For years, the story we have heard about our high streets is they are in decline. It is hard not to feel there is a grain of truth to this.

Too often we hear the news that yet another bank or major retailer is pulling out of a town centre.

When visiting, we see the all-too familiar sight of strikingly coloured ‘closing down sale’ banners, and empty units where we used to shop.

It is no secret that high streets are facing threats from many angles.

During, and since, the pandemic our high streets have felt the huge rise in online shopping and working from home.

They also face rising rents and rates, together with the cost-of-living crisis which is taking money out of people’s pockets that they might have put in the local shopkeeper’s till instead.

In places this has created a vicious cycle. Falling footfall leads to closures which lead to fewer customers and even more closures. If we do not use our high streets, we risk losing them altogether. I do not think this is desirable or inevitable. If the will exists, we could break the cycle.

Despite all the threats they are facing, there are high streets across the UK doing well. We need to recognise and learn from the success stories in Liverpool, Plymouth, Swansea, and elsewhere to find out what they are doing right. We can build on their success.

There are signs that successful high streets strike a careful balance between retail, food and drink, leisure and entertainment, office employment spaces, service providers, and residential usage. They are also accessible and convenient to pedestrians.

But we also need to recognise that every high street across the country is unique, and what works in one place may not work somewhere else. There is no one size fits all approach to making our high streets flourish.

That is why I am launching a listening campaign in my constituency. Over the coming months, I will be reaching out to high street businesses in Islwyn to find out more about how they are doing, and what they think can be done to revive their own high street.

If we want to support small businesses and save our high streets, we need to listen.