EARLIER this month the Free Press launched a campaign in a bid to support the town centres and high streets across Torfaen.

‘Your High Street: Use It Or Lose It’ aims to raise awareness of independent businesses, putting a spotlight on the produce, services and characters that bring our town centres to life.

Our campaign was launched in response to National Assembly of Wales figures, which highlighted the plummeting average weekly footfall numbers across Gwent.

Despite Blaenavon town centre seeing a 19 per cent rise in footfall since 2010 and Pontypool receiving a one per cent rise over the same period, both towns had a slight drop.

For many traders, high streets have invariably suffered from the rise in online shopping, increasing business rates and inner town rent costs for businesses.

Despite this, many organisations are currently active and — like our campaign — are seeking to promote and improve independent businesses across the county borough.

Today, Your High Street: Use it or Lose it is focusing on action group The Friends of Pontypool Town who aim to tackle apathy head on.

Formed earlier this year, the group has a mission of “Making Pontypool town centre a vibrant, safe and attractive place to live, work and visit”.

The group meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Tesco Pontypool at the Tesco Cafe for 5.20pm.

Their objectives include organising events around Pontypool’s unique selling points with a focus on vintage and antiques, improving the cleanliness and attractiveness of open spaces and properties in town and being ambassadors for Pontypool.

For the group, being an ambassador involves “improving positivity amongst the wider community”, using word of mouth, posters and leaflets to get the word out.

Working with external partners is also a key vision of the group, a plan that could be seen at the recent Vintage Day, which attracted hundreds of people into the town centre.

Working alongside Torfaen County Borough Council, the group also promote and raise awareness of new businesses opening in the Pontypool area.

Recent additions include alternative and new age stockist, Cottage of Arwen and new pub The Iron Duke named in honour of rugby legend Bobby Windsor.

Award-winning sea food supplier Vin Sullivan’s Fish Shack, will also be setting up shop in Pontypool Indoor Market every Thursday.

The Blaenavon-based company recently won 'Best Seafood Supplier' at the Wales Food Awards 2016 and has supplied several high-end restaurants across the UK.

For the Friends of Pontypool Town, local business is something that is worth shouting about.

Since launching our campaign, we have also received support from community councils in Torfaen who we hope to work with in future promoting and showcasing our high streets.

Pontypool Community Council spokesman, Bryn Parker said: “Market traders and retailers in Pontypool town centre remain positive in striving to increase footfall in the area.

“Meetings have resulted in a number of well supported event days in the town, the Wednesday market is always popular and all are doing their best to increase trade throughout the week and weekend.

“Pontypool Carnival and the Christmas cavalcade have always been the two big days to bring people into the town, however, there has been a marked increase in other event days to increase the number of town shoppers."

Blaenavon Mayor, Cllr Alan Jones, also welcomed the Free Press campaign, noting the increase in footfall in Blaenavon in Welsh Government statistics.

“This increase is down to our hard work in promoting Blaenavon and its status as a World Heritage Town,” he said.

“We get visitors from all over the world come and visit us, at the weekend I saw people from New Zealand, China and Japan in the town.”

He added: “We know this year has also been really good and it's important that we continue to build Blaenavon up as a major tourism place which will help invest more money in the town and have a positive impact on its people.”

Do you have something you want to shout about? We want high street businesses across Torfaen to get in touch and tell us your story.

Call Chris Binding 01633 777251 or email cbi@southwalesargus.co.uk