The fight to save Bangor’s ailing high street

Boarded up entrance to ignite

Gwynedd council continues to fight to save the rapidly emptying high street, but as big brands prepare their exodus, it’s not clear if it’s enough.

Bangor’s high street, like many across the country, has suffered at the hands of online retailers like Amazon, that have seen business driven from the streets to the screens.

Even amongst the nations decline Bangor stands out, with a shop vacancy of 21.8% in 2016, putting it among the worst in the UK, despite the slight improvement from 22.4% the previous year.

Local businesses continue to feel the strain from the decreased footfall, with the King’s Arms the latest site to close its doors. Joining the numerous other boarded up fronts along the pedestrian walkway.

Not that locals have been sitting idle.

In march, Gwynedd council successfully bid for the Welsh Governments, vibrant and viable places town center loans fund. Establishing a £850,000 regeneration fund for Bangor and Caernarfon city centers.

The fund has already been utilized in Caernarfon since 2015, and allows property owners to submit bids for loans to improve properties.

Councillor Mandy Williams-Davies expressed her support for the scheme saying:

“These loans will certainly have a positive impact, and allow businesses and residents to improve and renovate buildings in the Bangor and Caernarfon center areas.”

It is not just the council either, local businesses came together to create the Business Improvement District (BID). A partnership between them and the council, where money is pooled and reinvested into the area, to promote business and increase footfall.

The BID’s first major success came during the winter holiday when they put on a Christmas fair that saw the city centre see its highest turnout in 30 years.

The Pontio arts center, which recently opened its door after a year of delays, saw 76,000 tickets sales in their first year, with the director confident of improvements moving forward.

Despite all these efforts, it does not seem to be enough, and as the amazon package laden lorries continue trundling up the valley sides, things are looking grim for the big brands at the centre of Bangor’s high street.

Both Costa and Burger King are reviewing the presence of their outlets in the city center. Meanwhile as Debenhams enters financial trouble, the Bangor store is eyed as one of 10 potential cuts.

New hope has appeared in the form of recent business ratings review by the Valuation Office Agency that. Many in north Wales have seen their rates cut, with Bangor seeing an average cut of 25% and the biggest beneficiaries reaching 47%.

The massively reduced cost of doing business at the city centre will no doubt have an effect, but it is not yet clear if it will be enough see the return of the stores.

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Joshua Jenkins

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