint from one shop to another.

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The business tax is too high.

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The Welsh Government is investigating this.

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There is a strong argument for cutting the tax...

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..because shops contribute to the economy in other ways...

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..such as attracting people into the towns...

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..which adds to the vibrancy of towns...

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..and to taxes in other ways.

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There's a definitely a reason to look into cutting business tax...

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..because a small shop in Porthmadog...

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..faces a tax bill of £3,000 to £4,000 to begin with.

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Imagine how much one needs to sell...

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..just to pay the tax.

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But it's not such a bleak picture everywhere.

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Some town are flourishing, even in the recession...

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..and the high street is still at the heart of the community.

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Selling the high street to visitors and shoppers pays dividends.

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There's plenty to attract shoppers to the market in Mold.

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They come from all over and the high street is also busy.

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There are very few empty units here...

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..and many are independent shops.

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And that is despite the fact that there are supermarkets...

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..like Tesco, Somerfield and Lidl in the area.

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The financial crisis casts a shadow over Mold, like the rest of Wales...

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..but our research and the results of that research...

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..suggests Mold could provide leadership...

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..for the rest of Wales.

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Rhian Spaven is getting a taste of business - literally.

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She owns a sweet shop.

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She and her husband transformed the family newsagents...

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..after seeing customers buying papers elsewhere.

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To stay in business...

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..she created this paradise for those with a sweet tooth.

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Being friendly is very important.

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Everyone wants to feel that they're important.

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And they're all important - every customer is very important.

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That's how we want them to feel.

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I think a shop like this would work anywhere.

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We're looking into creating a franchise.

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You've also got to know where you're taking the business.

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You can't stand still.

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We started in a much smaller shop than the one we have now.

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Every year, we think, what can we do this year to make it better?

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But you have to have a go. I want to be like Willy Wonka!

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A stone's throw away from the sweet shop is Arwel Owen's wine shop.

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He was a fitness centre manager before venturing into business.

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He says his shop's location is part of his success.

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I've come in from high street now into the Gwinology shop in Mold.

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The owner is Arwel Owen. How is business at the moment?

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It's not too bad. I've seen worse times.

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Things are going in the right direction, so we're OK.

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How so?

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As a town, it all helps, what we have in the area.

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We have so many independent shops that are a little different.

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We attract people from local villages. We're quite pro-active.

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That keeps customers in the town.

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Business people here cooperate to keep the high street busy.

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John Les is a pub landlord, but he's also on several...

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..local business committees, including the large food festival.

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He says only 6% of Mold's shops are empty...

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..and that a town centre manager ensures that everyone cooperates.

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Yes, businesses are competing against each other...

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..but let's get people into Mold first and then we can argue...

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..over where they're going to buy food...

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..where they're going to drink, where they're going to stay.

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But get people in, and then you can do something.

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Flintshire County Council...

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..has earmarked eight towns to be regenerated.

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Each one has a manager and each one is trying to attract shoppers...

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..by offering choice, events and a reason for visiting.

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You have to create a reason. Today, we have a market.

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There's a livestock market here twice a week.

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Yes, it's unwieldy and there are parking problems.

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But the agricultural community comes to the centre of Mold.

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Plans are underway to ensure that Mold high street succeeds...

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..with the help of a town manager and extensive marketing.

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But what about the future? Over to our expert.

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You've just arrived in Mold. What are your first impressions?

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I've walked down the high street, and it's very busy.

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It's full of colour. The shops are well decorated.

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They have selected and chosen their goods very carefully.

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They've taken pride in their windows.

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The whole spirit here fills you with hope about the future.

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Does that mean that if a town is going to succeed...

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..it needs some kind of image or focus?

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Definitely. The town needs cohesion.

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Like we were saying yesterday...

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..it's very important to have someone to lead the town...

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..and create a pattern and a plan for the future.

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That way, everyone is aiming for the same thing.

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To attract people into Mold.

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Not only the people who live here but people on the outskirts.

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These children are certainly happy with the high street...

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..and these are the shoppers of the future.

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Across Wales, businesses, politicians and shoppers...

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..are eager to ensure that coming to a high street shop...

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..is a pleasant experience for years to come.

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People talk about parking...

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..and affordable housing to keep people here.

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But affordable housing and parking doesn't matter...

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..if there's nothing to attract people to the town.

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So it's back to basics to get the town to appeal to everyone.

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I feel frustrated about Caernarfon...

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..because it has a lot of the ingredients you need...

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..for a successful town, but something's not clicking.

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Everyone in the town is trying hard...

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..and people who live in the town support the town.

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They go to the butchers, the greengrocers and the small shops.

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I think the customers like coming into the town to shop.

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We have just distributed 40,000 newspapers...

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..in the north of England, from Birmingham to Blackpool.

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There's a possibility of attracting 15 million people here to Mold.

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That's what we're doing.

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Local people support us, local people work for us.

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Welsh is the language in our shop like many other shops.

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The council needs to realise...

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..the importance of these kinds of shops.

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S4C subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Materion cyfoes o Gymru a'r byd. Current affairs from Wales and the world.


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