#towns Archives | Owen Davies Consulting

Why some towns in Wales are successful and others need regeneration

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The BBC Politics Wales investigated the Welsh Government’s new Policy Statement for town centres and why some towns in Wales are successful and others need regenerating. The WG Minister Julie James explains the new statement and  BBC’s James Williams asked me the questions about the challenges faced by town centres and how to reinvigorate them.

5 min interview with Owen  https://youtu.be/7RsrumkS8aU

The full feature is available from iPlayer  (11.30 mins)(07/05/23) https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000dk1n/politics-wales


The first ten years

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Ten years ago, I started Owen Davies Consulting with a simple aim: to help make places more memorable, liveable and viable.

Looking back, it was the right opportunity at the right time (and a bit of luck) that made it happen. I had spent many hours sketching out an idea for a purpose driven, creative, and bespoke consultancy – frustrated with the multi-national consultancy I was with at the time. And I had a couple of key clients that were also interested in the idea and willing to stick with me if I decided to take the plunge. The break came in May 2013, with my sketchy business plan, we launched.

I haven’t looked back – enjoying every opportunity to build a purpose driven team team and blending our planning, economic, regeneration and design skills. Plus, helping turnaround the fortunes of many types of places – buildings, streets, neighbourhoods, towns, cities, and on a bigger scale supporting government at local and regional levels to devise their strategies.

So, our first ten years have seen Owen Davies Consulting grow into a small but vastly experienced consultancy. I’ve picked up some accolades along the way such as becoming an expert for the Governments High Street Task Force and Fellow of the Institute of Place Management. Sometimes it feels like we punch above our weight as we deliver major initiatives and landmark projects across the UK – the latest helping Wrexham to gain its city status (enjoying its global fame I had to mention Wrexham !)

Through our work, we have also tried to be socially engaged, environmentally conscious practitioners doing our bit to help regenerate where we live, work and visit. Whether it’s been investing our own time and funds into repurposing an empty town centre property, providing the experience for budding students or volunteering with a heritage trust to help restore an amazing historic building.

It feels like I’ve been thinking about memorable, liveable and viable places long before it became branded as ‘placemaking’. And it’s all about sticking to what you know, doing your research, speaking to the right people and being clear how your ideas can make a difference.

Ideas + execution = impact

So, as we pass our ten-year milestone it’s time to thank the clients that trusted us with their briefs and their budgets. To the politicians, businesses, organisations and communities that have welcomed us to their town, city or neighbourhood. Thank you for your time, wisdom, and honesty. And to the team and range of experts we have worked with – urban designers, economists, engineers, artists and creatives – we are grateful for the new perspectives that you brought and the ideas that we have created together.

Here’s to another ten years. Here’s to regeneration and placemaking. And here’s to taking the plunge and a bit of luck.


PS – why not read about the projects we have been up to in our regular website news posts

Digital placemaking & skills for mid Wales towns

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Poor digital connectivity, a lack of supporting business infrastructure, a skills ‘digital divide’ are part of the regional economic picture shaping towns in mid Wales. The economy is large and predominantly rural and is known for its natural beauty, historic towns, and strong cultural identities. And despite many economic strengths, the region’s economy has its digital and data challenges with structural weaknesses that are currently hindering the potential of its residents and businesses to flourish.

Driving investment in digital through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and supporting the adoption and exploitation of next-generation technologies has been prioritised to make Mid Wales a more competitive as a region. New digital technology like 5G plus the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence and data analytics have the potential to open up new businesses and improve the lives of communities. To capitalise on recent investment, Powys County Council are working with Owen Davies Consulting and Cwmpas to harness the full potential of infrastructure investment across three towns – Llanfair Caereinion, Newtown and Ystradgynlais.

Each town will prepare its own Digital Place Plan including a digital place diagnostic – a series of placemaking, physical infrastructure, software and third-party data criteria – for assessing how far a town has traveled along the ‘journey’ towards becoming a ‘smart town’. And businesses, organisation or groups will receive bespoke digital support including a bespoke digital improvement plan outlining, areas for development, examples of similar businesses utilising digital in productive ways and areas where ongoing learning would be beneficial/should be considered.

Digital placemaking is a key strategic opportunity for rural towns across Mid Wales and its implementation over the next 12 months will inform potential expansion across an additional six towns to enable Mid Wales to accelerate our economic ambitions and add even further value to ongoing investments at both a regional and local level.

If you are interested in this project and digital placemaking, we recently delivered an online masterclass as part of Welsh Government’s Smart Towns Cymru initiative. If you missed it, you can now watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/FVspi0X6g3E

We also have a short film explaining all about our Digital Place Plans you can watch here: https://youtu.be/7yFechhxRrE




Digital placemaking – harnessing technology & data to revitalise our towns

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How do you realise the potential of digital as part of mainstream placemaking and place strategies? There’s six key lessons we’ve learnt through preparing Digital Place Plans that harness technology and data to regenerate urban spaces, revitalising high streets and boost local tourism

At Owen Davies Consulting, we’ve been thinking about the future of places for almost 30 years and in that time have helped places big and small to understand the opportunities for increasing their social, economic, cultural and environmental prosperity. But it has only been in the last few years – and especially through our involvement in the Welsh Governments Year of Smart Towns programme and including supporting 15 towns across Wales to pilot a new approach to digital placemaking – that we have fully realised the potential of digital within mainstream placemaking and place strategies of towns. 

We’ve already supported 15 towns across Wales to pilot a new approach to digital placemaking, but we’re still learning, of course, but here are six things we’ve learned so far: 

1 – Digital is everywhere, so places of all sizes need to embrace it rather than hide from it. 

All aspects of local, regional and national policy now have a digital dimension deeply embedded within them, so if you want to stay aligned with or influence it – and of course access related public funding such as Transforming Towns here in Wales – you need to embrace it. 

2 – Although some of the jargon involved can be baffling, the principles of digital placemaking are straightforward. 

With mysterious terms like ‘smart cities’, ‘LoRaWAN’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ widespread in the digital dialect, it’s perhaps no surprise that place leaders are often unclear about how to harness technology and data to regenerate urban spaces, revitalise high streets and boost local tourism. For us, digital placemaking is straightforward: it’s about bringing together the practice of placemaking with the exploitation of technology and data. Or put even more simply, it’s about including consideration of how using technology and data can help make better places. 

3 – Digital placemaking is just as important for smaller places as for bigger ones. 

The concept of ‘Smart Cities’ has been around for a long time now, but programmes like the Year of Smart Towns have demonstrated that there’s no reason why smaller (but no less important) places can’t reap the benefits of becoming smarter too. No town should be left behind! 

4 -Digital placemaking is a journey, and you’ve got to start that journey somewhere. 

When we work with towns to produce a Digital Place Plan or properly consider digital within a Placemaking Plan, we encourage them to do things thoroughly by following a five-step process to produce the Plan, and then when looking at delivery, to focus first on delivering a few simple wins. As with many things, it’s better to start small, learn lessons and then grow, rather than try and do too much, too quickly, and get overwhelmed.  

5 – Digital placemaking isn’t easy and there are plenty of barriers to overcome. 

Needing to understand the dynamics of local decision making, overcome apathy, and demystify key concepts… sound familiar? The barriers to digital placemaking are similar to those faced when taking a more traditional placemaking approach. Fortunately, we’ve learned plenty of lessons from our pilot work and now have a toolbox of techniques to help stakeholders achieve the best outcomes. 

6 -Get it right and you can have a big impact. 

By using data, people can make better decisions for their town and local area. With transparency on actions, activities, and trends, they can recognise opportunities and act on them faster. Just for starters, this can mean giving people the confidence to launch new businesses, helping existing businesses grow, and attracting and evidencing the success of public events. 

All the above means that digital placemaking is a key strategic opportunity for practitioners in the heritage, regeneration and urban development sectors, including developers, place managers, planners, architects, designers, heritage trusts, and local governments. 

If you are interested in learning more about our work in digital placemaking, we recently delivered an online masterclass as part of Welsh Government’s Smart Towns Cymru initiative. If you missed it, you can now watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/FVspi0X6g3E  

We also have a short film explaining all about our Digital Place Plans you can watch here: https://youtu.be/7yFechhxRrE 

Digital Placemaking Team

owen@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk  + adam@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk +ieuan@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk



43A Frogmore St, Abergavenny NP7 5AN
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