Saturday, 10 January 2009

Caernarfon struggling like many other towns!

Hi Everyone,
First of all let me apologise for taking so long to update my blog on Caernarfon's favourite website, but as you can guess, CaernarfonOnline has become very time consuming with all the new people we have on board and it is taking more and more time to keep up to date. I am so grateful to Michael Sol Owen and Dylan Jones for providing us with exceptional Blogs and they, in turn, are guaranteed many readers by the simple fact that they are on COL.
BLOG Yourself?
If any of you readers would like to have a free Blog on COL then drop me a line and I will set it up for you. You don't need to be involved in politics or a councillor or anything really, but if you feel you have anything to say or want a soap box then get in touch with me today.
I promise that we will be back to speed next week regarding the website by providing you with up to the minute news and articles about everything going on in town.

Last year I wrote about the top 20 hits and misses we had in Caernarfon but this year I've decided not to repeat this as in this present climate it is not really a fair judgement on our town as we are in the middle of a recession not forgetting the dreaded credit crunch which is hitting nearly everyone I speak to.

As I write the pound is only worth $1.32 (compared with $1.85 the same time last year) and for the first time ever the pound is now on par with the Euro! This is bad news for the economy and one which has indeed been self made with banks and credit card agencies charging what they like on desperate customers who are trying to make ends meet. It was inevitable that something had to give and it looks like it may take years for us to get things anywhere near normality.

Gwynedd is really up against it this year because the Assembly has given them such a tight budget to work with. This will no doubt mean more cuts to our services. Therefore pointing the finger at Plaid Cymru is a none starter, they are the scapegoats and easy target in all this. (and no I am not a Plaid supporter - completely neutral that's me)- Agreed they've made mistakes and some have been very costly. but this is the same for Labour and Conservative run councils around the country. Everyone seems to be getting on the bandwagon about the loss in Icelandic shares, yet no one would have complained if this had turned out to make a packet for us. We are all trying to make ends meet, we bring in a wage and we try to balance what we spend. Some of us choose to put our money in the bank, others choose shares, others dabble in higher risk investments. Whatever we try to do, we try to do it to make more money, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. This is life and now we must deal with it in what has now become hard times.

Last year a lot was said about the Doc Fictoria complex. I still hear through the grapevine that some councillors are continuing to have a moan about this place instead of now looking at ways of making it all work for the benefit of the town.
Sure Gwynedd sold it for a £1.00, but how much money has the Watkin Jones Group ploughed into the complex? Keeping it in mind that houses are not selling nationwide at the moment, how long will it be before they even break even? It is not the ideal time to sell property as prices are dropping by the day. But no one seems to care about the big businesses these days, it seems that more noise is made about the little corner shop closing down.

The loss of Woolworth is going to have a massive impact on Caernarfon. Woolworth has (for a long time) been an institution and the heart of the town. When the Nelson burnt down in Caernarfon many moons ago we lost something very important to the community, luckily at the time, we had the likes of Woolworth's, Burton's, Currys, Fosters and many more big names to attract shoppers into town. NOT ANYMORE!

The Chair of the Traders Association in Bangor has decided this week that enough is enough and is closing his shop in the High street, stating that the age of the small shop is over, that is clearly bad news for Caernarfon, because most of our shops are small.
Woolworth's closing means that we cannot rely on the usual "punters" coming into town, also the word is that up to 60 workers may be made redundant at Cibyn. also the abattoir has been struggling for years and its still only January!

Empty Shops
Walking around the town it's alarming how many empty shops we have. Some have been empty for years and no offers are being made.
Many of you have written in to ask who will take over the empty Woolworth store and many of you seem to have heard different things. Stermat have been mentioned, then Iceland and the latest is another Pound Shop.
Whatever we get (if anything) we need it and we need it fast, otherwise more and more shops will be closing.
Ty Bach Twt on Bangor Street has already spoke of their concern that business is down drastically and they may have to open only on selected days during 2009 and many others may choose to do the same.
Caernarfon is fast becoming a seasonal holiday destination which operates only a few weeks a year.
No one seems to be saying that they are doing well anymore, everyone seems to be blaming this that or the other. New Year Celebrations were held more at home this year as bars and pubs were left counting customers instead of till receipts.
The smoking ban obviously affecting trade as it was too clod to stand outside the pub having a cigarette when they could do it in their own armchairs at home at half the price.

The Maes
Personally I was always against stopping traffic coming into town and I stand by my view that this will be the death of Caernarfon.
Common Sense tells us that you need to make it as easy as possible for people to shop. People need to have things on their doorstep and the more difficult you make it for people to come into town the less they will come and obviously the less they will spend.

I live in the heart of town and to exit I have to drive past Post Bach and then to the roundabouts at Pool Side? When coming from North road I am forced to deviate towards the same roundabouts to come into the Maes.
I can therefore confirm that it has been months since I drove up Bangor Street.
When trying to buy an item in Siop Modur a few months back I found it very difficult to do it with the car (and I needed the car with me for the product I was purchasing).
Parking was impossible therefore I ended up going to Bangor, parking at Halfords and getting my product there instead. THIS IS BAD NEWS FOR CAERNARFON! If others are doing the same then what chance do our businesses have.
The Chairman of the Chamber of Trade has had his shop up for sale for the last two years, this is clearly not a good sign when the Chair wants to throw in the towel! It seems that selling up shop is not even easy either as he is not the only one trying to sell up, many others are in the same boat with very little interest show by others to move in and set up shop.

So what of all this? What does this spell out for Caernarfon? Well quite simply, if things don't start picking up soon, we are going to see even more closed shops and more businesses going into receivership. Let's face it, if the big guns are struggling, what chance do the little ones have?

More bad news I'm afraid
Ty Tryweryn Centre in Maesincla is also threatened with closure with more loss of jobs, this is also down to lack of funding by the Assembly.

Caernarfon Town F.C. are struggling at the foot of the Welsh Premier League and looks like they will be relegated this year. This may be the right way to go as sometimes taking a back step helps you to move forward.

Good news on the horizon though.....
Watkin Jones continues to invest in the town and will shortly be starting work on the St Helen's Road area. This is a site which is in desperate need of developing.

Tesco have completed their plans for the new development at Cibyn and hopefully this will give us all something to look forward to and provide much needed jobs to the town.

What of the existing Tesco site? What will happen there? Word has it that affordable housing will be developed on the site.

Caernarfon Wanderers are making good progress and they seem to have the right people in place to take them places.

The Castle is now more accessible for the disabled after last years fiasco in the Vets day when many couldn't make it into the castle to see the ceremony.

Word is that Beating the Retreat will be back again this year and even though there have been some concerns about the Bryn Terfel Faynol Festival. It is hoped that following meetings with such people as the Alun Ffred Jones the Heritage Minister and many others. the event will hopefully go ahead to celebrate Ten Years of music at the Faenol.
The 30th Annual Media Festival takes place in Caernarfon this March, which (even though not open to the general public) will attract quite a few people into town,
Feed My Lambs is now up and running after many years left derelict, Ty Ysgol will soon open its doors for the first time and The Noddfa is now online and going from strength to strength.

I may have left a few things out and I apologise if i have not mentioned some things. It was not my intention to list everything this year as things looked so grim. But at least we have a few things we can look forward to.

I therefore wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope we are all here same time next year with a better smile on our faces.

Pob hwyl a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi gyd.