Ambitious new plans which could change the face of Bridgend town centre have been met with strong public support.
More than 1,400 people took part in a public consultation which asked for views on proposals such as creating a new town square, moving Bridgend College into the heart of the town centre and using derelict and empty buildings to create new shops and housing.
The consultation also invited views on improving vehicular access to the town, relocating the police station, constructing an enhanced railway station entrance, introducing new landscaping and more.
Designed to create improved areas of open space within the town centre and to strike a new balance between the benefits of pedestrianisation and requirements for improved access, the 10-year plan uses a ‘zoned’ approach for cultivating retail opportunities, creating new commercial and office space, introducing new public realm works and providing better transport facilities.
With support in place from business owners and wider stakeholders, 84 per cent of respondents to the public consultation agreed with the overall vision for the town centre, while 65 per cent agreed that moving part of the Bridgend College campus and other educational institutions would help to improve and boost footfall.
A further 87 per cent supported the creation of a new town square and more green space, while 76 per cent agreed with the proposals for improving the area around the railway station and 83 per cent agreed that a new entrance should be created at Tremains Road.
A total of 61 per cent stated that they would like to see more in-town living opportunities, while views on whether traffic should return to the town centre were mixed – 44 per cent favoured a partial reopening, 35 per cent believed current arrangements should remain in place, and 21 per cent thought that all roads should be opened to traffic.
A heritage trail linking the town’s historical assets was favoured by 78 per cent, and 60 per cent felt that the masterplan could help young people enjoy a greater connection with their town centre.
In other areas, 71 per cent agreed with the proposals for Brackla Street, Nolton Street and Oldcastle, 75 per cent agreed with plans for the town’s retail core, and 79 per cent agreed with plans for the café and cultural quarter.
While current public transport arrangements were viewed as adequate by 41 per cent of respondents, 75 per cent stated that the town centre would benefit from improved active travel links.
Cllr Charles Smith, Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, said: “This was an excellent response to the twelve-week public consultation, and I would like to thank everyone who took part and shared their views on the ambitious new plans.
“From the feedback received, the plans have clearly found favour with the vast majority of participants. After all, it provides a huge opportunity to adapt and makes changes which reflect modern trends for how town centres are increasingly being used, and to transform and restore Bridgend town as the beating heart of the community that has been built around it.
“The consultation has also demonstrated how difficult it is to find a balanced solution towards specific issues. For example, the sheer range of different views expressed on whether vehicles should be allowed to return to town centres illustrates why it is so important to get this issue right, and we will need to look at this in very close detail.
“With the rise of the internet and other modern shopping trends, we also have to accept that the ways in which people use town centres have changed forever. That is why these plans have been designed to act as a catalyst for future growth.
“By using a clearly defined ‘zone’ approach, we can apply for specific types of funding from both UK and Welsh government, the Cardiff Capital Region deal, private investment and more.
“The results of the public consultation will now be fed into the overall masterplan, and officers will ensure that its policies are fully aligned with the new draft Local Development Plan before a further report is delivered for final agreement.
“The masterplan offers a unique way forward for securing the future of Bridgend town centre, and these views play a crucial and important part in helping it to take shape.”