GOOD things are to come for shoppers and businesses in Ammanford town centre, says the leader of Carmarthenshire County Council.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, who also heads regeneration in the county, said fortunes are starting to turn for the town that have had their fair share of struggles in recent years.

His comments come following the publication of the Vitality Index – a ranking system used by property experts Harper Dennis Hobbs to assess the ‘retail health’ of towns across the UK – that placed Carmarthen amongst the top five towns in Wales.

But whilst Ammanford is ranked further down the list, Cllr Dole said the best is yet to come for the town.

“It’s great news that Carmarthen seems to be holding its own, but we know we have work to do in other areas.

That is why I was so determined when I became Leader of the council to turn the fortunes of both Llanelli and Ammanford around,” he said.

“Both are a work in progress, but we’ve already started breathing new life and ambition into them, driven by a committed group of people who sit on the Taskforce groups I set up and lead on in both towns.

“Together with decisions taken by the county council we are starting to create better conditions for businesses to thrive, and fresh incentives for developers to look seriously at what we’ve got to offer.”

In the last 18 months, the council has driven forward several regeneration schemes to support Ammanford town centre.

They include a new town centre loan scheme making up to £400,000 available to help bring empty sites and premises back into use; a decision to adopt the Welsh Government’s business rate reduction scheme, worth an estimated £488,000 for qualifying ratepayers in Carmarthenshire; and the offer of up to 15,000 free parking spaces every year to support town centre events.

In Ammanford, a Regeneration Development Fund was set up offering grants to property owners to help create high quality commercial and business premises and new job opportunities in the town.

Almost £900,000 is being spent on infrastructure improvements to support economic regeneration aspirations for the area, including the construction of a new roundabout on the A483 trunk road and A474 intersection, and the upgrade of the junctions to ease congestion.

A new entrance has been created at the Carregamman car park and a new controlled pedestrian crossing has been installed near the Wilko store.

Further investment is committed to the regeneration of the old police station and former magistrates court, which is set for a mixed use development, including office suites, retail space and residential accommodation; and plans are afoot to introduce a council customer service Hwb to the town, replicating the successful model trialled in Llanelli.

“We’ve been busy getting the right people around the table, and the right money on the table, to make things happen for both Ammanford and Llanelli” said Cllr Dole.

“Regeneration doesn’t happen overnight, it takes good planning and lots of commitment from several partners.

“We know that the way people shop has changed but there is still a place for the local high street.

What we need is fresh ideas and new thinking from potential developers, and more importantly the support of local people.

“As a council we are doing all we can to improve the retail and business offer across all our towns.”