In the past decade, and indeed over the centuries, Brecon has undergone
many changes, notably the new inner road system (still unfinished due to
planning problems), a new supermarket and the influx of small to medium sized
industrial units. In a recent survey (see note1) of 250,000 companies and 430
towns throughout the UK, Brecon was found to be the second most profitable town.
Despite profitability of just 19.8% in 2001, down from 24.56% in 1999, Brecon
was well ahead of many larger towns and came out top in Wales. This was mostly
due to the companies sited on the industrial park one of which is a leading
supplier of processed foods in the UK. Other industrial units comprise light
engineering, lifting gear manufacture, a software distributor, an RSPCA control
centre a major agricultural supplier, a business furniture manufacturer and
other smaller units supplying local and national businesses. All these combine
to help support the local economy through employment they provide and their
interests within the town.
The town centre has seen many changes and following the disastrous year
2001 due to the foot and mouth epidemic (see note2) and some smaller shops have
closed. The new supermarket has provided additional employment and greater
consumer choice. Much opposition was voiced by local traders as to their
viability when the supermarket plan was tabled but, as always things were not as
bad as people feared and despite some closures the tow centre has carried on as
usual. As a tourist attraction Brecon has much to offer but its greater
dependence on tourism has meant sudden changes in circumstances both home and
abroad will have a profound effect on visitor numbers. A major refurbishment
scheme for the promenade area is still in its planning stage and the Town
Council has entered into talks with Powys County Council to try and bring
forward the work. The current facilities fall very short of what could be one of
the main visitor attractions in Brecon bringing new employment and revenue into
the economy. Other issues involving better services to enhance the visitor
attractions of the town have also been discussed. A new group, called the Brecon
Community Action Team, has been set up by local traders to monitor and encourage
economic development; this resulted from the lack of interest in the old Chamber
of Trade, which has suffered declining numbers over the last few years. The aims
of the group are;
of trade associations, to promote co-operation between these and service
organisations as well as statutory bodies and to start afresh with a common
Town Council has supported the move and will work in partnership with the group
to achieve as much as is possible to see economic growth and stability.
major employer in Brecon is the military. Between the two training
establishments and the Barracks some 250 civilian staff are employed in a wide
range of professions. Plans to develop the Dering Lines Infantry Battle School
have been produced which will mean additional jobs to manage the proposed
increase in the number of military personnel who will attend training courses.
Local civilians will fill many of the new job vacancies, which will be a boost
to the local economy. Currently there are several housing developments in and
around the town, which has led to an increase in the work available to local
tradesmen in the building industry. Considering the number of houses to be built
this will mean work will be available for a couple of years at least.
The rural economy has been altered, possibly forever, due to the foot and mouth epidemic. There was a great potential for growth in the tourism industry but this has suffered a great setback as a result of the epidemic. Visitor accommodation providers, cafes, restaurants, shops and many other businesses suffered loss of revenue and some have closed as a result. Many small farms that were affected suffered great financial loss and some were forced to give up farming altogether. A sustained pressure by government for farmers to diversify has resulted in an increase in tourism-orientated business in the countryside and this too is totally dependant on visitor numbers. This was also the case for the National Parks Visitor Centre, the whole of the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains areas were closed for 12 months. Brecon’s future will depend heavily on tourism and the road to recovery will be long and hard for all concerned but hopefully the town will regain its position.
1: The survey was carried out by Experian, an information solutions company see www.experian.com
for more details of the survey.
2: Foot and Mouth disease is found in sheep, pigs and cattle. Its virulent
nature can result in it being spread rapidly through contact with infected
animals. There is no cure, which satisfies EEC rules, and slaughter is the only
option. Speculation as to how the
epidemic started will remain since the High Court has ruled out a public
enquiry. Some 20 million animals were slaughtered in Britain and the effect on
the economy runs into billions of pounds.