Economic Development

Brecon’s Economic Development 

Photo © Doris Kays Kraushaar

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;

“Regeneration of trade associations, to promote co-operation between these and service organisations as well as statutory bodies and to start afresh with a common aim.”

The 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.

The 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.

Note 1: The survey was carried out by Experian, an information solutions company see for more details of the survey.

Note 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.