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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 18th April 2012

 

Report of Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration

 

City Regions Task and Finish Group

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Cabinet of the establishment of the above Group and the publication of a "City Regions Task and Finish Group - 'City Regions' Definition and Criteria" Document.  The report also recommends responses to the questions raised in the document that are relevant to the Vale of Glamorgan.  A copy of the document is attached at Appendix A.

Recommendations

1.             That Cabinet notes the publication of the "City Regions" Definition and Criteria document.

2.             That Cabinet approves the issuing of this report to the Task and Finish Group as the Council's response to the document.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To note the publication of the City Regions Definition and Criteria document.

2.             To allow the Vale of Glamorgan Council to respond to the document.

Background

2.             In November 2011, the Welsh Government (WG) Business, Enterprise Technology and Science Minister, Edwina Hart, established a Task and Finish Group to consider the potential role of city regions in the future economic development of Wales.  The task of the Group is:

"To decide, on the basis of objective evidence, whether a city region approach to economic development will deliver an increase in jobs and prosperity for Wales as a whole.  If this is the case, what parts of Wales should be included and why, and what is needed for the approach to be successful?"

 

3.             The published document constitutes a call for evidence for supporting city regions.  The paper sets the economic context and explains that there are four strong city regions in the UK (these being Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol) that are in close proximity and therefore compete with Wales.  The paper indicates that city regions and cities with a population of more than 500,000 are strong drivers of economic growth.  In Welsh terms, the paper suggests that South East Wales is the nation's primary economic driver, but reference is also made to the role of Swansea and Swansea Bay and North East Wales.

4.             The document then attempts to define a city region as a core city, or network of urban communities, linked by functional economic and social ties to a hinterland.  City regions can be monocentric (dominated by one large urban area), polycentric (having a spread of urban centres)or bipolar (having two dominant centres).

5.             The paper refers to the benefits of city regions, with evidence suggesting that city regions perform better economically and common reasons for adopting the city region approach is to ensure a joined up approach to planning, improvements in connectivity and promotion and attraction of investment.

6.             The paper then focuses in on Wales and considers what, if any, possibilities exists for developing a city region concept.  To consider this issue the Task and Finish Group considered commuting flows, travel to work areas as well as the urban settlement pattern and looked at a range of possibilities as follows:

·               No city regions in Wales

·               One city region in South Wales: more or less covering the whole of the former Industrial South Wales definition.

·               Two city regions in South Wales: South East Wales and Swansea Bay

·               Three city regions in South Wales: Cardiff, Swansea, Newport

·               One city region in North Wales along the A55 corridor

·               One city region in North Wales/North West England: Wrexham, Deeside and Chester

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             The document sets a series of questions, some of which relate to city regions generally and some of which relate to specific cities and potential city regions.  A great many of the questions therefore relate to areas and issues outside of South East Wales and in such instances comments are made in a general manner.

·               Question: Can one or more city regions be identified in Wales?  If so, on what basis?

Response: The paper outlines that a key influence in the economic prosperity of Wales is the competition from the significantly larger English cities and the fact that there are city regions in very close proximity to Wales.  This should be at the forefront of considering the identification of one or more city regions.  Other factors should also be considered including, but not restricted to, travel to work areas and commuting flow and transport links, as well as the specific characteristics and roles of towns and cities.  For this reason, it is considered inappropriate to consider the role of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea separately, thereby placing them potentially at a disadvantage against other city regions but also in competition between themselves.  At the heart of this opinion is the role of Cardiff as the Capital of Wales as well as the importance of the M4 transport corridor and Swansea to London Paddington railway connection, as well as the presence of an International Airport and several sea ports.  It is therefore considered that a single city region that covers the South Wales corridor/coalfield is most appropriate option in taking this matter forward.

·               Question: Do you agree South East Wales has a spread of urban centres of different sizes/strengths (i.e. is polycentric)?

Response: Yes, the role of Cardiff is clearly important, given its capital status but the other sub regional centres (key settlements such as Barry - Wales Spatial Plan reference) do have an important role in providing employment, housing and services.  Likewise a number of Welsh Government policy interventions (Enterprise Zones, Strategic Opportunity Areas) relate to areas beyond Cardiff, but nevertheless, within the wider region.

·               Question: Do you agree that one city region can be identified in South East Wales?

Response: Yes, but that the region should be wider and encompass the Swansea Bay area.

·               Question: Does Bridgend sit within a South East Wales City region?

Response: Bridgend sits within a wider South Wales "corridor" region.

8.             There then follow questions relating to Swansea Bay and whether Swansea as a city, merits city region status.  As stated above, whilst Swansea is clearly important regionally (South West Wales), it is concluded that subdividing the South East Wales and Swansea Bay areas into two separate city regions would be an inappropriate step.

9.             There are also questions raised regarding the potential for a cross-border city region in North East Wales.  Interestingly, this series of questions suggest the potential for a North Wales A55 corridor in North Wales, a model that this response advocates for South Wales.

10.        In terms of other specific questions, issues are raised regarding identification with a city region, as apposed to a specific town or city and also, a key issue of the barriers that exist which prevent people travelling within the region.  Key to this is a modern and efficient transport system and to this end, this Council has already responded to the Wales Infrastructure Plan (reported to Cabinet on 28th March 2012 - http://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/our_council/council/minutes,_agendas_and_reports/reports/cabinet/2012/12-03-28/wales_infrastructure_plan.aspx).  In this regard, investment in all forms of transport is essential, as is the promotion and enhancement of Cardiff Airport, not only to the functioning of a city region, but also in terms of it being able to compete nationally and internationally for economic investment and growth.

11.        In terms of the question relating to the unique qualities and potential of the region to compete in the global market, the capital status of Cardiff is a key issue that needs to be exploited.  Indeed many of the opportunities and facilities including cultural, leisure and recreational facilities that exist in the wider region relates to Cardiff's status as a capital city and also the quality and diversity of the surrounding natural environment, such as the coastline and countryside.  In addition, the presence of Cardiff Airport is an opportunity that needs to be developed and promoted, alongside other key infrastructure.  Indeed, having regard to infrastructure, it is considered that the building blocks are in place, albeit, investment is needed to ensure that road links and public transport links are modern and efficient.  In the same way, there are several ports along the South Wales coastline which themselves, provide further important opportunities for the region to compete.

 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

12.        The reporting of this matter has been met within the current department budget.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

13.        None arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

14.        None arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

15.        None arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        The consideration of the issue of city regions, contributes potentially to the economic well being of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Policy Framework and Budget

17.        This report is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

18.        As this report relates to matters that are non ward specific no consultation has taken place.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

19.        Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

"City Regions" Definition and Criteria Document.

 

Contact Officer

Rob Thomas, Head of Planning and Transportation - Tel. 01446 704630

 

Officers Consulted

Head of Legal - Committee Reports

Head of Financial Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Quick - Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration.

 

 

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