'BUSINESS as usual' will not return to Penarth's high street without radical change - that was the response of community representatives when asked their view on the future of the town centre.

In a letter penned to Vaughan Gething after asking for views of people who use the hospitality businesses in Penarth, the group have said how going forward the town centre traders can be supported after a difficult 15 months. 

Penarth Unlocked is a group of local residents, including councillors, architects, urban designers and activists. Amongst us are the leaders of Gwyrddio Penarth Greening, Penarth Civic Society, Penarth Climate Action and Penarth Growing Community, and we are engaged in the work of Living Streets, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Cycling UK, Vale Veloways and Sustrans.

Sally Hughes of Growing Penarth, Christine Glossop of Garden by the Sea group, and Anne Crowley are just some of the members together in the autumn of 2020 to support and encourage Penarth Town Council’s proposal to create some safe, traffic free areas in the town centre.

"The pandemic has had a hugely detrimental impact on many town centre businesses," the group said.  

"Retail footfall is down and it has been difficult persuading people back to the shops in sufficient numbers.

"This is partly down to the public not wanting to linger on the high street spending time browsing different shops; it seems they would rather 'nip in' to one shop and then leave.

"This behaviour, we believe, is in part encouraged by the very car-centric arrangement of the town centre, allowing people to drive and park directly outside the shop they're visiting.

"Apart from the obvious need for parking for people who have mobility needs, the number of other cars in and about Penarth town centre creates a hostile environment for those choosing to walk or cycle, and actively discourages people from hanging around once they have made their purchases. 

Back in July 2020, Penarth Town Council put forward a proposal to combat this and support the ‘post-Covid’ recovery in the town centre by restricting cars on Windsor Road, allowing high street shops and hospitality outlets to spread out onto the street.


"Combined with community events, pop-up stalls and other activities, this we believe would create an environment in which people will be happier spending time and money," the group added. 

"Whilst we have found that a high proportion of local residents and visitors to Penarth, when asked in a straw poll in the town centre, are in favour of restricting traffic use and creating more space for pedestrians on Windsor Road and some traders are also in support, as with any change we understand that there are worries from some traders that this proposal won't work. 

"The business case for restricting car use in our town centre and creating a more people friendly environment is well made in a report published by Living Streets in 2018.

"The Pedestrian Pound report presents evidence that investment in better streets and places can help to attract more footfall to our high streets and deliver quantifiable commercial returns.

"The case studies illustrate how businesses, residents, developers and visitors all benefit from investment in the public realm and walkability.  

"There is now an even greater need to shift the emphasis in our town centres towards a healthy, safe consumer experience rather than a place to drive to, park up, nip into one shop and leave.

"As concerns about our and our children’s health and well-being remain at the forefront of many people’s minds after the events of the last 15 months, there is also growing public concern about air quality - with reports that polluted air causes 40,000 premature deaths in the UK annually.

"The Vale of Glamorgan Council and the Welsh Government have declared a climate emergency; and the Welsh Government’s transport strategy, notably Llwybr Newydd, 2020 and Planning Policy Wales 2020, is to reduce car use and to increase active travel."

The group would like to see:

  • A town centre that’s open for people to shop, socialise, walk and cycle;
  • A town centre that is safe and allows space for social distancing; 
  • A town centre that’s healthy with clean air and space for nature.

"As a start we would like to see the Town Council’s proposals of August 2020 trialled," they added. 

"A trial over the summer months would help allay concerns and illustrate the potential - allowing us to collect data and evidence and move us closer to our overall ambitions for the town centre.

"The fact is that the current set up is obviously not working and it's becoming less likely that 'business as usual' will ever return without some radical change happening."