Wales

Best high street: Narberth, Swansea and Treorchy make shortlist

High street views of Treorchy, Narberth and Swansea Image copyright Tom Wren | Visa
Image caption Treorchy (top), Narberth (middle) and Swansea are Wales' Champion Award finalists in the best high street competition

Three Welsh towns have been shortlisted in the UK's best high street awards.

Swansea, Treorchy and Narberth hope to take the crown after Crickhowell in Powys won the competition in 2018.

Book shop owner Emma Corfield-Walters says the accolade has been followed by an "amazing" year, with a boost to trade and increased community spirit.

The winner of this year's Champion High Street is due to be announced in November along with a national winner for each UK nation.

What do these Great British High Street competition finalists have over other Welsh towns?

Here, local business people explain why their high street deserves the honour.

Swansea

Image copyright Tom Wren | Visa
Image caption Swansea is under-going a multi-million pound regeneration

Swansea businesswoman Juliet Luporini said the high street was changing thanks to people "working together in a common cause".

She said the success of a "tech hub", a space for digital start-up companies employing about 300 people, was part of the high street's success.

"People want to come, we are creating the right environment," said Ms Luporini, chair of business group Swansea BID (Business Improvement District).

"It has been a journey for us and other towns trying to make changes," she said.

"These things don't come together overnight."

Earlier this month, a report highlighted Swansea as having a weak local economy - where people do not have much money to spend - which affected high streets.

However, work is well under way on a multi-million pound regeneration in the city centre which includes "urban housing", student accommodation blocks and an arts and cultural quarter, as well as shops and restaurants.

The plan is to keep the high street busy with people throughout the day, according to Ms Luporini, whose family runs a restaurant.

"We want to encourage people to come back into the city centre, to make it a whole day out," she said.

Treorchy, Rhondda Cynon Taff

Image copyright Tom Wren | Visa
Image caption Most of the shops on Treorchy High Street are run by independent traders

Entrepreneurial spirit and independent businesses helped Treorchy "turn the corner" about five years ago bringing new shops, cafes and bars on to the high street, according to pub and bistro owner Adrian Emmett.

"You need a sprinkle of your national chains but the core is being an independent town to create a unique atmosphere," said Mr Emmett, chairman of the chamber of trade which has 130 members.

The high street has about 100 shops with the vast majority being independents. The occupancy rate is currently at 96% with two empty shops being refurbished, he said.

About 20 new businesses have opened in the last three years and seven in the last two months.

"Five years ago Treorchy was no different to any other valley town, it had it's problems," Mr Emmett said.

"The business community took control and ownership of the town in partnership with the council and supported by the local community.

"We have created this from blood, sweat and toil with community spirit," he added.

Narberth, Pembrokeshire

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Image caption Narberth's food festival takes place this weekend

Butcher Andrew Rees, chairman of Narberth Chamber of Trade, reckoned having more than 30 independent businesses on the high street was key to the town's charm and would ensure it continued to thrive.

He said the loss of the last high street bank about two months ago had a negative effect on footfall, so he said it was crucial traders continued to work together in creating a "community spirit" with shops and events acting as a magnet to draw in visitors.

"High streets are struggling but we trying," said Mr Rees. "There is a lot of energy in the town."

Narberth is hosting its 21st annual food festival this weekend which, he said, drew thousands of people and showed off the rest of the town at the same time.

"People come from far and wide," he said. "It's putting Narberth on the map."

Narberth High Street is also trying to broaden its appeal across the whole year, by staging other festivals and community events.

And it also hopes to bring the community-run library back into the centre of town to draw more people on to the town's main streets.

2018 winner: Crickhowell

Image caption Emma Corfield-Walters: "Coming together to share experience in a group is appealing"

Winning the best high street award last November had been "amazing" for Crickhowell, according to book shop owner Emma Corfield-Walters.

She said footfall had increased thanks to the accolade with a 40% upturn in trade in her own shop last January alone.

Entering the competition had galvanised community spirit with 200 people turning out to tidy the street, Ms Corfield-Walters said.

And since then more groups have sprung up to "share passions" and experiences from regular street cleans to a book club with a week-long literary festival starting on Saturday.

"We spend so much time on our own now so coming together to share experiences in a group is appealing," she said.

"It has given our town back a little heart," she said.

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