Hundreds of people have taken part in a recent survey of local residents to help Bridgend County Borough Council understand how the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way they shop and visit town centres.

In recent months, the council has made a number of changes to Bridgend, Maesteg and Porthcawl to help facilitate social distancing and encourage shoppers to support local businesses.

In total, there were 764 survey completions with the majority – 78 per cent – citing Bridgend as their local town centre.

The survey highlighted the following:

  • The things people missed most in the town centre during lockdown were socialising, meals / takeaways and access to banking.
  • 77 per cent of those taking part in the survey have returned to the town centre since lockdown measures were lifted.
  • A weekly shopping visit was the most popular choice for visiting the town centre.
  • Residents said they felt safer with measures such as hand sanitiser being available within shops, limited numbers of people being allowed in shops, one-way systems etc.
  • 60 per cent of those taking part in the survey said they were more likely to shop locally and support businesses now than before lockdown.
  • 64 per cent of respondents said they shopped more online during lockdown than before, while 39 per cent said they shop online more now than before lockdown.

Cllr Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “We would like to thank all those who took part in the survey. This important feedback will now help us as we plan the council’s ongoing response to the pandemic, and will inform future decisions on the town centre as we enter into autumn and winter.

“Over the last few months, many businesses have worked hard to adapt to new Welsh Government guidance.

“We have worked closely with them on this and will continue to off our full support as they navigate a changing town centre environment and evolving consumer spending patterns.”

As part of the council’s ongoing support for local businesses, the local authority recently extended free car parking in council-maintained town centre car parks throughout September.

In Bridgend town centre, it is available at the Rhiw and Brackla Street multi-storeys as well as the open air car park behind Wilkinsons. In Porthcawl, it is available at the Hillsboro and John Street car parks.

Between 1 October and 31 March, the council is making the first three hours parking free at the Rhiw car park in Bridgend, while in the John Street car park at Porthcawl, it will be free between midday and 3pm.

Other support offered by the council has included free start-back training for local businesses, certification and window stickers to offer reassurance to customers, free ‘sneeze-guard’ equipment, reduced rents for small and medium-sized businesses using premises owned by the local authority, publicity to encourage shoppers to ‘shop local’ and more.

The town centres public survey went live on 24 July and closed on 21 August.