Let's start with the positives. Bangor and Penarth (in that order) have the most distinctive and diverse high streets of the medium-sized towns in Wales, according to the latest survey conducted by the New Economics Foundation(story also covered by Caredig i Natur and the Western Mail).
The NEF this week published their survey of the extent to which towns have become filled with chain stores indistinguishable from anywhere else, labelling the worst offenders ‘Clone Towns’ and those with the most characterful, independent local shops, like Bangor and Penarth, as ‘Home Towns’.
Of the four Welsh towns judged to be Clone Towns, Llanelli was the worst example, coming sixth in the UK. The full list of Welsh Clone Towns and their UK rankings is:
If the Ceredigion Council Cabinet plan to demolish 16 small shops in Aberystwyth town centre in favour of chain stores had been successful Aberystwyth would, of course, have been higher up the list in future years. And it’s interesting that Carmarthen, the town that supporters of the plan seemed to aspire to, was judged as less distinctive and interesting than Aberystwyth.
The report goes on to highlight how those places given the accolade of Home Towns didn’t just achieve this by accident but have often done so by consciously working to bolster their local independent sector.