Still waiting for town centre regeneration.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly candidate Mike Powell on the regeneration, or lack of it, of Pontypridd town centre:

Millions of pounds have been spent on fancy pavements, works of art and street furniture yet we have seen no real regeneration of what should be the County town of RCT.

The lido may be bringing in some welcome visitors and attracting attention but the town is still losing shops and the precinct site is still an eyesore. The closure of M&S was a major blow and there seems no sign of anyone coming to take their place. The Council have taken over the precinct site and committed to spending £1.5 million on the site, but there are no firm plans.

For several years I have called on the Council to provide free parking so that our high streets can compete with out of town shopping centres but they refuse to consider it, saying it will not help, except of course at Christmas time when, bizarrely, they gleefully announce free parking because it will encourage people to shop in town.

They have instead made a mockery of the £9 million "pedestrianisation" scheme.

A while ago they announced that Taff Street would only be closed to general traffic between 11 and 3 instead of 4 o'clock. Now they have decided cars can park there between 9 and 11 for a short while "to pick up one or two items."

Now whilst this is useful for residents and good for traders the layout of the street means it is an accident waiting to happen. There is nothing to distinguish where the road should end and the pavement begins. Cars park randomly anywhere they can and when the barriers open at 3pm there is a mad dash through the street.

There should be bollards or some barrier between the road and parking areas and the pavement area where pedestrians can expect to walk in safety. The scheme was ill thought out from the start and has been a huge waste of money.

Rather than grants for fancy projects the Council should be looking at giving practical help to businesses to start up and survive, such as business rate reductions.

My Welsh Liberal Democrats and I want to give local authorities a statutory responsibility for economic development. Along with this we would allow them to keep a proportion of business rate income which currently goes to central government. This would give them more incentive to develop new and existing businesses.

We also want to set up a Welsh Development Bank to support small businesses, bringing together finance and support services for businesses looking to grow.

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