I’ve just spent a weekend in West Wales and heard a lot of people talking about a proposal to regenerate part of Aberystwyth. It involves the compulsory purchase of 15 surviving, and therefore probably reasonably successful, small businesses and their premises so that they can be bundled in with the empty Woolworths and converted into a new branch of Debenhams and a multi-screen cinema.
At first glance this might sound a good move. After all a store like Debenhams probably employs a good number of people, and jobs are good aren’t they?
But what message does this send to potential entrepreneurs that their business can be destroyed in pursuit of satisfying a large retail chain?
How can this be a means of creating local wealth when all the profits from the development will go out to shareholders and not to the local economy?
And now that the businesses are under threat of compulsory purchase how can they develop, secure funding or even see a return on their investments through a sale when the sword of Damocles is hanging over them?
It is all crass stupidity from a local authority that is excited about courting a “name” into the area, whilst not realising the impact their announcements – all pre contract – will have on local businesses in the short and long term.