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Reflections on 12 Years of Rural European Funding for Cowbridge

09 May 2016

Creative Rural Communities (CRC), the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s rural regeneration team, marked Europe Day 2016 (09 May) with a review of some of the rural Vale’s most successful rural initiatives.

Jo Homfray Martyn Hurst Cowbridge Physic Garden
Since it was established in 2004 the CRC team has overseen £7.7m of investment across the Vale as part of the EU funded Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2014. Based in Cowbridge, the team has supported communities and businesses to develop and implement projects that benefit the local economy. The team has focused on tourism projects, investment in community facilities, and farm diversification and notable examples of each were the focus of the showcase.  


One of the first projects started by CRC was Big Screen Cinema, which shows films at Cowbridge Town Hall.  In 2014 the Town Council received funding for a new state of the art cinema which is now also used by other groups and for events.

 

Steph Bonnar, cinema volunteer, said: “The cinema has become a wonderful monthly social event for the Town with between 100 and 150 attending each screening. The funding has helped several community cinemas across the Vale to get going.”  


The Cowbridge Physic Garden was another early project to receive funding and following this the Old Hall Grounds, championed by Cowbridge Charter Trust has seen substantial EU investment. In addition to this, the town walls, pond, façade restoration, storytelling circle, interpretation and the Iolo trail have also received funding. The Heritage of the area has since been brought to life by local groups such as historical societies, with the introduction of innovative interpretation at a number of locations including St Quentin’s Castle.


Martyn Hurst, a Trustee of the garden said “When the dream of the Cowbridge Physic Garden began a little over ten years ago, it was European funding that was the essential catalyst to get the project started. With the infrastructure underway, and with unstinting effort from skilled and enthusiastic volunteers, the garden has grown into the much-loved gem it is today”.


Elsewhere in the area investment has been seen in community facilities such as Twt Park, Downs View play area, and Cowbridge allotments. Village halls in Aberthin, Penllyn, Llansannor, Llanblethian, along with Cowbridge Town hall itself have all received funding for improvements. As have facilities such as Holy Cross Church and the Old Hall to open the buildings up for greater community use.


Farm diversification funding formed a significant chunk of the overall CRC regeneration budget, and was an aspect that generated a lot of interest. One of the success stories in this area has been the Penllyn Estate’s Cowbridge Cabins. One of five farms to be supported with grants of up to £40,000, the low cost accommodation has recently won an award for best hostel in the UK.


Phil Chappell, Team Leader for Economic Development. “None of these projects would be possible without the dedication of our wonderful local residents and businesses. Many people only associate West Wales and the valleys with EU funding, but in excess of £1M of grants have been awarded within the Cowbridge Ward alone.


“At CRC we inspire communities and businesses to develop their own ideas and equip them with the skills to implement them rather than develop ideas on their behalf. These skills can then be transferred to others & this way or working ensures the sustainability of ideas that have been developed. I have seen a real shift in the regeneration culture in the Rural Vale since I started back in 2004.”   


Creative Rural Communities is now looking ahead with an award of £1.82M to run a new programme until 2020. The team is also able to assist in accessing some of the £59M of Rural Community Development Funding available to rural communities and businesses.  For more information drop them a line on create@valeofglamorgan.gov.uk or call 01446 704828.