It’s YES to City Status for Wrexham !

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Eight new cities are being created for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, with at least one in every UK nation including Wrexham in Wales.

We worked with Wrexham to prepare the application for city status last year. Applicants had to show their cultural heritage and royal links. The Platinum Jubilee civic honours competition also required places to show how their local identity and communities meant they deserved to be granted city status.

Wrexham can expect a range of potential benefits from city status and the opportunity exists for it to strengthen ambitious place shaping plans and investment strategies with wider economic and regeneration benefits being created for the new city

The idea of becoming a city was sometimes controversial – find out about our role in Wrexham’s successful city status application here

Yes or No to City Status?

Velo Park promises to be of “national importance” for the growth of cycling & wheeled sports

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

PLANS to build a velo park in Monmouthshire which promises to be of “national importance” for the growth of cycling and wheeled sport have been approved by councillors.

Owen Davies Consulting has led the feasibility, design, planning and project management on behalf of Monmouthshire CC and Welsh Cycling. The development of this unique sporting, leisure and education facility will include a closed road circuit with facilities for road, cyclocross and entry-level mountain biking.

In 2020 the council was awarded a grant from the Welsh Government, via Sport Wales, to develop a project. Facilities will be suitable for leisure, coaching, training and competitive cycling, and for all forms of wheeled sports.

The closed road circuit will be six metres wide and one kilometre in length, on a unique undulating course with street lighting covering part of the circuit to allow for its use during the evening.

The project has been complex to develop, because of the site’s topography, biodiversity and ecology, with a number of protected species identified on or immediately adjacent to the site.

At a planning committee meeting on Tuesday, Councillors backed the application. The following day the Council’s Cabinet backed the scheme with over £490k to fund the construction of the first phase of the multi-million pound Abergavenny velo park.

We blogged about the velo park design in 2020 https://owendaviesconsulting.co.uk/velo-park-enhancing-monmouthshires-national-international-reputation-cycle-sport-tourism/

The Abergavenny velo park project has been a ‘sweetspot’  project for our team where we were able to combine Owen’s lifetime experience of racing cycling and experience as a British Cycling qualified coach with our professional masterplanning and development skills to plan, design and enable this nationally significant scheme.

 

Repurposing Debenhams in Carmarthen Town Centre

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

The former Debenhams department store in Carmarthen town centre is to be repurposed as a new Hwb, which will bring together a range of health, wellbeing, learning and cultural services. This prominent building was identified as the preferred location through the preparation of the Carmarthen Town Centre Recovery Plan recently prepared by Owen Davies Consulting.

Carmarthenshire County Council, working with Hywel Dda University Health Board and University of Wales Trinity Saint David, are progressing at pace with plans to deliver the project after securing more than £15m from the UK Government’s Levelling Up fund.

The development, which is earmarked for more than £3.5m of match funding from Carmarthenshire County Council’s capital programme, aims to support people of all ages to access key services all under one roof.

Carmarthenshire County Council is progressing well with talks to secure the building and with funding and key partners all on board, hopes to begin transforming the space by the end of this year with completion expected in the spring of 2024.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, leader of the council and cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to transform the high street and benefit the people and businesses of Carmarthenshire. It fits perfectly with our aspirations to repurpose Carmarthen town centre – a need highlighted in the Carmarthen town centre recovery plan which we have recently endorsed.”

The re-development of the former department store will bring almost 65,000 sq ft of prime commercial space back into use.

Lee Davies, director of strategic development and operational planning for Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “The project will help to promote preventative healthcare and creatively link this with arts, learning, community, health, sports and leisure services,” while Professor Medwin Hughes, vice-chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, added the Hwb provided a “unique opportunity to collaborate with partners to revitalise our town centres by offering a mix of leisure, cultural and education opportunities to benefit residents and businesses.”

The Hwb project is being brought forward alongside a similar Hwb project at South Quay, in Pembroke town centre, which formed part of the bid to the Levelling Up Fund.

Regional Economic Frameworks for Wales

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

The Minister for Economy has published a shared vision for the Welsh regional economies, establishing a common suite of economic development priorities which all partners can work towards and be a vehicle for continued collaboration across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

We worked closely with the Welsh Government team and their local authority partners in the regions to co-produce the Regional Economic Framework documents over many months and engaged extensively with stakeholders, taking a new approach to participation with the support of the Co-production Network for Wales.

We specifically supported the drafting of the Mid and South West Wales REFs aligned with the work underpinning the Mid Wales Growth Deal and the Regional Economic Delivery Plan for the south west led by the Local Authorities

Link here to the REF documents –  Written Statement: Regional Economic Frameworks – Publication (22 December 2021) | GOV.WALES

Yes or No to City Status?

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Yesterdays decision by Wrexham Council to apply for City Status has stirred passions on all sides of the debate. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-59569058. Although the application process does not require a town to provide evidence of the economic benefits of becoming a city, much of the discussion in Wrexham and elsewhere in the UK has often been framed in economic terms.

There is no published evidence of the economic benefits (or disbenefits) of the award of city status, so to address this gap Wrexham CBC commissioned our independent study to specifically examine the potential economic benefits for towns like Wrexham.

The study found that the towns awarded city status have experienced economic growth, but data does not show that the rate of growth accelerated following the award of city status. However, the comparative analysis of new cities and towns suggests there is a potential for benefit where city status has been used to strengthen other economic and regeneration initiatives in an area.

We undertook a comparative analysis of towns similar in profile to Wrexham that’s have been awarded city status. The case studies shows that areas which have been successful in gaining city status identify a range of benefits including:

  • Helping to boost local pride which, in turn, may have economic benefits
  • Providing a new platform to promote the city and raise ambitions
  • Creating opportunities for anchor institutions, economic clusters, and sectors to raise their profile
  • Enabling some cities to attract major projects such as a university and enterprise zone, which they might not otherwise have secured as towns
  • Allowing relationships to be developed with other cities and helping them to collectively ‘punch above their weight’, securing both public and private investment and collaborating with Government on strategic issues
  • Providing a reason for, and focus for re-branding campaigns
  • Perceived successes in attracting inward investment – attributed to city awareness and the infrastructure and facilities they offer e.g. business incubator, high-profile local businesses and organisations, alongside city status
  • Higher expectations of placemaking with cities thought of as more vibrant places to live, work, and invest
  • Cities with an accessible rural hinterland are seen as very attractive places.

The evidence suggests the opportunity for a range of potential benefits for Wrexham from city status if it links such an award to delivering more ambitious place shaping plans and investment strategies, connected to local attributes such as the University, employment and transport infrastructure and cultural attractions.

Owen Davies Consulting with economic specialists Hardisty Jones Associates researched the economic benefits of city status.

Piloting a SMART town plan

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Imagine the same technology found on your phone helping to transform a town centre and business performance?

Smart Towns Cymru is a Welsh Government initiative to support the revitalisation of town centres. The aim is to connect businesses with the digital data and technology they need to better understand their customers, the users of the town and how the centre can be better managed.

The Year of SMART Towns is closely aligned with the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns agenda and wider funding for town centres. Owen Davies Consulting is working with Smart Towns Cymru led by Menter Môn and Clive Davies, who has driven the adoption of SMART technology in Cardigan, to pilot a place-based approach to exploring with businesses the idea of creating a Smart Town Plan pilot for Abergavenny town centre.

A particular focus of the pilot is to raise awareness and understanding of smart towns. The pilot is not about businesses needing to understand the technology, it’s about providing a greater appreciation that better quality digitally sourced information can help businesses grow. Businesses in Smart Towns in Wales are already using smart data to simply inform their staffing, stock, opening hours, marketing etc.

The first step is to produce a Smart Action Plan for Abergavenny that prioritises opportunities and challenges in the town centre with the potential for smart solutions. Potential funding could be available for towns with a Smart Action Plan to implement the ideas identified by businesses.

To discuss our smart towns projects contact: Ieuan Best ieuan@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk

Does granting City Status have a measurable impact on economic performance?

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Announced by the Cabinet Office in June, the Civic Honours Contest will see winning towns granted City Status for the first time in ten years, during May 2022.

In total there have been three rounds of applications for city status since 2000 – one to celebrate the Millennium and two for the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees respectively. Across these three competitions, a total of 48 towns in Great Britain have applied for city status and 9 towns granted the honour.

Towns awarded City Status

Although almost all towns that apply for City Status believed becoming a city would stimulate the economy and support regeneration, there’s very little published evidence of a measurable economic boost as a consequence of becoming a city. Research undertaken by Reading University (Reading has submitted three unsuccessful City Status applications) suggests the linking of City Status to economic success is mixed. For every place that experiences growth after becoming a city, there are others that don’t see direct economic benefits.

Working alongside Hardisty Jones Associates, we have been appointed by a Local Authority to investigate the economic benefits and disbenefits of being awarded City Status and we are keen to identify the measurable benefits that have been recorded in the UK.

City Status doesn’t come with any fiscal levers like tax breaks or extra powers, and with less than decisive evidence, our study has been commissioned precisely to investigate the economic impacts.

Even though the Governments guidance lacks detail, the competition application form is clear that an award will be made in recognition of historic and current achievements, associations, and civic status with no mention of future economic growth and performance. It seems that a town’s historical importance (and Royal connections), its role as a centre of government and culture, current economic strength are more important in becoming a city than future growth.

We are interested to hear of examples you may know of measurable impact on the economic performance following the award of City Status.

Carmarthenshire’s economic recovery plan

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Plans for Carmarthenshire’s economic recovery, which aim to safeguard and create jobs, support businesses and bolster the local economy over the next two years, have been approved by Carmarthenshire County Council. The Council has also backed up the plan with a significant financial commitment in support of business and the regeneration of the local community.

Owen Davies Consulting alongside economy specialist Hardisty Jones Associates modelled the future direction of the economic and prepared the plan after detailed assessments of the short, medium and long-term impacts of the pandemic alongside Brexit.

The recovery strategy focuses efforts on 11 key themes, with emphasis on maximising opportunities for local businesses and growing the economy.

It sets out the authority’s aims to help businesses replace more than 3,000 jobs that have already been lost during the pandemic and safeguarding and replacing up to 10,000 jobs that may have been, or are at high risk of being, lost when furlough comes to an end.

The council has also planned how it will support more than 1,400 businesses that are at risk of insolvency and the creation of about 1,700 jobs that would have been generated if Carmarthenshire’s economy had stayed on its pre-pandemic growth trajectory.

Four key priorities have also been identified, including a major focus on ensuring the county has ultra-reliable digital connectivity, digital culture and skills.

The Plan is ambitious about the long-term future of the Carmarthenshire economy with a belief that the county has the right mix of business, people and places to recover and grow much stronger than before. Carmarthenshire’s underlying strength is the large number of self-employed and micro businesses and the equally important number employed in the foundational economy. The Plan will focus on supporting our SME’s to upscale, and the local knowledge and connections with small businesses in Carmarthenshire means that it is well placed to bolster support within the local economies, increase local spend and maximise the potential for a more localised growth in community wealth and wellbeing.

In the short-term, attention will be focused on the food sector and supply chains that are suffering significantly alongside hospitality sector closures.

Alongside the economic recovery plan, Carmarthenshire County Council has launched over £5m package of business and regeneration support  for businesses, people and places in response to the economic recovery.

Contact Owen Davies if you would like to discuss the regeneration and economic recover of your area. owen @owendaviesconsulting.co.uk

Our 8 tips for launching your own coworking space – and how we plan to grow ours

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

As the world returns to work and the current COVID crisis slowly passes interest in coworking spaces is on the rise again. Certainly, more of us will work away from a traditional office environment more often. For some, after lengthy lockdowns, there is also the desire for added separation between home working and home life.

Politician and local authorities have eagerly embraced the idea of shared workspaces as part of their ‘building back better’ programmes and economic recovery plans. Here in Wales, the Welsh Government have swiftly adopted the policy of 30% of people working closer to home. And almost every town centre strategy or economic recovery plan we have read mentions coworking, hubs and reuse of empty property in the same paragraph.

Gwagle started in 2019 when we decided to take on our own empty town centre property to create a social workspace, establishing a new co-working community and helping to bring people back into our local town centre. We had a tiny budget but enough to buy some chairs and desks, install the broadband, equipped the kitchen and opened the doors. And 12 months later there was a community of 14 freelancers, consultants and creatives. The diversity is incredible with journalists, filmmakers, techies, designers, consultants, coaches and all sorts of creatives.

There were several reasons for launching Gwagle (in case you are wondering it’s Welsh for ‘space’ Gwag + lle), the first curated co-working community in Abergavenny.

  • We wanted to do our bit to help regenerate the local centre through repurposing a long term empty property whilst injecting some new people back into the town
  • To prove the concept worked in a small market town;
  • To convert ideas into action. Our regeneration consultancy doesn’t only write strategies and draw up impressive looking plans, we also invest our own time and funds to deliver the kind of schemes we encourage others to go and do; and
  • We wanted to create a community of like-minded freelancers, consultants and creatives eager for somewhere to work that wasn’t a quiet home office. Somewhere you can meet others, network, schedule meetings, and most importantly get your best work done.

How we did it? Here are our 8 tips for launching your coworking space:

  1. A great property and location – we spent over a year looking for good quality and affordable character property in the centre of Abergavenny, and we’ve learnt how important it is for our members to have the shops, services and hospitality venues on our doorstep.
  2. Superfast – We always get asked; do you have great broadband? There’s no compromising on this and in many cases our members use us to get away from the unreliable connection they experience at home.
  3. Nothing flashy – you can be a professional workspace without being flashy, and an ordinary and organic interior design is enough as long as there’s a big desk, comfy chair and it’s well-lit. Our focus has been on curating the working spirit that connects people and the social factors that make Gwagle different from staying at home.
  4. Flexible – it seems obvious but there are no clear work patterns nowadays so we are open 24/7 and 7 days a week and our users can come and go as they please. Having a flexible booking system and fees structure is essential. We’ve seen more interest from people wanting to use Gwagle for one or two days a week as part of a blended work pattern than those wanting their own full-time desk.
  5. Meeting room – our workspace is social with the background noise of activity. However, co-workers are asking for more opportunities to use private meeting spaces because considerably more work is taking place online through Zoom or Teams.
  6. Amenities – a well-equipped kitchen, ‘help yourself tea and coffee’ are a given. However, we have been surprised at the popularity of our bike storage area and having an office shower is a huge bonus and encourage cycling.
  7. Networking – There is nothing else like it; sure connecting and collaborating online is great, but you can’t discover and forge the same relationships through a screen as you can when you’re sat side by side with real people. Our workspace is relaxed and unassuming, creating the perfect breeding ground for discussion and ideas to be shared during those spontaneous chit-chats that occur in the office. However, it’s usually in the kitchen when the kettle boils that we most often get together and the creative conversations occur.
  8. Hosting – the workspace shouldn’t demand much day to day management but there must be an individual or business that plays the host, helps curates the space, makes sure new members are introduced, animates the office discussion, and keeps an eye on everyone being happy.

And what about the future?

We celebrated Gwagle’s first successful year in March last year with 14 co-workers and the week before lockdown. And despite facing huge strains whilst we were all instructed to work from home, juggling uncertainty with landlord negotiations and support grant applications, we can already see the sector bouncing back stronger.

Recently we’ve experienced freelancer retreating to working from home that has decided not to return but at the same time demand from newcomers that have recently moved to Abergavenny as part of the “reverse brain drain” away from cities as a result of COVID-19. There’s also greater interest from commuters looking for new hybrid working options closer to home as part of a blended work pattern.

We are interested in growing our space, taking on additional empty building and exploring the potential for the public sector and corporate occupiers seeking greater flexibility in the post-pandemic era, looking for on-demand office space that feels safe for employees. And with a growing interest in technology-enabled SMART towns we want to explorer how we incorporate IoT (internet of things) technology that enables Gwagle and our community to work better, faster and of course, smarter.

If you want to know more about how we started our co-working space, the impact it has had on our town centre and our growth plans why not get in touch with Owen? And details about our shared workspace www.Gwagle.co.uk

Owen is a planning, regeneration and local economic development consultant – making places more memorable, liveable and viable for over 25 years. With experience across more than 60 towns and city centre locations he was chosen to be a member of the Expert Panel on the government commissioned High Street Task Force in 2020.

Moving forward with public realm improvements in Wincanton Town Centre

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

The town centre enjoys an abundance of attractive heritage buildings however, the Wincanton Town Centre Strategy which Owen Davies Consulting worked on as part of the team led by Chilmark Consulting identified that its footways and public spaces would benefit from  enhancement.

An improved public realm will support existing businesses by creating a better environment in which to trade and by providing improved spaces for community activities. A more attractive town centre will also help to change perceptions and encourage new businesses, more visitors and longer stays which will help to revitalise the town through increased footfall and spending.

The public realm designs have been prepared by Element Urbanism on behalf of South Somerset District Council will help to improve perceptions, support existing businesses by creating a better environment  in which to trade and provide improved spaces for community  activities. This will increase the attractiveness of the town  encouraging people to visit and stay longer, revitalising the town through increased footfall and spending.

You can view the full design package here

https://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/news/2021/4/we-want-your-views-on-public-realm-improvements-in-wincanton/

What do you think? Let Owen know, he’s is a place shaper and skilled regeneration consultant with experience covering over 60 towns and city centre locations across the UK. In 2020, Owen was chosen by the government commissioned High Street Task Force as one of their Expert Panel Member.

 

7A Nevill Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5AA
Why not call us first for a chat on 07809 594524
If you prefer then send an email to Owen Davies at owen@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk