Traders in Colwyn Bay have enlisted the help of a top expert to sort out problems in the town centre – and reopen a shopping street to traffic.
Bristol-based Ben Hamilton-Baillie who specialises in traffic and urban design, has come up with a series of recommendations after conducting a study.
He presented his findings to members of the Colwyn Business Improvement District (BID) who commissioned the survey to find ways off bringing in more shoppers, visitors and investment to the area.
Colwyn Business Improvement District is the he biggest BID organisation in the UK and includes Old Colwyn, Colwyn Bay, Mochdre and Rhos-on-Sea.
The BID is a not-for-profit social enterprise where firms pay a levy and the cash raised is used for projects to increase trade.
Among the problems that needed to be resolved, according to Mr Hamilton-Baillie, were the poor design of the entrance to Colwyn Bay’s railway station which made it difficult for pedestrians to get to the town centre.
Another issue was the forest of off-putting bollards and street furniture on Station Roads, one of the main shopping areas.
But one of the most serious concerns was the fact that the town centre was cut off from one of its biggest assets, the seafront.
Mr Hamilton-Baillie said: “I’m an architect by trade but specialise in street design and town and village regeneration.
“The first thing that struck me is the town’s architecture which is elegant and a real positive and Station Road is a very handsome street and a great asset to the town. However, its connection to Abergele Road isn’t good mainly due to a forest of bollards.
“Station Road is paved and semi pedestrianised and there could be scope in the future to opening up Station Road to traffic. However, I believe there are other more pressing issues.
“A High Street, to work, has to be connected to the rest of the town and Station Road isn’t. There are too many bollards and too much street furniture that simply mask it.
“Drive along Abergele or Conwy Road and you just don’t see Station Road. We need to visually extend Station Road and slow traffic on Abergele and Conway Road which are far too linear.
“Colwyn Bay is linked fantastically well through the rail network. The issue is however, and it really jumps out at you, is the entrance to the railway station. As a pedestrian it’s a dreadful experience getting from the station into town.
“The station forecourt really needs to be sorted so pedestrians don’t have to walk over a car park to get into town.
“A great deal of money has been spent on the Colwyn Bay seafront – that is very clear. But the problem is the sea front is physically cut off from the town.
“One of the core issues is how to link the town to its main asset, that beautiful sea front. Colwyn Bay has its problems and the local economy isn’t doing as well as some of its neighbours, Llandudno for instance.
“There is certainly scope for improvements and I’m positive the town could be regenerated.”
He added: “I certainly met some very enthusiastic people among Colwyn BID members. I would say the Colwyn BID team is essential in driving forward the town’s long-term recovery. The local authority won’t be able to do it.
“I think it’s a case of being bold and visionary. There is no point putting new handles on a door if there are cracks in the wall behind it. Colwyn BID members must have the confidence and belief in what they are doing.”
Anna Openshaw, project manager for Colwyn BID says she thoroughly enjoyed hearing Ben Hamilton-Baillie’s assessment of the town.
She said: “Ben has vast knowledge and experience of innovative solutions for reconciling traffic movement within public spaces.
“He also has unique expertise in the development of shared space principles for street design to improve safety, congestion and access and experience in high street design principles.
“Part of the remit of the Colwyn BID is to try and enhance local businesses and footfall and I felt Ben’s presentation was thought-provoking and really interesting.
“I think we were already aware of some of the issues he raised but it was good to get our thoughts confirmed by an expert.
“I think we now have to think very seriously about how we incorporate Ben’s ideas into future projects and work plans.”
Colwyn BID chairman Greg Narey was delighted to welcome Ben Hamilton-Baillie to Colwyn Bay and to hear his views on how the town can move forward.
He said: “I would say the improvement to the centre of Colwyn Bay has been talked about for several years by various bodies and nothing has materialised. It is time for some action and funding from the authorities.
“The Colwyn Bay BID team would definitely add as much funding as possible. It is heartening this project now has considerable support from most councillors in Colwyn Bay.
“I also think the residents of Colwyn Bay should be consulted about any options put forward to improve their town.”
To learn more about Colwyn BID please visit www.colwynbid.co.uk