Despite a high-street that pulls some of the UK’s most respected and known shops, Mold is not immune to the threats affecting town’s high-streets across the country. In fact, the town was recently one of several towns looked at closely by the Federation of Small Businesses Wales (FSB Wales) as part of their Future of Our Welsh Towns scheme. But what could it mean for Mold? And what must Mold and the local businesses do to save our high-street?
Mold’s Proposed High-Street Changes
This plan has occurred overnight, in fact FSB Wales interviewed over 80 businesses and stakeholders across the country to gain as much insight as possible into the current climate of Welsh towns. Partnering up with consultancy The Means, FSB have put together a seven point plan targeted at improve a number of Welsh town’s retail offering, including Mold.
The survey highlighted several issues and fears of local businesses, including online retail, what empty spaces mean for high streets, the risk of business rates rising and the popularity of out-of-town retail developments. The FSB have pulled together the following potential courses of action.
Individual Published Town Strategies
Though there’s a wealth of tips and best practices that will help North Wales towns, the FSB understand that each community is different and they need different plans of action tailored to them. They propose that each town has a strategy that is published and open to public viewing. The ownership of co-ordination should be with local businesses with the support of volunteers and public sector services.
Future of Welsh Towns Fund
The investigation has also highlighted a need for funding in a variety of Welsh towns, to keep them up-to-date and a viable alternative to online shopping. The FSB are calling on Welsh Government to commit to their cause, asking them to implement a new Future of Welsh Towns fund to support the highlighted towns. Mold could benefit massively if this is approved, gaining funding to improve their current retail infrastructure.
Using the Well-being of Future Generations Act To Guide Decisions
The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 was bought into place to ensure public bodies in Wales thought about the long-term impact of decisions to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequality and climate issues. The FSB are placing an emphasis on using this information and logic in future strategies.
Looking at future trends and how they could change the local economy could prove crucial in taking Mold’s high-street ahead of the game, rather than simply playing catch up.
Employ ‘Digital’ Town Centre Managers
As we live in an ever-focused digital world, the high-street and old-fashioned towns need to move with the times and embrace the opportunity. Digital town centre managers could collate the information provided by independent businesses, volunteers and public sector workers to promote the area across social media and the internet.
Consider A Property Register
Absent or even unidentifiable landlords are a growing issue in Wales, with a lack of local registers meaning problems can take longer than they should to resolve. A local register would not only improve the relationships between landlords and tenants but also build a basis for local engagement and getting involved in the Mold community.
Adopt New Uses For Mold Buildings
Though retail is still the priority for the FSB and the local area, if there are other avenues to look at, they should be explored. If a building is regularly empty or has become infamous for a location where shops enter short-term before going out of business, consider whether it could be used for something else.
Buildings could be turned into offices, houses or even community centres, the possibilities are endless. If it improves the high-street and inspires more people to visit or stay in Mold, then it could prove profitable for the area.
A Change To Business Rates
In England a relief was announced for high street businesses, reducing the cost of business rates for those that already face high rental spaces. This is a great start, but long-term, rates need to be looked at further to ensure they work effectively for towns. Especially in the local area, catering to the specific requirements of Welsh towns.
Could We See Significant Changes To Mold’s High-Street?
Realistically, this could lead to large scale changes to Mold’s high-street and the structure in which the area is managed. We’ll watch this with eager eyes, hoping that in the years to come, Mold can be used as a shining example of how to have a thriving high-street in the modern era.
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