Cabinet Members have approved plans to establish a coherent framework for a targeted package of town centre support, to allow local businesses in RCT to grow and thrive. The package will lead to increased employment and vibrancy, and crucially places the town centre at the heart of our local communities.
The proposals presented to Cabinet on Wednesday, May 8, and include a range of elements that, taken together, will not only help to support the long term viability and prosperity of RCT’s town centres, but also facilitate vital external investment to create jobs and strong local businesses. The approved proposals include:
- Town Centre Strategies and Masterplans - Clear plans for the development and growth of our town centres in line with the framework set out in the Council’s Strategic Opportunity Areas for RCT. A clear plan is essential for developing our town centres in achieving the right mix of development and investment, and it will not only allow for important investment opportunities to be prioritised but will improve engagement opportunities with existing businesses and potential investors. The Council has already demonstrated this approach in announcing strategies for Porth and Mountain Ash.
- A new Business Rate Reduction Scheme - Non Domestic Rates (NDR) are a national tax on non-domestic property that is administered by Councils on behalf of the Welsh Government. The proposals outline that the Council develops a new local discretionary scheme of NDR relief that is targeted toward increasing sustainability and growth in town centres, and £200,000 has been set aside in the 2019/20 revenue budget to support such a scheme to help up to 300 local businesses.
- Town Centre Prominent Building Enhancement Programme - This scheme will support town centre businesses with more significant investment plans to improve commercial premises, and seek opportunities to bring vacant floorspace back into use - including for residential purposes. The scheme will target prominent town centre buildings where bringing them back into use will have a tangible and positive effect on the vibrancy of the town centre.
The Council will also offer support for Businesses to meet their statutory obligations and provide micro, small and medium-sized businesses with HR advice to promote health, well-being and diversity in the workplace through the Building Resilience, Prosperity and Wellbeing project.
These programmes are further supplemented by a number of schemes which have already been approved through Delegated Decisions, including:
- The extension of the Town Centre Maintenance Grant to Aberdare, Porth and Ferndale - building on the success of the scheme which has seen 110 projects supported in Tonypandy, Mountain Ash and Treorchy to date.
- The announcement that the seven principal towns in RCT will benefit from the rollout of Free Town Centre Wi-Fi in this financial year, allowing local traders to advertise and promote their goods, and also to permit customers to access potential savings and discounts from local businesses.
- The widening of the Enterprise Support Programme to offer a range of financial support schemes to businesses across RCT for modernisation, equipment, IT development and start-up support. Following Cabinet’s decision on 19th March 2019, the scheme is no longer contingent on employment opportunities being created.
- The Pontypridd Property Investment Programme, which is a grant fund providing financial support to applicants who wish to improve their commercial premises in Pontypridd Town Centre. The scheme will allow for improvements to shop fronts and exteriors, whilst also bringing back vacant internal floorspace into productive use.
Councillor Robert Bevan, RCT Council’s Cabinet Member for Enterprise Development and Housing, said: “I am pleased that Cabinet has approved proposals to improve the range of support we can offer to our businesses and town centres here in RCT.
“We know that town centres across the UK are facing a number of challenges, but the Council is proactively intervening and supporting local businesses through a range of avenues, and the proposals that will be presented to Cabinet Members will build on that support and also tie them together in a more streamlined and coherent manner that will enable us to focus on specific packages of support that can be tailored to individual businesses.
“Despite these challenges, Rhondda Cynon Taf is increasingly cementing its place as an attractive location for business and enterprise, with November 2018 figures for business start-ups standing 34.2%, which is considerably ahead of the comparative figures for South East Wales (17.8%), Wales (13.7%) and the UK (13.1%). These positive trends are also reflected in the number of businesses ceasing to trade in RCT (8.9%), which stands at just over 10% across the whole of Wales.
“Our proactive approach to intervening and supporting our town centres is already proving that it is the right approach, with the recently-announced 16,800 increase in the footfall figures for Tonypandy over the last quarter following the completion of the major reconfiguration scheme in 2018.
“We have already implemented a number of vital schemes that are having a hugely-beneficial effect on our town centres, including the Town Centre Maintenance Grant, which has recently been extended to cover Ferndale, Porth and Aberdare after a successful pilot in firstly Mountain Ash and Tonypandy, and then Treorchy. We have also announced that we will be rolling out free town centre Wi-Fi in seven of our principal town centres over the course of this financial year.”
Posted on Monday 13th May 2019