Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn, has today (04 March 2021) announced a £15.2m ‘placemaking’ funding package to help Wales’s town centres build back better.
It’s all part of a wider £110m investment through Transforming Towns, the Welsh Government’s town centre regeneration programme, which funds projects for the benefit of local communities in town and city centres in Wales.
The new funding package, available to all of Wales’s Local Authorities, is designed to be as flexible as possible and will offer support for a wide range of projects, from green infrastructure developments and the creation of active travel routes, to internal and external improvements for business owners.
In addition, the funding will support the improvement of town centre markets, create new uses for vacant buildings, and drive activity to support Welsh Government’s ‘digital towns’ agenda — among other projects to make Wales’s town and city centres thrive.
Designed in collaboration with Wales’s local authorities, the £15.2m support package will offer increased flexibility and control over available funds for town regeneration projects — with one lead authority within each region administering the fund.
The great flexibility will allow Local Authorities to choose which towns are supported and make use of the range of options available to best suit each individual location.
Wrexham County Borough Council has been selected for north Wales, Powys County Council for mid-Wales and Rhondda Cynon Taf for south east Wales. Meanwhile, Swansea County Council will be responsible for funding allocations in south west Wales.
Those eligible to apply for funding include local authorities, town centre businesses, Business Improvement Districts and Town and Community Councils.
It is hoped that the new grant, alongside other existing Transforming Towns support packages, including the £5.3m announced last summer to support town centre and traders respond to the Covid-19 by funding adaptions and improve public safety, will help with recovery efforts from the pandemic — helping to bring new economic opportunity and employment back to the centre of Wales’s towns.
This is in keeping with Welsh Government’s ‘Town Centre First’ initiative and long-term ambition for 30% of the Welsh population to work from, or closer to home — through repurposing vacant buildings into co-working hubs and encouraging public sector organisations to set up offices in town centre locations.Superfast Business Wales’s work to improve connectivity across Wales will further aid this, with businesses and individuals encouraged to explore their connectivity options and make more of digital.
The Welsh Government’s work to further improve digital connectivity across Wales will also help support this with a number of existing interventions including a £10m Local Broadband Fund and a range of voucher schemes to help those without access to superfast broadband. This is in addition to its current roll-out out of full-fibre broadband with Openreach to around 39,000 properties using £56 million of public funding. Individuals, businesses and communities are encouraged to explore their connectivity options to make more of digital.
Hannah Blythyn, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, said: “Our town centres are unique, special places. Each town has its own proud history, sense of place and memory — with many of lives shaped by the towns we have grown up in, moved-to or visited.
“However, we know that towns in Wales are facing huge challenges in light of Covid-19, which is why the Welsh Government is committed to doing everything we can to ensure our town centres not only survive but thrive in the future.
“By offering Welsh local authorities the broadest and most flexible package of support through our new placemaking fund, we have enabled our regional partners to decide upon the most appropriate mix of interventions and how to put them into practice effectively in towns across Wales.
“Together with wider Transforming Towns programme grants, this will help us to re-build our Welsh towns and to realise wider plans set out by Welsh Government — to open up new, local economic opportunities while creating sustainable places for the people of Wales to live, work, learn and enjoy.”