Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 17:59 UK

Shop plan to transform Pontypridd

By Kevin Leonard
BBC Wales News website

See what parts of Pontypridd are being planned for regeneration

Ambitious regeneration plans aim to establish Pontypridd as a shopping destination fit for the 21st Century.

For many years, the town has struggled to compete with capital city Cardiff, the vibrant shopping centre just 12 miles along the A470.

But there are now proposals for a revamped indoor market and a new shopping centre on the site of the much-maligned Taff Vale precinct.

Many people in Pontypridd believe the investment cannot come soon enough.

Take the rundown shopping precinct for example, which is described by the local MP as "a '60s monstrosity".

It is now home to just a handful of shops and businesses following years of decline.

The new 50m Riverside development will feature a shopping mall, offices, a hotel and apartments, although work is not expected to start for two or three years.

Taff Vale shopping precinct, Pontypridd
It's certainly sleepier than I remember it and it needs new life injected into it
Kim Howells MP

The few retailers remaining in the precinct believe the redevelopment is crucial to reviving Ponty's fortunes.

John Pazcesny, owner of Chez Coffee, said: "It's exactly what Pontypridd needs to bring people in from the outlying areas.

"Now, where shoppers are going up to places like Merthyr or maybe even down to Cardiff, it will bring them back to Pontypridd and get that footfall back into the town centre that's just not there at the moment."

But since that interview, in a stark illustration of the difficulties that businesses face, Chez Coffee has closed down.

Pontypridd MP Kim Howells agrees that new investment is badly needed but says the town is still a popular destination for shoppers.

"I don't think that Ponty's died," he said.

Department store

"It's certainly sleepier than I remember it and it needs new life injected into it.

"That's a role for elected officials, it's a role for developers and above all, something that's got to be decided in partnership with the people."

Besides the Riverside development, there is also a new multi-million pound plan for the indoor market, proposed by the Pontypridd Market Company.

This includes revamping the market, attracting a new department store to the town and building a new 34-bed hotel.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, meanwhile, points to work already taking place to regenerate the town centre.

Traffic is now restricted along the main shopping thoroughfare, Taff Street, new offices have been built at St Catherine's Corner and a 50,000 lottery grant has been awarded to upgrade Ynysangharad Park.

An RCT spokesperson said: "Major improvements to Pontypridd town centre continue to move forward in recent months thanks to the council's pledge to restore the town as a major shopping destination within south Wales.

"The council together, with the Welsh Assembly Government, have resolved to open formal negotiations with the developers of the Riverside scheme and these are now ongoing."

So while Pontypridd can never hope to outshine its big brother down the A470, there is hope that it will one day attract those shoppers from across the Valleys who are currently spending their money elsewhere.

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