Call for direct support for businesses hit by Menai Bridge closure amid major dip in trade
A call has been made for direct support for businesses suffering from a dip in trade following the closure of the Menai Suspension Bridge.
The suspension bridge across the Menai Strait between Anglesey and the mainland of Wales has been closed since October due to concerns about the integrity of its metal hangers.
The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters visited the bridge last week to announce a package of support measures for local firms impacted by the closure, including free parking arrangements.
However, with some reporting a significant drop in trade, Ynys Môn Senedd Member Rhun ap Iorwerth has asked for more assistance to be made available.
Questioning First Minister Mark Drakeford in the Welsh Parliament earlier this week, he said: “There’s no doubt that the closure of the bridge has had a negative impact on business.
“The current economic climate also impacts on how much people spend, but in speaking to business after business, when I hear of a fall of 35 or 40 per cent in trade, we obviously need to respond to this.
“I appreciate what was announced last week—free parking for example—but there is real doubt as to what impact that will have in reality, and we do need to find ways of supporting businesses directly.
“There are many options. One suggestion is that businesses could delay the repayment of bounce-back loans to the bank of Wales, and that’s something that could be considered. But, certainly, we need some model of direct support.
“The county council is considering the results of a survey on the impact on business, but will the First Minister give a commitment to turning that data into action, and to do that as soon as possible, because there are some who fear that some businesses will not survive unless that happens?”
During his visit, Mr Waters said that some of the world’s leading bridge specialists were “extremely busy” working to solve the issues with the bridge.
Designed by Thomas Telford, its construction started in 1818 and was completed in 1826.
The majority of the bridge’s hangers date from when it was originally built, although some were replaced during work carried out about 40 years ago.
The Welsh Government is hoping it will reopen to traffic weighing 7.5 tonnes and below in January, with some work starting this week, but no date has been set for when it will fully reopen.
In response to Mr ap Iorwerth’s question, Mr Drakeford said extra measures were being considered to support local businesses hit by the bridge’s closure.
He said: “Of course, we’re thinking about local businesses that have seen an impact following the closure of the bridge.
“When Lee Waters was in north Wales, he announced a number of things that we can do now but we are still co-operating with the local councils, and data is being gathered.
“There will be an analysis of that data conducted by our officials, and by people who are working for Ynys Môn and Gwynedd, to see what else we can do to help businesses in the area who have seen a decline in the number of people who can come through the door.”
North Wales regional MS Sam Rowlands also highlighted the issue and asked for road signs to be used to highlight that businesses are still open as usual in the area.
He said: “I was able to join a meeting with businesses in Menai Bridge with the Member for Parliament for Anglesey, Virginia Crosbie, as well as my colleague Mark Isherwood.
“They highlighted to us some of the practical solutions that they would like to see on top of the announcements that have already been made.
“One of those in Welsh Government’s control is certainly around the signage along the A55 to Menai Bridge that highlights to people that, whilst the bridge itself may be closed, Menai Bridge is open for business as usual.”
Mr Drakeford said extra signs had already been put up to advise that businesses are still open and he hoped the measures would see trade increase.
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