Edwina Hart, Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science
I am writing to update you on Powys Local Growth Zones, following my Oral Statement in the Chamber on 6 November, when I outlined the Welsh Government positive response to the report produced by the Powys Local Growth Zones Task and Finish Group.
Many of the recommendations in the report were for Powys County Council to take forward. At the time of my Statement last month I had not received the formal response from the Council. Now that I have received their response I am providing this update to Members, as I agreed to do so.
Powys County Council’s Cabinet have considered the various recommendations in relation to Local Growth Zones and have responded positively to many of the actions contained in the report. I am pleased that the Council will seek to support initiatives in relation to jobs and growth, especially for local SMEs.
The Council has stated its commitment to working collaboratively in relation to the implementation of the Local Growth Zones. In particular, the Council will seek to support the Welsh Government and business community to take forward the commitments I announced last month, namely:
- An action plan and potential Business Improvement District in Llandrindod Wells
- An enterprise facilitation project in Newtown, and
- A town-scale digital network in Brecon
There are a number of specific initiatives identified in the Task and Finish Group report such as the Townscape Heritage programme and the Wi-Fi enablement project that are the responsibility of the County Council. The Council have advised me that they will consider how it might fund these particular activities as part of its budget setting process, later in the year.
The Council have been supporting a high street pilot project in the towns of Rhayader and Newtown. The project has researched a number of high street project options to address current issues and identify ways to increase the use of the high street. The Council will be considering the recommendations of the report and considering any actions as part of the budget setting process.
I am pleased that the Council has agreed to explore the option of adopting Local Development Orders in regard to planning in the Local Growth Zones. I will also be taking forward discussions with the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development to explore if there is more that can be done to encourage development, particularly where some planning issues could limit our ambitions for jobs and growth.
In regard to the pilot project in Llandrindod Wells I am delighted that Justin Baird Murray is bringing together business people from within the town to develop an action plan to address the economic sustainability of the town. The Group met for the first time on 5 December.
In addition, my officials continue to work with the Sirolli Institute to explore the model of community based economic development in and around Newtown, and the local website network intended to enhance the town centre economy in Brecon.
I remain committed to working with all partners, including the Council, to maximise the opportunities for businesses and communities in Powys in light of the report from the Task and Finish Group.
I will provide Members with further updates as the work develops.