South East Wales

Maesteg's £2.5m market revamp to boost competition

Sweet stall at Maesteg market
Image caption The hope is that the refurbishment will improve footfall to the market and boost trade

Plans are underway to revitalise a valleys market so that traders can try to compete with nearby supermarkets.

Maesteg Market in Bridgend county will receive £2.5m of Welsh Government money as part of a regeneration project.

Bridgend council's deputy leader David Sage said it would give stallholders an improved chance to compete with Tesco and Asda, which have opened in the town.

But some traders are concerned the disruption could affect business.

Traders and shoppers in Maesteg have been given the chance to view the plans, which will see both the indoor and outdoor markets in Talbot Street refurbished.

The redesign will also include new timber-frame buildings with pitched-slate roofs and a covered walkway around the market.

The hope is that more traders will set up stall and the area's improved appearance and facilities will attract more customers to the town centre.

The market has been at its current location for at least 100 years.

Temporary units

The plans are due to go before Bridgend council in September, with work due to start in early 2012.

As well as increasing the number of units, the revamp will also improve the nearby bus station waiting area and include a public space where local events and visiting markets can be housed.

It is another example of the tension which can spring up in towns as local traders face competition from big chain supermarkets.

Some stallholders say their revenues have been hit hard by Asda taking over from Somerfield in Castle Street earlier this year and Tesco opening in 2005. But many remain realistic about the challenges they face.

Caroline Watkins, who runs Forever Green Florists in the outdoor market, told BBC Wales: "There are mixed feelings about the plans and some people are worried what will happen to them while the work is taking place."

Image caption Some traders are concerned temporary relocation will further affect trade

Temporary units will be offered and those in the outside market will have the chance to move to empty units within the indoor market.

"I was here for the last refurbishment of the market 22 years ago and there's big lessons to be learned from that," said Ms Watkins.

"We are fortunate that we have free parking in Maesteg but the nature of retail is changing and shop-owners and stall-holders perhaps need to look at how they can change as most people with earning power are at work during our opening hours.

"Some of the more traditional traders like the butcher and the greengrocer have been hit really hard by the supermarkets opening in the town but we need to look at what else we can offer. Maybe we should open early, shut for a bit then catch the lunchtime and evening trade."

She added that local contractors should carry out the regeneration work to bring employment into the area and "get more people involved" in the market.

Mr Sage, who is also the council's cabinet member for regeneration, said he was "optimistic" about the market's future.

He said: "I believe these are exciting times for Maesteg. It's part of a regeneration programme and we are hoping it will revitalise the market and encourage more people to come into the area.

"It's difficult to compete with supermarkets in any market but it will give traders a better opportunity to compete in future.

"They will also have new premises with better facilities. Traders will have to move into temporary premises in the meantime and it will have some effect but this is about the long-term future and the regeneration of the market in particular."

'New life'

When the last redesign of the market was carried out 22 years ago by the then Ogwr Borough Council, many felt it did not fit with the appearance of the adjacent Town Hall and council offices.

But this time, the council is being careful with its design.

A spokesman said: "The project will enhance the local distinctiveness and character of the town centre's architecture while complimenting nearby buildings with listed status, such as Maesteg Town Hall and the Maesteg Town Council offices."

The Welsh Government funding for the project includes support from the European Regional Development Fund and the Western Valleys Strategic Regeneration Area Fund. Additional funding has been provided by Bridgend council.

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