FSB Wales has launched a major new initiative calling for commitment to new thinking on how we deliver sustainable, long-term solutions for our Welsh towns.

FSB has joined up with Llanelli-based consultancy The Means to launch The Future of Our Welsh Towns after undertaking a detailed look at four Welsh towns as well as interviewing more than 80 businesses and stakeholders in towns across the country.

Welsh towns and high streets are subject to increasing pressures.

Following a survey of FSB members and of businesses and stakeholders across the country, some of the top issues identified included the threat of online retailing, empty shops, business rates and out-of-town development.

Forty per cent of the Welsh population live in small towns of less than 20,000 people, and a significant proportion of the day-to-day economy in Wales takes place in towns.

FSB Wales policy chairman Ben Francis said: "This research comes at a critical time for our Welsh towns.

"Every week we hear of shops closing down and decreased footfall, and just last week it was reported that over 200 UK shopping centres are at risk. We are all aware of pressures facing even the bigger stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser. We must get ahead of the conversation about how to ensure that our towns and high streets have sustainable futures ahead of them.

“Ensuring the health of our towns must be seen as an economic imperative for us all in the coming years.”

FSB recommends that towns explore employing digital town centre managers and the development of town centre strategies for every town in Wales. This would collate the efforts of individual businesses into one town offer, and ensure that it remains regularly updated.

Furthermore, following the UK government budget, FSB has called on Welsh Government to commit to implement a new Future of Welsh Towns Fund, as well as significant business rates relief for businesses which are increasingly finding the current climate challenging.