City Deal, Porthcawl Resort & Business Hub

                                                (Pic: Institute of Welsh Affairs)

 

Bridgend Council (BCBC) and its cabinet will be meeting again this week to discuss various reports. Here’s another round-up and they’re all economy-themed this time.

BCBC set to back City Region Deal

As many of you probably already know, the ten local authorities making up the Cardiff Capital Region are in the process of individually approving the UK Government-backed “city deal”, worth £1.2billion.

Bridgend’s councillors are set to vote on it this week – in both cabinet and full council – and a report’s been prepared by officers (pdf). The Cabinet are to discuss it tomorrow (31st January) with all councillors voting on it Wednesday (1st February). As Labour have a majority and are pushing the deal it’s likely to be approved.


In terms of specifics:

 

  • £734million will be allocated to the South Wales Metro.
  • £495million will establish an investment fund for economic development, make up of joint local authority and UK Government funding.
  • The city deal will have to be reviewed every five years.

Local authorities will have to jointly provide £120million towards the city deal, with BCBC’s contribution likely to be at least £11.3million, coming from the capital budget.


A “City Region Cabinet” – made up of the leaders of the 10 authorities – has also been established, and is expected to become “the primary strategic decision-making body” for the city region, in areas like economic development, transport, strategic planning and employment.


The most important element of that is likely to be the transport role, and the city region will establish a new Cardiff City Region Transport Authority to actively consider the delivery of the Metro and the introduction of things like a single integrated ticketing system (which could mean the introduction an Oyster Card-style system across Cardiff and the Valleys).


How this all fits in with the Welsh Government’s new proposals for local government reform remains to be seen, but it seems like it’ll be a better fit, as the focus has shifted from council mergers to council collaboration.


Additionally, it seems the Chief Executive of BCBC, Darren Mepham, is seeking delegated powers to work on the fine details on the council’s behalf including, slightly controversially, deciding whether Bridgend should continue participating in the city region should any of the other local authorities vote against it/pull out.
 

Porthcawl Resort Development Update 

There’s currently a race on to make the most of EU cash before Brexit, and one project in the county is the Porthcawl Resort Investment Focus (PRIF) – being developed jointly with the Porthcawl Harbourside Company and Visit Wales as part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Cabinet members are to be provided with an update (pdf).Porthcawl is one of three priority schemes in South East Wales, and approval has subsequently been granted. The goal is to create a “high quality signature destination within Wales”, focusing on developing watersports facilities, golf and high quality accommodation. This includes:

  • Rest Bay Watersports Centre – No formal plans have been submitted yet, but it’s at a latter stage of pre-development. The area is already popular with surfers and the “iconic” centre will provide extra facilities.
  • Porthcawl Harbourside Enhancement – Refurbishment and enhancement of the harbour area, some of which has already been completed.
  • Improving links to Porthcawl Golf Club – The aim is to improve the capacity of Porthcawl to host major golf tournaments, with upgrades to parking and walking/cycling facilities.

The total value of the programme is estimated at just under £2.6million, £1.6million of which is made up of EU grants. It’s the last EU investment in tourism in Bridgend, after which responsibility will (likely) fall on the Welsh Government.


Bridgend Science Park Business Hub Plans

Here’s another Brexit “dash for EU cash”. Again it involves the ERDF, but this time it’s about creating business hubs and improving business infrastructure (pdf).The EU allows grant money to be used to develop business properties, invest in physical infrastructure and improve road infrastructure, particularly when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises (so-called SME’s). Improving infrastructure by itself isn’t enough of course, there needs to be more assistance to businesses themselves and promotion of entrepreneurship.

This is a regional project done in collaboration with other local authorities in the Cardiff city region who are currently eligible for Objective One funds from the EU.


BCBC are proposing that their “hub” be the Bridgend Science Park and the associated Innovation Centre, next to Island Farm. Surveyors have been commissioned to determine what precisely needs to be done to improve facilities, particularly for those companies who are demanding new business space but currently can’t find it in the county.


The Bridgend scheme is likely to be backed by around £2million. That’s not exactly a lot and won’t fund a long-overdue expansion of the science park itself (as part of the Island Farm redevelopment). It could, for example, be used to provide super high speed broadband to businesses on the park, improve the road layout or renovate existing buildings for new occupiers.


Owen