Saturday 23 February 2013

Carmarthen - a masterclass in town planning

Readers of this week's Carmarthen Journal, at least those who live in the town or visit it regularly, will have been surprised to hear that the town is a roaring retail success, with big name stores queueing up to grab a slice of business.

The breathless style of the report and the careful slanting of the information will be familiar to regular readers of the guff churned out by the Press Office in County Hall.

Stripped back to its bones, this is an account of how Caffe Nero really wanted to find space in the flagship St Catherine's Walk shopping precinct, but will now have to settle for a spot in one of the less favoured parts of town (i.e. the rest of Carmarthen).

The managers of the St Catherine's Walk development and the older Merlin's Walk precinct are both quoted, and needless to say both give an upbeat account of what is happening in the town. True, the manager of Merlin's Walk admits that there are some empty shops in town, but avoids mentioning that there are quite a few vacancies on his own patch where fortunes have nosedived since St Catherine's Walk opened.

In fact, anyone who ventures beyond St Catherine's Walk will see how the new development has sucked the life out of older parts of the town. King Street is a shadow of its former self, as is Red Street (Millet's has just shut up shop, for example). Round the corner in Lammas Street and Merlin's Walk the story is the same. Shops are closing, local businesses are folding and people are losing jobs.

Away from the town centre, retail development on the fringes of Carmarthen continues unabated. We now have a shiny new KFC, and there are rumours that it will soon be joined by a vast new Asda, giving this town of around 16,000 inhabitants three very large supermarkets.

Clearly Carmarthen itself is not large enough to support a large Asda, Tesco and Morrisons, and the supermarket groups will be relying on attracting trade from surrounding villages and smaller towns. How many of those shoppers will make their way from the trading estate wasteland around the town into the ancient town centre itself is another matter.

And for those who don't want to trek over to Carmarthen to do their weekly grocery shop, Tesco and Asda both offer a keenly priced home delivery service. Asda home delivery vans have recently started appearing as far away as Cardigan and the surrounding villages, 30 miles away from the new Carmarthen HQ.

Meanwhile, an hour in a council car park in our struggling market towns will cost you 60p.


Welsh Agenda said...

If you think things are looking bleak in Carmarthen, try visiting Llanelli town centre sometime. Apart from the shiny-for-now new cinema (in a completely wrong location) and the asda, there is nothing but empty units, pawn prokers, charity shops, pound shops and half a library (recently reduced in size as part of the council's regeneration excercise).

Anonymous said...

Went into Carmarthen this morning and came across a demonstration against the Post Office closure in Nott Square, organised I think by Carmarthen Town Council.

I know that there have been rumours about the closure of the Post Office but now it has been announced. I understand that PO services will be provided in Tesco or suchlike.

I cant think of a worse development for King Street which is already dying - Surely something can be done to support local small shops to combat the affects of CCC policy in creating shopping malls and doing nothing other than atracting large multi-nationals.

Anyway - the demo was addressed by Mr Hart MP - whos government has done most to create the conditions that we find ourselves in now. he said that this was not a party matter and he would speak to Vince Cable about PO closures.We will see.

PHG gave a good speech as did a few other worthies.

Pam Palmer opened her contribution by saying that she was not a god public speaker and she was right - she is not a good public speaker ! How she is deputy leader of the council I will never know

We are where we are because the senior people in CCC did not listen - they bulldozed an innapropriete shopping development on us and predictably the rest of the town is suffering.

My only hope is this - The Thompson Libel trial goes badly for CCC. There will have to be resignations, if normal honourable political protocols are followed the whole cabinet should resign. Folowing this the PC leader should attempt to form an administration with Labour and we have a fresh start.

Oh - by the way, Mr Madge couldnt make the demo this morning !! hmmm.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard about ASDA coming to carmarthen, are you sure about that?

Other than that, I agree with your assessment. St Catherines walk has drained the life from the town.And for a town with such a rich history it is now nothing more than a mish-mash of bad architecture and bad planning.

And don't get me started on KFC - it's just shop selling fried potato and chicke, and yet to the Council planners you would think it was the second coming!

Cneifiwr said...

There are certainly rumours that Asda has designs on a site close to the new KFC, but I have not been able to find anything to back this up.

What certainly is true is that Asda is now operating a home delivery service over a vast area. I have seen vans in Cardigan and Llechryd within the last couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

What is needed is a good national to set up shop in the old Coop building in King St, if that were to happen the scales would be a bit more balanced, spreading footfall throughout the town. With regards to supermarket home delivery , they don't always come from your nearest branch, eg tesco deliveries will sometimes come from merthyr to west wales. Carbon footprint meltdown.

Tessa said...

I went to the new theatre in Llanelli last Thursday. The new precinct is extremely smart,and extremely empty..........