Creating Thriving Towns: What is the future for Wales' towns in the aftermath of the pandemic?

Matthew Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wales is a country defined by its towns. Bustling market towns, suburban commuter towns, picturesque tourist towns, gritty industrial towns - 40% of the population lives in these small and often distinctive places. They are integral to the fabric of the country and act as a focus for jobs, services and leisure. Each is shaped by a unique constellation of forces and has its own history and trajectory. However, many have been in long term decline. The continuing rise of online shopping has resulted in declining footfall and rising vacancy rates: one in 12 shops have closed over the past five years. Services such as libraries, banks, post offices, surgeries and schools have suffered drastic cuts and closures with many centralised or moved out of town. While the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is unknown, it is likely to compound the challenges many towns face. The outlook for our towns appears increasingly bleak. Lockdown and restrictions on movement have made people think and act more locally, rediscovering their immediate surroundings in ways they have not before. With more people working flexibly and spending more time at home, local centres could reap the benefits. New understandings of living, working and leisure offer the opportunity to explore what our towns are for and how they can be reimagined with local people and wellbeing at their heart. Increasing political interest in smaller communities including Welsh Government?s Transforming Towns initiative, mean this is an ideal time for designers to lead the way in considering the future of towns. A vision for how town centres might be transformed to create thriving, people-centred resilient places will be described. Bringing together a wide range of uses and activities can create vibrant, multi-layered places rich in social interaction, while new forms of civic building can support the cultural life of towns centres. High-quality public spaces can help social life to flourish and support the rhythms and rituals of everyday life. Local people know their places best and need to feel included in decision making about their long-term future. Thriving towns for all are possible; it is time to bring our design skills to bear on this challenge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-55
Number of pages6
JournalPlaces for Life 2
Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 3 Sept 2020


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