We have spent the last 24 or so hours reading all the comments on social media bout the redesign and redevelopment of Caldicot Town Centre and wanted to respond to them directly, answering some points as we go;
“It’s a waste of money when there are no shops”
Agree or disagree, this is a disappointing, unfair and sweeping statement to make. There is currently 2 card shops, 1 hardware/car shop, a cycle shop, a gift shop, a laundrette, a beauty salon, 3 barbers shops, 2 cafes, 1 craft & coffee shop, a vape shop, 4 hairdressers, a printing shop, 2 chip shops, a kebab shop, 3 Chinese’s , a nail bar, 2 Indian takeaways, a fruit and veg shop, a pet shop, a tattooist, 2 estate agents, an ice cream parlour, an Indian restaurant and a funeral directors. ALL of those listed at run by independent owners, many of whom live in Caldicot or the surrounding area, and many of whom would have seen your comments. The town centre is at its highest occupancy rate in the last 9 years, and is only set to improve this year with the new Aldi and Mere shops opening.
“If they reduced rents and rates then businesses would come, ‘new paving slabs’ won’t do that”
This is a two pronged question. Yes, rents and rates being reduced would be more enticing to businesses, but rates are set by Welsh Gov, so to have reduced rates in Caldicot would mean reduced rates across the country, with the town centre not being updated since the 70’s, (other than the pedestrianisation in 1994) the town centre looks and feel tired and worn out, given that fact and appearance, as a business owner, would you open in a place that had a ‘tired and worn out’ feel or somewhere where investment has taken place to benefit the area as a whole? (With regards to rents, see below)
“The rates are extortionate”
We fully agree that the rateable system is flawed in wales, and that there is a very stark difference between online retailers and high street retailers rateable amounts. This is something we are already challenging with Welsh government and will be releasing more information to highlight the problems and some solutions in the near future.
“Plans look lovely but waste of time with it all being owned by greedy london landlords”
While it’s true that the majority of the town centre is owned privately, commercial rental has come down in price steadily over recent years, landlords now are more agreeable to negotiating on the “advertised price” and there are better incentives for new businesses, such as 3 months free, lease breaks after 1,2 or 3 years without penalty, rental freezes and such.
“If they (MCC) could afford to buy Spytty retail park, then why can’t they just buy caldicot back”
A very solid point, but worth clarifying that MCC bought the Leisure park (Cineworld, McDonalds, Harvester, Energi and Exercise 4 less area) not the actual retail park. The leisure element of Spytty is much more profitable that the retail side, and it’s a good investment that ensures income is coming back into Monmouthshire, from the many of us that use it, keeping the money circulating and helping to reinvest in our services here.
Buying Caldicot back, so to speak, is not quite a simple, there is around 6 ‘owners’ of the 3 main blocks (when you take into account land freeholders and then leaseholders) which obviously complicated things. It also needs to be viable and profitable. Any of the 3 major sites within caldicot (Holman House, Wesley Buildings and 7-43 Newport road) all need a hefty amount of money spent on the buildings to bring them up to standard. This will of course eat into the profitability of the units, couple that with the size restrictions of some of the units compared with the size of space some national retailers require and the cost of buying in the first place and it becomes a difficult decision.
That’s before we even discuss the issue about reducing rentals for tenants and “using the money the regeneration would cost against this”
Just for clarity however, Caldicot Town Team have firmly made our views very clear that at least some of the units should be back under local ownership, and this should have been done some years ago, when it was first discussed with MCC in our opinion.
Everyone is used to shopping online now so it’s a dead town
The pandemic has certainly pushed more and more people to purchase online, but that doesn’t itself have to mean that the town centre is dead and will never recover, the town will evolve and change and adapt, like it did back in the 50’s and 60’s when Llanwern opened, and again in the 90’s when it was pedestrianised. However adaption and change can be good, our markets that we hold are very popular, our pop up shop is popular, the coffee shops are popular and Fratellis was popular and the events held in the town centre are very popular. All of this enables our retailers, traders and companies to do something that online can never compete with, build a relationship. Yes the world of retail is changing, but businesses in our town centre have already proven that even during the worst pandemic in our lifetimes, businesses can still open, can still flourish and can quickly adapt and diversify when needed.
Caldicot Town Centre is sadly well overdue some serious investment, pavements are uneven, brickwork is unsafe, seats need replacing, phone boxes are not in use and trees need replanting and renewing, by providing a better, more attractive looking town centre and by making the best use of the space we have, we are able to continue to run successful markets, continue to run more events in the town, making it an entertainment hub and continue to provide help and support and the confidence for all generations of shoppers to come and visit our town.
When you look at Monmouthshire as a County, Chepstow, Monmouth and Abergavenny all have hilly town centres, some narrow pavements and all have car parking charges. Caldicot has none of these, and along with the added benefits of great accessibility for disabled users and good links to sites like Caldicot Castle and King George V Playing Fields, we are now able to make improvements to the town centre so we can encourage more businesses, we can increase confidence and we can make Caldicot town centre a destination for shoppers, as well as those who need to use the services on offer in the town.
We want to close by assuring you that we really do take your opinions, concerns and issues on board, these plans are not a golden bullet, we never said it would be, but it is another stepping stone in making Caldicot a better place to work, live and play, not just for businesses but for everyone. All of us play an important role in making it the best we possibly can and that is through listening, discussions, voicing concerns and developing ideas.
We also know that not all of you will agree with our statement and that’s not a bad thing at all. Why? You ask, well because it means there is a chance for more of those discussions and new ways of working to grow, develop, adapt, change, work together and to talk. We value all of your comments and will continue to do all we can to make Caldicot a better place to work, live and play.