Re-building a thriving high street in a post pandemic world, is crucial not only to Wales’ economic recovery but our own local growth and prosperity. Beyond protecting jobs and livelihoods, we all agree on the need for vibrant, local community hubs, where people want to live, work and play.
The task before us is more challenging in the face of online competition, particularly as even more consumers are used to shopping online. Empowering our high streets to compete in a digital world is vital, if our communities and the businesses which serve them, are to survive and thrive for future generations. There is inspiration to be found everywhere and we need look no further than Treorchy, a valley town which beat 39 towns across the UK to scoop the title of Best British High Street, in January 2020.
The successful campaign led by Adrian Emmett, Chair of Treorchy Chamber of Trade, is an example of the role that digital technology played in enhancing and promoting the physical presence of a town. Bringing independent businesses and retailers together to turn this valley town, badly hit by the collapse of coal mining, into a desirable shopping destination.
I invited Adrian to Neath to speak to the Neath Economic Forum, established following my election to the Senedd in 2016. Local businesses and independent retailers from across Neath town, joined councillors and other organisations at Neath RFC, to hear from Adrian and Buffy Williams MS for Rhondda, about the positive vision, creativity and teamwork which made Treorchy UK High Street of the year.
What was evident from the event was the passion, drive, and positivity there is for our town and a group of people keen to work together in partnership, to move the town forward.
Our local communities have so many inspiring people supporting local charities, sports teams and other organisations, entrepreneurs boosting our local economy or those providing vital public services in our NHS, social care, education, and local government. We have a lot to be proud of here in the Neath constituency. #LoveNeath