The Gate-way to success?
Has development delivered in town?
IT has been open for less than ten years, but it has massively changed the landscape of the east side of Llanelli town centre.
The East Gate development was intended to bring people back to the town in the wake of businesses upping sticks and heading to out of town shopping centres in Parc Trostre and Parc Pemberton.
Llanelli people of a certain age will remember the area as it used to look, with the Island House pub just off Swansea Castle Roundabout, and a larger bus station in the space outside the front of the Jail House, a club that has welcomed thousands of locals through the decades.
Things all changed in the early 2010s, however, as a new look east side of the town centre began to take shape.
Buildings were demolished to make way, and in their place stood a towering complex of shops, pubs and restaurants.
Centrepiece features like the Odeon Cinema, Hungry Horse pub and Travelodge hotel have been in place at East Gate since its opening, while the state of the art Ffwrnes now hosts a wide range of events, from theatre performances to live wrestling.
Other businesses haven’t stuck around, however – the ever popular Joe’s Ice Cream opened on the corner facing the cinema in 2016, taking the place of cafe Cadwalader’s. The old Scarlets bar, with the rugby club’s name still adorning the side of the premises today, was replaced by the Red 10 American Diner, while a Pizza Hut takeaway was a later arrival in 2014.
But what do people feel the area needs?
Food outlets with outdoor eating seem to be a popular proposition for the area.
With the likes of Red 10, Joe’s, Nandos and Pizza Hut on the site already, some on social media expressed hopes of seeing more variation.
“Something like Las Iguanas, Turtle Bay, or a real ale bar such as the Bucket List would be fab,” Vicky Jones said, adding: “With plenty of seating outside.”
Holly Jayne Morris said: “Need a few more places to eat, something completely different, something Mexican/Thai. People get bored of pub grub, which can be very hit and miss.”
Nigel John, meanwhile, reported on the good and the bad of East Gate.
“The units which have been filled are an improvement – the cinema, coffee shops et cetera,” he said.
“However, on the negative
“Where most town centre shops close at 5.30pm, the leisure offer of East Gate with the Ffwrnes theatre, Odeon cinema, restaurants and hotel, adds an evening economy to the town centre
side there are too many empty units. Even the old Scarlets bar has closed down.
“I think with Parc Trostre and Parc Pemberton it will be difficult to fill these empty units. The front of the buildings are starting to look shabby; just take a look at the bus station side with the red facade of the buildings peeling off.”
Some on social media were more scathing in
They criticised the empty retail units on the site, and also felt the bus station could be improved.
Rich North said: “This place is a dump. The empty units cost too much in rent to fill. ‘Town’ is now in Trostre, [where there is] better parking, bigger shops and no junkies hanging around like a bad smell.”
Performances at Ffwrnes, however, have generated a following.
Commenting on social media about Ffwrnes, one regular there, Zena Lalita, said she loved it.
“We have been to see everything from musicals, comedy shows and dinosaurs with my young cousin to art classes and mediums, so there really is something for everybody, and all ages too,” she said.
“Llanelli needed a place like this. It makes a big change from having another charity shop and there is always something interesting happening every season.”
But another fan, Melissa Thomas, added: “I think that more could be done to publicise events at the theatre. I have been to a number of events that were not full and when I speak to friends afterwards they say they would have gone if they had known about it.”
And Anne Davies added: “For one, I have never been to Ffwrnes, and the bus shelter is absolutely rubbish when it rains and it’s full, meaning people are outside getting wet. Just take a look at Swansea bus shelter, [which is] brilliant.”
Regarding the empty units, an East Gate spokeswoman said: “As yet we don’t have any announcements to make about occupants for the two units adjacent to Hungry Horse. However, we’re in regular conversation with potential new arrivals and will announce any definite news as soon as we are able.”
What a business there wants to see
Rhiannon Holwill, general manager of Odeon Llanelli, said: “East Gate has been a massive success so far. It has done an amazing job in improving Llanelli town centre; it’s a well maintained site and aesthetically pleasing on the eye.
“Odeon, as the largest cinema chain in the UK, we’ve found a home here in Llanelli and we’re proud of all the jobs created and the incredible experience we can take our guests on.
“East Gate development has created a parking issue for staff on site, and subsequently the residents nearby. Staff parking or free parking for staff would be a massive plus for nearby residents and staff on site.”
And the view from the council...
Councillor Emlyn Dole, executive board member for regeneration at Carmarthenshire Council, said: “The East Gate development has been very successful in attracting more people into the town centre for longer periods of time.
“Where most town centre shops close at 5.30pm, the leisure offer of East Gate with the Ffwrnes Theatre, Odeon cinema, restaurants and hotel, adds an evening economy to the town centre.
“This is important not only to complement the daytime commercial economy, but in providing an attractive environment for the growing number of people who are visiting for overnight or short stays, as well as providing jobs and leisure opportunities for local people.”
The Zion Chapel survived the arrival of the Ffwrnes Theatre.
The East Gate car park entrance as it looks today.
The entrance to the East Gate car park in January 2009. Bids to save the Island House pub were unsuccessful.