Welsh Towns Network Re-launch

Welsh Towns Network launch at the Wales Regeneration Summit Fringe

 

The development of town and city centres feature strongly in Welsh Government policy, and formed the basis of the Wales Regeneration Summit 2014, held in Swansea in October. The Welsh Towns Network was officially launched at the Summit fringe, introduced by Andrew Dakin from CREW Regeneration Wales, with workshops taking place as part of the day's activities.

 

 

 

Andrew Dakin welcomed the participants and provided a basis and context for the establishment of the network. He said;

 

"Welcome to you all, and thanks for joining us today. By way of introduction, my name is Andrew Dakin and I have executive management responsibility for the Welsh Towns Network within CREW, and alongside my CREW colleague Alan Southall who has day to day responsibility for the management of the network.


Dave Adamson (the former CEO of CREW) and I started to work together within CREW back in 2010, and one our first actions was to instigate the Small Towns Policy and Delivery Network. We did this with the intention of creating a national dialogue which would address multiple issues which were starting to appear in the retail sector at the time. Essentially we wanted to provide a response by developing policy and delivery solutions which had the potential to improve town performance throughout Wales. Subsequently CREW was asked to make a submission to the Welsh Assembly’s Business and Enterprise Committee enquiry in to town centres within Wales; this was verbally led on the day at the Senedd by myself and Dave Adamson. The CREW written submission and the subsequent Committee report, which detail our evidence are available on the CREW web site and I would commend these to you by way of back ground reading to this important subject. The key issues identified back in 2010, are still very relevant today and include:

 

  • Too much retail space to service the current size of the UK economy.
  • Growth of internet trading.
  • Dispersal of population and employment from town centres
  • The recent closure of some big name national multiples which has diminished confidence…..and I should say that these closures are according to the retail guru Phillip Green likely to become more pronounced over the next few years as more of the traditional occupational leases, many of which were granted in the good times of the middle to late 1980’s start to fall in. 
  • Poor transport connections
  • Lack of resilience in the independent retail sector…but of course let not forget the many independent retail pop ups which are opening in town and city centres….however in saying this….they are of course very small in number at present.
  • Competition from ‘out of town’ retail parks

 

The network has recently been re-launched as the Welsh Towns Network, and a new executive board is being established. Over the next couple of months we’ll be creating a programme of activities into 2015. These will include a series of events, which will be advertised on the CREW website, as well as the development of case studies and research into current projects and activities which are helping to transform towns, not only in Wales, but also further afield.


After this introduction, myself, Chris Jones and Owen Davies, who are both members of the Executive Group of the WTN, will be holding interactive workshop sessions, which will certainly help myself and my CREW colleague Alan Southall to start to think about how we in CREW want to take the WTN forward in the future, and particularly in order to deliver your aspirations as to the sort of service the WTN needs to provide, so it can effectively support the regeneration of our town and city centres across Wales. I very much encourage you to participate in this workshop, and to take a very active part in the workshops at the Summit tomorrow which will also provide the facility to formulate your views regarding how we can all get engaged in delivering the sort of town and city centres, which Wales needs and deserves in the future.


As a network, we very much encourage anyone with an interest, either professionally or personally, in the future of towns in Wales to join the Network, and to contribute expertise and knowledge. Those with responsibility for managing, regenerating, promoting and developing our town and city centres are especially welcome in order to maximise the sharing of knowledge and good practice. Wales has some excellent examples of effective town centre renewal which should be celebrated, and the knowledge of what has worked and why from regeneration perspective, needs to be disseminated.

 

Thank you again for joining us today and we do hope that you enjoy the presentations and workshop activities. I’m very much looking forward to the discussions and debates which will be taking place on the future of our town and city centres….it’s going to be a very interesting couple of days.


Finally, may I particularly express my thanks to Chris and Owen for their tangible support for this Fringe Event today, and also to my CREW colleagues, Jemma and Jon for all the very hard work they have put in over the last few months in order to make this day a reality."
 

Towns of the future workshops

 

A series of interactive workshops facilitated by 3 members of the Welsh Towns Network, Chris Jones and Owen Davies and Andrew Dakin took place, which focused on the future role of town centres.

 

Three groups were established, and findings from each workshop can be downloaded below.

 

 

 

The workshops demonstrated that good qualitative information could be gathered in a short space of time with the imput of enthusiastic participants. The time constraints given didn't allow for further exploration of ideas and suggestions for deliverable solutions although there was a clear message that greater linkages between shops, homes and public services were seen as a logical way to ensure a sustainable model for the future, and that poverty and an ageing population were seen as further challenges for Welsh Town Centres.

 

 

 

The discussions did also make connections with the theoretical aspects of sense of place and psychological connectedness of people and towns, which underpins the focus for regenerating towns and cities.

 

 

 

Andrew Dakin & Alan Southall. November 2014

published21/11/14