Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
Our vision for regeneration is everyone in Wales should live in well-connected, vibrant, viable and sustainable communities, with a strong local economy and a good quality of life.
I would like to update members on progress with our Vibrant and Viable Places regeneration programme and our other initiatives in support of town and city centre regeneration across Wales.
Our flagship regeneration programme Vibrant and Viable Places has Local Authorities sharing over £100 million of capital funding for regeneration schemes for the period 2014 to 2017. The funding is being invested in town centres, coastal communities and Communities First areas. I was pleased with my Ministerial Advisory Group’s endorsement of our approach as we recently marked the half way stage of the programme. The Group highlighted the programme is delivering significant benefits to the Welsh economy and communities. Delivery partners are forecasting the programme will assist in transforming key town centres and will create more than 2,000 jobs, support 3,000 people into work, lever in £300 million in additional investment, deliver 1,000 additional affordable housing units and more than 2,300 market housing units.
We have many positive examples, such as the newly refurbished and extended Jesse Hughes Community Centre in Holyhead. The Centre is a valuable community resource and funding has been used to refurbish the venue. The Centre provides key educational services to parents, young people and children in Holyhead, including regular youth clubs, community groups and a Pupil Referral Unit for young people unable to attend mainstream education. In Port Talbot, the local partnership is seeking to address the problem of empty premises above shops in the town centre. The purpose of this project is to deliver new affordable homes in the heart of the town centre, through the refurbishment of the upper floors of commercial premises.
The Vibrant and Viable Places Tackling Poverty programme is focused on supporting projects within the top 10% of areas of deprivation as determined by the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation. There are seven areas sharing £7 million over a three year period. Delivery partners are forecasting the programme will create 78 jobs, help support 431 people into work, will bring in £10.8 million of additional investment, will create 39 affordable homes and 100 market housing units. In Grangetown, the main thrust of the programme involved the conversion of the Havelock Place Library into a Community Hub. With a Welsh Government investment of £282,000 the facility will become the new home to a mix of essential community services and a key centre offering employment advice, skills development and training.
Through the Town Centre Loan Scheme, £10 million has been allocated to eleven Local Authorities with the aim of bringing empty sites and premises back into viable use. The funding provided to Local Authorities can be recycled a number of times before it needs to be repaid to the Welsh Government in 15 years. There has been positive progress. In Aberystwyth, Ceredigion County Council has acquired a former bus depot in the town which it will promote, alongside nearby Council-owned land, as a larger mixed-use development opportunity.
A Business Improvement District is a formal mechanism for a business community to generate finance to assist in supporting local economic development and regeneration. We have provided funding to support feasibility studies and the process leading up to ballot in ten areas. Five areas, in Caernarfon, Bangor, Neath, Llanelli and Colwyn Bay, have now voted in favour of establishing a BID with the remaining areas’ ballots taking place in 2016. The recent progress with BIDs in Wales has highlighted a significant shift in momentum with the business community working alongside key partners in addressing the challenges facing their areas. The Colwyn Bay BID represents 850 businesses and will contribute around £1.25 million of private investment towards a coordinated programme over the next five years.
We are supporting 20 Town Centre Partnerships across Wales with a fund of £845,000 over 3 years. Each of the town centres receives up to £50,000 as a catalyst for local partnerships to form, develop Action Plans and subsequently to implement projects. The projects aim to generate higher footfall, reduce empty properties, encourage high street diversification and support town centre businesses grow and prosper. Porth and Aberdare have developed a mobile phone app to promote activities locally whilst Llangefni has created a website to provide information on the town and to promote events.
Our High Street Campaign is aimed at raising public awareness of high streets and their important role in the community. The campaign is promoted nationally but supported by local events and activities, with excellent coverage in the press and on social media. We introduced a High Street Heroes Awards in 2015 and received 752 nominations from every part of Wales for individuals, businesses and service providers.