NEW planning rules to help bring businesses and people into Carmarthen and Ammanford town centres are set to be introduced.
The streamlined “local development orders” allow for certain specified developments within a defined area without the need for planning permission, although there are requirements to be met.
Carmarthenshire councillors approved orders for the two towns at a meeting on June 9, although a call was made for more capital investment to really make a difference.
The orders will need Welsh Government approval before being implemented.
Deputy council leader Mair Stephens said the orders would build on the evidence and experience of Llanelli, which has had an order in place for two years.
“It is intended that it will be easier to bring shops into use and provide town centre living on upper floors,” she said.
Seconding the proposal, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said there was a lot of work to do to regenerate town centres, and that health and leisure opportunities would be very much part of the discussion.
The rise of online shopping has chipped away at high streets for years – a trend exacerbated by Covid lockdowns and restrictions. High profile retailers have struggled or even gone out of business.
Carmarthen has recently lost its Debenhams anchor store, at St Catherine’s Walk Shopping Centre. It does, like Llanelli, now have a dedicated business improvement group (BID) to support traders and sign the town’s praises.
Cllr Alun Lenny, who represents Carmarthen Town South, said the orders could help town centres become more attractive and competitive.
Cllr Kevin Madge described the loss of Debenhams as “devastating”, and added that his home town of Ammanford had many empty shops.
“I support this action, but the problem with Ammanford, we’ve got buildings that have gone past their sell-by date,” he said.
Capital investment from the county council, said Cllr Madge, was needed to make a difference.
“Without proper capital, we ain’t going forward,” he said.
The council has consulted on the orders, and most of the 19 responses were supportive.
Carmarthen Town South councillor Gareth John said the orders had their limitations, particularly in respect of listed buildings – which aren’t covered – but described them as “a step in the right direction”.
A new development plan for Carmarthenshire is expected to factor in the changing high street and retail trends. It is due to be adopted in 2022.