Prestatyn makes best UK coastal town shortlist

Prestatyn mayor Bob Murray
Image caption Prestatyn mayor Bob Murray: 'The town has changed'

A Denbighshire seaside town which has seen a change in fortunes since the arrival of a retail park is waiting to hear if it has won a competition to find the best high streets in the UK.

Prestatyn has been shortlisted in the best coastal community section of the Great British High Street Competition.

One shopkeeper said the seaside town hit "rock bottom" 20 years ago.

However, new businesses have set up shop on the High Street since the retail park opened nearby in 2013.

Local MP Dr James Davies, who nominated the town in the competition, said there was now a renewed sense of positivity.

It is facing off against Falmouth in Cornwall and Sea View Street in Cleethorpes.

Prestatyn town mayor Bob Murray said High Street shop occupancy level was high, with about five shop units standing empty, some of which were under offer.

"The town has changed," he said. "The retail park has brought more shops to the High Street. We have got more people coming in.

"It's a beautiful town, it's got everything."

Image copyright Harry Thomas
Image caption Then: Jones outfitters shop in 1930
Image caption Now: The corner building is a restaurant today
Image caption Tracy Anne Lawler: 'Retail park is an extension of the High Street'

Boutique shop owner Tracy Anne Lawler agreed that the long-awaited opening of an out of town-style retail development had brought people back into town.

"It's given us a new lease of life," said the local councillor who has also been judged as a finalist in the best independent store manager category in the competition supported by the UK government.

"The retail park is an extension of the High Street and that is definitely helping us survive here."

BBC Wales spoke to other independent shop owners who said they moved into town after Parc Prestatyn Shopping Park opened with the likes of Marks and Spencer and Tesco.

Nouveau Riche owner Cathy Challand said that given the "big boys" had confidence moving into Prestatyn "it made sense for me to invest in the town as well".

She had been looking for a location to open a shop after moving to the area from Staffordshire.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTraders and local people talk about the town
Image caption Shop owner Cathy Challand

But some say they have been hit hard by the arrival of retail park.

Gary Martin, a market trader in Prestatyn for over 35 years, said stallholders had seen a fall in trade as shoppers parking at the retail park were not walking back across town to visit their stalls.

"The market was an institution for Prestatyn," he said, referring to the coach-loads of tourists who used to visit the stalls during the summer months when the resort town is at its busiest.

He suggested the market should be relocated to the High Street to cash in on passing trade.

Image caption Prestatyn seafront on a wintry afternoon

Most of the year Prestatyn's 30-plus cafes, restaurants and bars are frequented by local customers.

They are also given a seasonal boost from day-trippers and nearby holiday camp visitors.

The seaside town initially took off with the arrival of the railways and when Thomas Cook opened the former Prestatyn Holiday Camp in 1939.

It was sold to Pontins in the 1970s when it was renamed Tower Beach and closed in the 1980s.

Pontins continues to run a holiday park between the town centre and seafront.

Image copyright Harry Thomas
Image caption Then: bottom of the High Street in 1910 which now provides access to the retail park

Poem by E.T. Williams, Prestatyn health committee chairman, 1920

If you are ill, don't take a pill

I'll tell you something better still.

For sunshine and air, weather that's fair,

And health-giving rest, Prestatyn is best

Image caption Now: The retail park occupies a large swathe of land behind the High Street

Clothes shop owner Tim Williams has seen the town change in the 40 years he has been trading.

When he set up shop there were big employers like the former Point of Ayr colliery which had helped make Prestatyn "prosperous".

He said the town reached a "low" about 20 years ago, prompting the start of annual events to try to bring in more visitors.

Mr Williams runs the town's annual car show while his wife runs an adjacent shop halfway up the High Street and looks after the town's annual flower show.

"Since the [retail park] shops have come there has been a resurgence," he said.

Image caption Tim Williams: Town has seen a 'resurgence'

The town council's decision to make parking free - as it is in the retail park - had also helped to bring shoppers on to the High Street, he added.

But some do not make it to the very top of the town's sloping main street, according to jewellery shop owner Sue Powell.

She said it was "sickening" that retail park shoppers could be "struggling to park" at one end of the High Street while there were empty car parking spaces at the other.

"We are finding it extremely quiet," she said, adding that changes in the traffic management outside the shop had not helped.

"We have been through recessions but it is dire," she added.

Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies entered the town into the high street competition this year. It was also shortlisted in 2015.

Image caption Many of the shops and businesses on Prestatyn High Street are run by independent traders

"It is a real boost for Prestatyn and its businesses to be recognised for its efforts," he said, referring to its place in the finals.

"Over the last year we have seen yet further regeneration and there is a true air of positivity about the town."

The competition winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on Monday.

Judges picked 27 finalists in nine categories from 900 entries after touring the towns.

Public nominations closed in November with 500,000 votes cast.

Competition winners will share £100,000 and receive training from Google and Twitter experts to boost business via the internet.

Going head to head with Prestatyn is Falmouth which, according to the town council, is Cornwall's leading south west coast resort with its sandy "golden beaches, spectacular scenery, specialist shops from local art to antiques and exceptional sailing".

The other finalist is Sea View Street in Cleethorpes which became popular with independent shopkeepers in the 1970s after starting life as a row of cottages housing fishing industry workers.

Image copyright North East Lincolnshire Council
Image caption Fireworks over Sea View Street in Cleethorpes

More on this story