APPENDIX 1 : SUMMARY WALES SPATIAL PLAN UPDATE 2008 CONSULTATION
1.1 Members will be aware of "People, Places, Futures, the Wales Spatial Plan", adopted by the National Assembly for Wales in 2004 as a 20 year plan for the sustainable development of Wales. There are five guiding themes to the plan:
· Building sustainable communities
· Promoting a sustainable economy
· Valuing our environment
· Achieving sustainable accessibility
· Respecting distinctiveness
1.2 As well as these vital principles, which apply across the length and breadth of Wales, each area has developed a unique vision. In the Carmarthenshire context this applies to 3 Spatial Plan areas - Central Wales, Pembrokeshire Haven and Swansea Bay and the Western Valleys.
1.3 The update to the Wales Spatial Plan has recently been published as a consultation document and gives us an opportunity to take a longer-term view on how the Assembly's strategic planning priorities will be developed. Andrew Davies, Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery and Lead minister for the Wales Spatial Plan stresses in his foreword that "the next phase of the Wales Spatial Plan is about delivery. We now need to achieve outcomes that make a positive impact on the lives of the citizens of Wales. That is why this Update is important: it consolidates the shared learning since 2004".
1.4 Following consultation the Plan will be put before the National Assembly for adoption.
2. ROLE, PURPOSE AND PRINCIPLES IN THE UPDATE
2.1 The broad 20 year agenda and vision set out in People, Places, Futures remains the same. The overall role, purpose and principles of the Wales Spatial Plan are unchanged, and the specific purpose of the Update document is to:
¬ Reflect new drivers of change, including One Wales and its key policies;
¬ Give status to the Area work which has developed over the past two years.
2.2 The Assembly recognises that implementation of the Spatial Plan is at many levels. Many national policies of the Welsh Assembly Government already reflect a Spatial Plan approach, and in taking new work forward, the Spatial Plan will be at the heart of strategic thinking at the national level. This will involve linking vision to deliverable outcomes across Wales, identifying where there is a need to work across boundaries and influencing future priorities for spending.
2.3 At local level, local authorities have a crucial role in integrating delivery through the development of Community Strategies, and in developing with partners other core strategies:
- the Local Development Plan
- the Health Social Care and Well Being Strategies
- The Children and Young People's Plans
2.5 To strengthen working at local level, in response to the Beecham Report,Beyond Boundaries: Citizen Centred Local Services for Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government has set up Local Service Boards, which will focus on improving services for citizens. The Spatial Plan, in bringing together all sectors, is the main vehicle through which regional integration will be achieved. Importantly the Assembly stresses the need to integrate actions between each spatial level: local regional and national, so that each informs the other. An additional theme has been included in the Consultation - Working With Our Neighbours - to reflect this interaction.
3. SPATIAL PLAN THEMES : NATIONAL OVERVIEW
3.1 Underpinning the five national themes is Sustainable Development with the key driver for the work on Sustainable Development (SD) being the Assembly Government's distinctive statutory duty to promote SD in all its work. Wales is one of the few administrations in the world to have this duty which provides the opportunity to develop Wales in ways which meet the social, economic and environmental needs of people in joined up ways, contributing positively to people's well-being, now and in the future.
a. Building Sustainable Communities
· Tackling deprivation and particularly concentrations of poverty and worklessness, and the changing population are challenges still highly relevant as in
· The Assembly sees key issues such as Health, Well being and Quality of Life, Social investment and Regeneration as fundamental to improvements with key funding programmes such as the European Structural Funds (2007-2013), the Communities First (Next) Programme and a new instrument to tackle deprivation in the Public Health Strategic Framework for Wales as important.
· A stock of good quality, affordable homes is also seen as key in helping to address both deprivation and the needs of a changing population. It is the foundation of thriving local communities in all parts of Wales, while a lack of good quality housing affects people's health and well being and influences their long-term life chances. Housing renewal provides important opportunities for wider regeneration. There will be a substantial increase in the supply of affordable housing in Wales with the planned 6,500 new affordable homes.
· New build affordable housing will be coupled with sustainable development aims including our aspiration to achieve zero carbon emissions in new development by 2011.
b. Promoting a Sustainable Economy
· The Assembly highlight the need for an innovative, high value economy for Wales which utilises and develops the skills and knowledge of our people: an economy which both creates wealth and allows that prosperity to be spread throughout Wales: an economy which adds to the quality of people's lives as well as their living and working environments.
· Some of the key future trends are:
¬ Skills will be increasingly important for labour market success (and other life outcomes) - no major signs of this trend reversing.
¬ Lower skilled people will be more likely to get jobs providing services to others - location and accessibility will be crucial factors.
¬ As affluence increases, there will be continuing trend towards the use of and employment in services.
¬ Impact of globalisation and technological change has impacted most on lower skilled jobs, resulting in fewer jobs and lower relative pay for those with low skills.
¬ Big agglomerations and attractive places to live will tend to be the main beneficiaries of growth. Both business environment and quality of life are crucial to attracting and retaining desirable - but increasingly mobile - businesses and people.
¬ Evidence shows a focus on early years (including antenatal) is crucial to address poor school performance, which leads to low skills in adulthood, and eventually to low pay and inequality. However, success of early years' interventions depends on the detailed application of best practice.
The Spatial Plan Area work has provided a basis for the implementation of the Structural Funds Programme for 2007-2013. Strategic Frameworks have been produced in each Spatial Plan Area and nationally to deliver identified priorities.
c. Valuing Our Environment
· The Assembly view the quality of our environment as a fundamental asset for its intrinsic value, and for our economy and quality of life. Since the publication of the Wales Spatial Plan in 2004, one issue has become ever more prominent: Climate Change. The Assembly sees adapting to climate change as having a positive impact on a wide range of other objectives, such as provision of open space, sustainable water management, improving air quality, improving wildlife habitats, soil protection and, through this, improve the quality of the local environment for communities.
· There is a continued need to understand better how we use Wales' great environmental assets and opportunities in a way that really benefits people and the economy, without damaging them. Succeeding in this will be key to improve the economic performance in particular of Wales' rural areas. Importantly, our environmental assets include more than the `traditional'.
By safeguarding and enhancing both the natural and built environment we will attract people to and retain them within our communities and preserve the foundations for the future.
d. Achieving Sustainable Accessibility
· The Assembly will develop access in ways that encourage economic activity, widen employment opportunities, ensure quality services and balance the social, environmental and economic impacts that travel can have. The two key aspects are :
_ improving accessibility to jobs and services, and
_ achieving a change in travel behaviour in response to the effects of climate change.
· The new Regional Transport Plans will focus on improving the quality of connections to key settlements and hubs,providing access to services and job opportunities. In turn, improving connectivity will play an important role in overcoming barriers to work and
tackling deprivation, facilitating wider social and economic regeneration. This
means that access to jobs and services needs to be given the appropriate
consideration at the planning stages of new developments and regeneration
· Providing real incentives to use `greener' modes of travel, such as walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing is a key focus for both National and Regional Transport Plans. Reducing the carbon footprint of existing modes of transport remains a major challenge.
· Recognising the potential of ICT to deliver services and access to jobs, and providing the necessary infrastructure to achieve good ICT coverage across Wales is a priority for action. The Assembly will continue to work with the telecommunications industry, to share information on communications infrastructure issues, understand barriers to investment (in both rural and urban parts of Wales), including regulatory and economic issues, and inform future policy making in this area.
e. Respecting Distinctiveness
· A cohesive identity which sustains and celebrates what is distinctive
about Wales, in an open and outward-looking way, is seen as central to
promoting Wales to the World, as well as to future economic
competitiveness and social and environmental well-being.
· Much has already been done to promote our distinctiveness, within Wales and beyond; and partners have captured the uniqueness of their people, places and futures in the regional strategies for the various Spatial Plan Areas.At the national and regional level the need to both react to and anticipate the impact of key developments, such as migration and climate change, on society, environment and the economy is a key aspect.
There is a need to capture what is special about each Area and promote our distinctiveness within Wales and beyond taking account of our heritage and our culture, in harmony with the people and our environment.
e. Working With Our Neighbours
¬ The Spatial Plan is unique in being far more than a traditional land use plan. Through the Spatial Plan approach, partnership working beyond traditional policy and administrative boundaries has taken shape. Working between Spatial Plan Areas and improving cross border collaboration where it is of mutual benefit is crucial to the success of the Plan.
4. SPATIAL PLAN AREAS : CARMARTHENSHIRE
A: CENTRAL WALES
`High-quality living and working in smaller-scale settlements set within a
superb environment, providing dynamic models of rural sustainable
development, moving all sectors to higher value added activities'
¬ This vision recognises and defines the unique combination of Central Wales' environmental, social, cultural and economic characteristics and the intimate relationship which exists between them. Collectively these qualities identify this Spatial Plan area as the heartland of rural life and the store house of Wales' critical environmental capital.
¬ The diversity of Central Wales' environment offers unrealised economic potential if developed sensitively and knowledge based industries, new environmental technologies and sustainable forms of high-quality tourism, both inland and at the coast, can be encouraged.
¬ The Central Wales Spatial Plan Area has:
· low levels of unemployment;
· A predominantly a low wage economy dependant in most parts on the
· The majority of private sector is represented by micro and small
enterprise activity with few large employers and a high proportion of
· The region continues to be affected by a lack of private sector
investment in employment sites and premises.
¬ The Spatial Plan work has identified changes underway which the area needs to respond to now, for the future.
· There is a need to broaden the economic base of the region maximising the opportunities within the knowledge-based industries and new environmental technologies to reduce the over reliance of the area on a few limited economic sectors.
· The development of the smaller scale settlements, characterised by market towns and farming communities with relatively high dependence on agriculture and tourism, will be influenced by demographic changes and market forces.
· Agriculture needs to be able to diversify and change to respond to both market forces and future changes in land use patterns.
· To build on the important key centres in the area, whilst improving linkages and spreading benefit and growth to the wider hinterlands and rural communities that fall outside those immediate places, enhancing the attractiveness of the area as a place for people to live and work creatively.
· To broaden the economic base, and introduce new sustainable economic opportunities including those of the knowledge economy across the rural area, and enable the creation of indigenous enterprise.
· Maximising internal and external accessibility (including improved telecommunication links), building effective cross border collaboration within Wales and with neighbouring English and Irish regions, increasing access to a wide range and quality of services and enhancing the overall economic growth of the area whilst widening employment opportunities.
· Realising the full potential of the area's diverse environment and its unique
cultural identity as a means of maintaining the region's rural integrity.
· Realising the potential of the area as a life support service hub and the critical role its natural environment offers as a buffer to the effects of climate change.
· Using the natural and heritage assets of the area to build higher value
sustainable tourism and to create higher value production opportunities which provide a sustainable basis for the future of the area's land based economy.
· Maximising opportunities for growth in all sectors, for better paid and
higher skilled jobs, acknowledging the need to retain and strengthen the competitiveness and diversity of niche manufacturing in the Severn Valley,and for farmers to add value to food production through branding and niche development.
· The development of an outward-looking and confident knowledge
economy, throughout the area, recognising the key role of Aberystwyth University, its merger with IGER and the partnership with Bangor University in developing the growth of the earth, environment, land and marine sciences sector.
i. Building Sustainable Communities
The settlement study for Central Wales has outlined the role and function of settlements and their rural hinterlands in Central Wales, including their influence and dependencies with other Spatial Plan areas in Wales and across the English and Irish borders.
With such a diverse range of places, there is a need to promote flexibility in future roles, broadly characterising Primary Settlements and `hubs and clusters' as focal points for investment and plan led growth which will in turn systematically support the smaller settlements and hinterlands which will gravitate towards them.
In the Carmarthenshire context there are 3 distinct areas
o Teifi Valley Cluster. This cluster also includes the settlements of Cardigan, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandysul, Llanybydder, Lampeter and Tregaron.
o Carmarthen is identified as a Primary settlement with a significant role in
three Spatial Plan areas, is important in influencing the future economy of the
Central Wales area. The emphasis for this settlement is on creating a modern,
vibrant employment and service centre, which supports its local and regional
hinterland. It is also a key agricultural service centre. The future development
of Carmarthen will reinforce these roles, building on the recent achievements
in relation to town centre renewal and other regeneration opportunities.
o Linked to this and on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park is the
Towy Valley Cluster, comprising the settlements of Llandeilo, Llandovery and Llangadog.
To ensure our communities are sustainable, consideration will need to be given to the likely impacts of climate change. The Spatial Plan principles will inform these discussions, for example in understanding how changing demography and population densities will influence future demand and provision and in influencing investment in sustainable primary and
community-based service provision for the future.
Investment in education and skills will need to underpin future development to enable further growth in participation in the labour market. It will be important to ensure a strategic provision of vocational training for the workforce to ensure the successful rollout of the 14-19 agenda and to develop community learning and general education. Combined with this is a need to consider
accessibility both in terms of transport and ICT infrastructures.
Another key priority is to ensure access to affordable housing (to buy or rent) in locations which are convenient for local work and services and by ensuring a range of housing types are available in a choice of high quality environments. A set of common principles on affordable housing have been established for the Central Wales Spatial Plan area. These include:
· To promote alternative or innovative means of providing affordable housing at the local level e.g. Community Land Trusts
· To develop the strategic housing function in each local authority and ensure that affordable housing reflects corporate and strategic priorities,and is embedded in local housing strategies
· To continue to promote affordable housing and other housing issues of strategic importance
· To identify and promote the opportunities for local authority partnership working where housing market areas cross unitary boundaries and develop joint approaches for addressing identified issues
ii. Promoting a Sustainable Economy
The creation of a modern economy, which utilises and develops the skills and knowledge of its people, is key to the sustainable future of the Central Wales area. Challenges, opportunities and priorities include:
· The integration of farming, tourism and quality food represents significant opportunities for the area.
· Another priority is to develop the strong potential growth of the service sector through,
for example, new and innovative opportunities for service delivery, and to retain and strengthen the competitiveness and diversity of the manufacturing sector.
· Recent work has identified opportunities to create knowledge-based jobs using the environmental assets of the area as an economic driver for the area as a whole; maximising the opportunities through higher education and research and developing the expertise that currently exists in the earth, environment, land and marine sectors.
· The area has the highest level of education attainment in Wales. A key challenge will be to maximise the opportunities for young people to make informed choices between academic and vocational options. The strategy being developed will capitalise on the key educational establishments located in the area and the wide ranging economic, social and cultural opportunities they offer, which include the universities of Trinity College Carmarthen, Aberystwyth and Lampeter.
· The Central Wales Spatial Plan Group has identified strategic investment centres, hubs and clusters which support and serve the needs of the many smaller, dispersed rural settlements. The aim is to reinforce the role and function of these strategic locations which are important focal points to which smaller communities gravitate. Focused interventions will need to be implemented through integrated approaches to economic development and regeneration.
· Tourism, both inland and coastal, has been identified as a key growth sector for the area, which due to the exceptional quality of the landscape and natural environment together with the strong sense of culture and heritage, attracts many visitors to the area. Enhancing Inland Tourism in Central Wales provides a mechanism to enhance tourism in inland Central Wales building on the unique strengths and characteristics that distinguish Central Wales from other tourism destinations. Principal amongst these is the high quality of the natural environment, distinctive history and cultural identity.
· The legacy of economic change and social deprivation means that the Central Wales area will face a big challenge to equip all of its people with the skills they will need to help realise the potential of the knowledge based economy and well-paid highly skilled job opportunities.
· There are significant existing barriers to accessibility and take up of skills development within Central Wales which include availability and frequency of transport, lack of childcare, a low wage economy and poor ICT infrastructure. These barriers, whilst not being exclusive to Central Wales are more acute within the rural areas due to the dispersed nature of the population and will require innovative and specific interventions when addressing attainment of skills and the sometimes hidden and hard to reach pockets of deprivation which exist.
· The Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, working
with Spatial Plan partners and education and training providers have identified
the following priorities for Education and Skills in Central Wales :
_ Sufficient and flexible learning providers with innovative delivery mechanisms to meet the current and future needs of businesses and individuals;
_ Collaboration and joint working to meet individual and community needs identified in local regeneration strategies, Pathfinders and other network review mechanisms;
_ Work with key stakeholders to help remove identified barriers to learning including transport, ICT infrastructure, childcare and a low wage economy.
_ Support for raising the skills of all their workforce - for example through the Basic Skills Employer Pledge.
iii. Achieving Sustainable Accessibility
Personal mobility is essential to access employment, education and training opportunities in rural areas; however levels of car ownership and car dependency in the area are amongst the highest in Wales. Accessibility is critical to social inclusion and a key factor in increasing economic activity, widening employment and education opportunities tackling inequalities in health and enabling people to access services.
Improving accessibility to economic and commercial markets will be vital for the future economic development of the area, but requires a balanced and integrated approach in relation to social, environmental and economic impacts / benefits. The aim in Central Wales is to achieve the benefits of sustainable accessibility through effective land-use planning,
improved ICT infrastructures and integrated transport strategies. This includes
providing access to markets within and outside of the region.
Central Wales is served by a network of trunk and county roads of varying standard. There are, substantially single track rail networks running through the region, which include the Cambrian Main Line, Cambrian Coast Line and the Heart of Wales Line. However, the frequency of services, and accessibility to stations means that large parts of the region are dependent on road based transport. Community transport and demand responsive passenger transport
services offer the opportunity to provide feeder services to main transport routes and are often seen as providing a `lifeline' in the deepest rural areas.
In realising the aspirations for the area, Regional Transport Plans (RTPs) will be prepared by the regional transport consortia. There are three transport consortia areas which impact on Central Wales; namely TraCC, TAITH and SWITCH, with TraCC wholly within the Central Wales area. In preparing the RTP's, the priorities for the area, identified through consultation with stakeholders include:
· Improving the availability, quality and integration of passenger transport, including the role of community and demand responsive transport as feeder services;
· Providing, promoting and improving sustainable, affordable and healthy forms of transport
· Improving connectivity of the settlements of the area and to other regions of Wales and England;
· Maintaining, improving and maximising the efficient use of the existing transport infrastructure
· Reducing the need to travel where this can be done and therefore the environmental, economic and social disbenefits of transport;
· Ensuring that transport and accessibility/mobility are major considerations and influences on land use policy and decisions, and in locational strategies for public service delivery.
Whilst it is recognised that due to the low population densities, certain amounts of travel will always be necessary, there will also be a general aim to manage or reduce the amount of travel. This will be achieved through for example: future land use policy/planning; ICT infrastructure improvements and encouraging the take-up of travel plans in larger employer organizations (local authorities, national government departments, NHS, universities etc).
The importance of ICT in terms of accessibility, economic growth and in addressing rural deprivation has been highlighted by the Central Wales Spatial Plan area. It remains the case that some rural settlements of Central Wales do not yet have access to high bandwidth (2MB) affordable broadband, suffer from a lack of mobile telecommunications coverage and may in the future following digital change over (2009) not have digital coverage. In order to achieve the potential economic and social benefits for Central Wales which ICT can offer and to address the growing digital divide in rural areas a number of priorities have been identified:
· Provision of innovative high-speed connectivity to key employment sites / settlements within the region
· To address the remaining `broadband not spots' through for example RIBS, adopting last / first mile capacity approach
· A need for support at the level of integrating systems to improve business processes
· Ensure the mobile signal by the three major operators be made available on all major connectivity corridors in the region
· Provision of ICT training to include basic skills for the 25-50 age group and a range of levels of ICT skills to address business needs and to enable and support greater home working and to develop community exploitation of ICT
· Installation of the latest relevant wireless technologies in targeted strategic settlements.
iv. Valuing our Environment
The Central Wales area offers a diverse, distinctive and high quality natural and built environment, offering a wealth of high quality landscapes, archaeological sites, historic monuments and rich biodiversity. The environments of the Brecon Beacons and the Snowdonia National Park, combined with the stunning coastline of Cardigan Bay and the many inland
areas of natural beauty (the Cambrian Mountains, the rivers including for example the Wye, Usk, Severn, Teifi, Tywi, Tawe, Dee, Vyrnwy, Dyfi and extensive areas of forest and woodland), reflect the rich heritage of rural life in Central Wales, provide havens for much of Wales' important biodiversity and are increasingly being recognised as having enormous significance because of their capacity to buffer the impacts of climate change.
Conserving and enhancing the environment is increasingly important in terms of the long term ability of Central Wales to become a place where people chose to live and work. It is important as a national opportunity for learning, culture and healthy living and also as a life support system. It also provides a key economic opportunity in terms of tourism, in new technologies such as renewable energy, in the knowledge economy and in the earth, marine, land and environmental science sectors.
The Central Wales Spatial Plan Group has a key role in developing tailormade local action under the Welsh Assembly Government's Environment Strategy for Wales. The Central Wales Spatial Plan Group in consultation with Environmental organisations and other key stakeholders have identified strategic intervention opportunities for the area summarised into the following key issues / priority areas:
· Adapt and respond to climate change both in terms of challenges and opportunities for the area (flood risk, carbon sequestration/offset, coastal erosion)
· Achieving sustainable use of our resources, including waste, water, soils, minerals and aggregates
· To conserve and enhance our ecosystems and increase the resilience of biodiversity/natural environment to the impacts of climate change · To protect our landscapes and enhance our heritage and distinctiveness
· To improve the local environment including the built environment, greenspace, environmental nuisances, walkability in urban areas and access to the coast and countryside
· To monitor and regulate and where possible eliminate known and emerging environmental hazards
· To promote environmental education and skills development in the area to maximise the emerging environmental opportunities and technologies within the area.
In the development of the priorities the aim is to recognise and adapt to ongoing change both in terms of the climate and future land-use or land management. As such it is vital in Central Wales to acknowledge the role of the land based sectors, including agriculture, and the impact of the changing funding mechanisms in any integrated approach to addressing rural
environmental challenges and opportunities.
v. Respecting Distinctiveness
Distinctiveness, sense of identity and pride in place, are important elements of successful and creative communities and countries. The cultural landscape of Central Wales is generally characterised by its distinctive culture and linguistic identity, a high quality historic environment and a rich and diverse landscape.All of these play a key role in attracting people, both visitors and permanent settlers, to the area. However the Central Wales area covers a significant
proportion of Wales as a whole and therefore has many distinctive areas within itself, from the smaller rural villages to the larger, more urban settlements. These communities exhibit many diverse and individual environmental, industrial, population and heritage characteristics with strong community cohesion, often providing a unique sense of place or community.
As such it is important to ensure that in achieving the vision for Central Wales as a whole the uniqueness of the communities within the area are not lost but are promoted to retain their vibrancy and to help achieve long term sustainability.
A key challenge will be to ensure that inward migration enhances rather than reduces the population balance mix, ensuring sufficient opportunities for our young people to stay and for those returning to the area whilst also maintaining and supporting the distinctive cultural, historical and linguistic attributes of the area.
The Welsh language has a significant role to play in our communities and a key priority will be to develop the area in accordance with the Iaith Pawb's vision of creating a modern bilingual society. The Spatial Plan Group has developed guidance to assist public bodies and practitioners with regard to how and when consideration should be given to the needs and benefits of the Welsh language in the context of the Wales Spatial Plan. This will be used as
a tool to appraise the options/proposals being considered under the various Wales Spatial Plan workstreams.
We will need to maintain and support the distinctive character of the Welsh historic environment, without compromising society's present and future needs. High standards of design will play a major part in protecting sense of place in relation to the natural and built environment of the area. Conserving and celebrating the area's heritage and development in terms of sites, buildings and people is an important aspect of this as is the redeployment of
redundant buildings. Development must seek to integrate old with new. The quality of the design of buildings and public spaces in the area's towns and villages needs to be consistently high, giving places wherever possible a distinct sense of identity, and fostering a sense of civic pride and community. The Design Commission for Wales will play a central role in encouraging best practice in creating distinctive, safe and sustainable development.
vi. Working with our Neighbours
The internal linkage and dependencies between the Spatial Plan areas, particularly for the
Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Carmarthenshire and South Powys areas of Central Wales, where people may access employment, services or leisure activities in other parts of Wales, which fall outside the Central Wales area.
B. SWANSEA BAY: THE WATERFRONT AND WESTERN VALLEYS
`A network of interdependent settlements with Swansea at its heart which pull together effectively as a city-region with a modern, competitive, knowledge based economy designed to deliver a high quality of life, a sustainable environment, a vibrant
waterfront and excellent national and international connections.'
The Swansea Bay: Waterfront and Western Valleys is made up of Neath Port Talbot and Swansea unitary authority areas, together with large parts of Carmarthenshire and bordering parts of Bridgend and Powys. The area has some key advantages. It has a city on the doorstep of an outstanding waterfront against the backdrop of the Welsh valleys with one of the foremost UK research led Universities in its region. The potential of the area as a whole, however, will only be fulfilled if Swansea and the other settlements in the district develop in a complementary way, for mutual benefit. This means the whole of the area progressing in the future as a coherent city-region, harnessing the strengths of the city of Swansea, together with all
of the settlements and its wider hinterland.
The further development of a sustainable knowledge-based economy lies at the heart of the plan for the district. Through creation of highly skilled and better paid jobs, the benefits flow to the whole economy, creating new opportunities for all wishing to enter the workforce throughout the area. Critical to this agenda is the creation of a vertically integrated education/skills
strategy. The goal is to continually improve the skills profile, giving new and existing workers the opportunity to develop, update and refresh their skills, creating a highly skilled city-region. Higher education, further education and schools must work together to deliver this agenda.
The challenge now is to take action that enables the whole of the city-region to be recognised across the UK and Europe as a premier place to live and work in a modern sustainable way that spreads benefits throughout the area. As part of this, the area needs to become recognised as a leader in dealing creatively with the issues posed by climate change. The critical factor will be to develop a strong network of urban centres across the district which spread prosperity to surrounding smaller settlements. As a city-region Swansea must flourish at its heart but the city can not do this without the rest of the area functioning effectively and competitively.
The first step will be to regenerate the city and town centres across the cityregion and offer residents a full range of services and amenities in a high quality environment. Good retail, housing and leisure facilities will encourage growth and stimulate market demand, which will bring wider benefits not only in the settlements but also to the valleys and rural communities.
This will be complemented by the regeneration of the coast to create a thriving retail, leisure and business offer along the waterfront within a sustainable environment, with full regard to conservation and enhancement of biodiversity.
To capitalise on this, it is vital that the urban settlements and the waterfront are well connected by a range of sustainable transport options so people can move easily between where they live, work and access key services. In addition, the city-region needs to improve its international connectivity to attract new investment. Regeneration and infrastructure play a large part in realising this vision but there are also many social factors which need to be addressed. Relevant agencies need to focus on raising skill levels and helping people into work
through a joined-up approach so that everyone has the opportunity to benefit
from the area's prosperity.
i. Building Sustainable Communities
The renewal of city and town centres, and the development of a stronger retail/leisure offer, is a starting point for the area, to improve the quality of life and opportunities for local communities, create new jobs and also to enable the area to attract and retain skilled workers and young people. Ten key settlements have been identified that will play a central role in making
the city-region a success. City and town centre regeneration in these settlements is a priority. Another eleven settlements have been identified as `supporting communities' with a strong role to play in more local service provision within the city-region. Swansea is the area's only city. It needs to act as the areas key economic driver, for the benefit of the area as a whole. To address this Swansea has adopted a regeneration framework which will be implemented over the next 15-20 years and will play a key part in maintaining the momentum that for regeneration was kick started by SA1.
The other nine hubs are:
· Ammanford/Cross Hands
· Port Talbot
Each will develop a strategy for town centre regeneration, if they have not already done so. Work will continue to define the future roles of these towns, so that as far as possible they complement each other rather than compete. A number of other smaller settlements with a wider spread across the city-region were identified as supporting communities. Many are dependent on the hubs for some key amenities. These communities are:
· Burry Port/Pembrey
· Upper Amman Valley
· Dulais Valley
· Upper Afan Valley
City and town regeneration will build on best practice, with a coherent programme for a settlement running over a number of years, with strong community involvement, associated training and business support, using local people, produce and suppliers wherever possible.
If the hubs are successful, they will benefit the surrounding smaller settlements, rural and valley communities by offering increased access to job opportunities and amenities and by stimulating the local market for employment, housing and retail development. The focus for these areas will be to create high quality places to live with small-scale development of attractive and affordable housing. From an early analysis it is estimated that the scale of housing needed in
South West Wales will exceed the level predicted in the Welsh Assembly Government household projection which anticipates an additional 43,300 houses being needed across South West Wales by 2021. (nb this figure relates to the SWW regional area and includes Pembrokeshire but excludes Bridgend and Powys).
The location of new housing will be a key influence on the pattern of development in the area. The emphasis will be on the hubs, while also seeking to revitalise and sustain smaller centres and valley communities. The aim will be to create sustainable places through the co-location of
housing, jobs, facilities / infrastructure and leisure. The need for key support services such as schools, health and other amenities will be an important consideration in planning major new development. Housing should be attractive, affordable and sustainable. Improving the energy efficiency of the current and new-built housing stock is an important objective to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions from domestic housing. The proposed Coed Darcy Urban village at Llandarcy of some 4000 dwellings will establish new standards for regeneration, sustainable development and urban design, providing a high quality environment and safe place for people to live and work.
ii. Achieving Sustainable Accessibility
Current trends in car usage show that the amount of traffic on the roads and the resulting congestion will increase within the area if action is not taken. The overall priority is the creation of an effective and sustainable transport network within the city-region. This means making better use of the area's existing infrastructure together with delivering greater choice, more efficient and sustainable transport options. It also means looking at patterns of service provision and land use to ensure that where possible overall travel demand is reduced. The key settlements will play a key role in this as important service centres, employment locations and transport hubs to enable greater accessibility within the city-region as a whole.
The accessibility objectives will be delivered in part through the system of Local Development Plans and also the Regional Transport Plan that is being developed by the South West Wales Integrated Transport Consortium (SWWITCH). These objectives include:
· The emphasis on strengthening the area's hubs and supporting communities, both in terms of retail, employment, town centres and housing, should create a framework within which SWWITCH can facilitate better public transport and reduce reliance on the private car.
· Improving public transport to existing strategic employment sites and locating new strategic sites in locations that can be well served by public transport.
· Health care, education and leisure services need to be easily accessible by public transport from both the key settlements and more remote Valley communities.
· Innovative public transport services and opportunities such as car sharing need to offer improved opportunities for economically inactive people to access jobs throughout the city-region.
· Develop and promote safer routes for walking and cycling throughout the city-region but particularly for shorter journeys within settlements.
Connectivity to Cardiff, Bristol, London and internationally is essential to attract inward investment and for the area to the appeal to a high skilled, high paid workforce.
Substantial investment is committed to the new proposed M4 around Newport and the Port Talbot distributor road to alleviate congestion along the motorway. The impetus for rail will be on ensuring that the needs of the region are reflected in the forward investment plans of Network Rail, as agreed with the Department for Transport and Welsh Assembly Government.
In support of this, the Welsh Assembly Government has commissioned a study to investigate short, medium and long-term options for improving rail links to London. Links West with Ireland should also be maintained and the possibility of an enhanced role for the deep-water harbour at Port Talbot should be explored in partnership with the private sector.
ICT - A Digital Region
ICT can assist in overcoming challenges of geography and time by making services more readily available on line, 24 hours a day. This is already happening through numerous e-Government initiatives being developed by national and local government to make public services more accessible. ICT also plays a key role in the healthcare environment. New technologies make it less necessary to require people to always travel to their nearest large
hospital, but increasingly accessing these through local GP surgeries and pharmacies; assistive technology can be used to maintain and monitor people safely in their home environment; telehealth allows people to be assessed remotely without always travelling to specialist centres some distance away; ICT is critical to improving the coordination of services, particularly across health and social care.
The region is making good progress towards making availability of broadband in all places. Provision of free broadband access in public buildings, for example, libraries, negates the need to invest in expensive equipment at home, making the Internet available to all. Increased home working/flexible working enable opportunities to reduce the need to travel to work, thus contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.However, accessibility depends not only upon infrastructure, its availability and uptake, but also the scope, maturity and integration of applications which are using it. The next challenge will be to continue increasing its uptake, along with development of skills for its use and adoption of applications for its exploitation.
The penetration of IT into all sectors of the economy has made ICT skills themselves of crucial importance. Even basic ICT skills are becoming a pre-requisite for most jobs and the emergence of the Knowledge Economy is making acquisition of higher level skills increasingly important. The Regional Knowledge Economy Group has stressed in its work the importance of
vertically-integrating such skills provision through the education sector. Building on the accessibility agenda, ICT is playing a significant role in skills delivery. This is already being achieved through mechanisms such as distance learning, use of technology in the classroom, and of course the educational power of knowledge made available via the Internet into the
home, workplace and on the move.
ICT also plays a critical role in the Knowledge Economy, both as a tool and as a sector itself. Traditional sectors are seeing the opportunities of the online economy as we aim to move businesses across the region up the `e-Commerce ladder'. As a sector itself the region is home to a number of leading research and development centres and activity in both education and private sectors to build upon. These include the Blue-C life science supercomputer, the Institute
of Advanced Telecommunications at Swansea University, expertise in Digital Media at Swansea Institute of Higher Education, and facilities such as the BT 21CN test bed at their Swansea centre. ICT can play an important role in tackling economic activity through facilitating
engagement with sections of the community and assisting in upskilling. Along with provision of new opportunities, ICT can also remove barriers to becoming economically active as part of a change of culture.
iii. Promoting a Sustainable Economy
The region has a diverse economic base. It is important to maintain this and build upon strengths in existing and emerging sectors. Innovation is a key driver for growth and sustainability. Key to the future of the economy as a whole will be developing and exploiting
the skills of the working age population. A strong higher and further education presence will be positioned to strategically support a developing knowledge-based economy. In addition to this sustainability will be promoted by making best use of local people, produce and suppliers. Public services themselves are amongst the largest employers in local communities and have
a role to lead by example in best human resource practice and stimulating employment and growth.
Building a Knowledge Economy
The region has recognised the importance of the knowledge economy and worked in partnership on a range of initiatives for some years. The Technium Steering Group, a private-sector led partnership involving higher and further institutions, local authorities and Welsh Assembly Government will take forward the development and delivery of the Strategy.
A number of fundamental issues are emerging from work already undertaken including:
· There is an urgent need to develop an Innovation Park Strategy. An Innovation Park would co-locate higher and further education institutions and research initiatives with the role of a Science Park together with other knowledge-intensive activity, supported by a public and private sector knowledge infrastructure. The model preferred would include at least one major Innovation Park and a disbursed network of smaller satellites based around the technium network. This would differentiate the region from other competitors and give a unique proposition to inward investors and indigenous entrepreneurs alike.
· The need to build upon expertise already assembled in specific sectors, capitalising on significant investment already achieved. These include life sciences, digital media, creative industries, telecommunications, nanotechnology, energy and environmental science.
· The need to recognise the knowledge economy is not the exclusive domain of science and technology within the area. It is critical that other skills such as law; business; finance; marketing, communications; creative industries and management are seamlessly integrated into the knowledge economy strategy.
· Building on the existing medical school and further developing the university links across all areas of health and social care delivery. This would facilitate attraction of high-calibre research, development of international reputation and achievement of excellence in health care delivery and research. The proposals for a single major hospital site for Swansea with an aim of teaching status linked to the university will provide further impetus
Better Skills and Learning
The legacy of industrial change and social deprivation means that the area has faced a big challenge over recent years. Economic restructuring has seen the decline of heavy engineering, coal and steel production. In recent years the new investment in infrastructure and the redevelopment of brownfield land has successfully attracted new employment opportunities. The improvements to transport infrastructure and the continued growth of the industrial and commercial markets along the M4 corridor in particular have benefited the
Developing an integrated skills strategy is of critical importance to the regional agenda and Swansea University will play a lead role in developing a strategic programme to develop such skills. This agenda is linking with the Economic Inactivity and Knowledge Economy projects to ensure consistency of approach.
A key priority is to ensure that the area has a sufficiently strong and innovative network of vocational skills providers, with the capacity to respond to demand from individuals and employers and to underpin the developing knowledge economy. As a result of a tendering process, new contracts concentrating on quality provision and relevance to skills needs have been issued to Work Based Learning providers. The Department for Children, Education, LifeLong Learning & Skills (DCELLS) will work with Spatial Plan partners, the further and higher education providers and private and voluntary sector training organisations and Job Centre Plus to take this forward, through, for example, the development of a regional approach to the assessment and commissioning of skills provision. It will also be important for Spatial Plan
partners to work with employers in the area to ensure that they demonstrate support for raising the skills of all their workforce, for example through the Basic Skills Employer Pledge, and to develop closer working with Sector Skills Councils.
The DCELLS has undertaken a major review of its National Learning and Skills Assessment and early indications are that the priority areas for Swansea Bay area are:
· To work with key stakeholders to provide viable and sustainable routes into employment for the economically inactive
· To provide targeted support for training in the social care sector
· Through collaboration and joint working, develop learning responses to meet individual and community needs identified in the Wales Spatial Plan and local regeneration strategies.
These are in additional to the national priorities which include "to support the skills and training needs of the built environment". Additionally DCELLS on behalf of partners has through its planning process worked to ascertain current supply patterns with local colleges which will be matched against identified demand to prevent duplication and ensure that the supply of more
appropriately qualified leavers closely matches that demand.
Despite the improving economy, many people, particularly in the more deprived and remote communities, remain economically inactive. Tackling this is a key challenge for the economy, social justice and health - unemployment is the enemy of well-being. Concerted action is being taken to give people who are economically inactive the chance to take part in the economy.
Within the framework of the Spatial Plan, key stakeholders are developing a collaborative strategic application for EU convergence funding. This bid aims to provide a strategic single gateway for all clients to be assessed and offered access to services (mainstream, existing and added value new convergence projects) taking a flexible approach that best fit their needs. The strategic gateway will ensure that employment-related services in the area, across the continuum of exclusion from work, are demand-led, client-centred and joined-up so that they work well for both the economically inactive/people seeking work and employers (private, public and voluntary sector) seeking staff. This application will build on current best practice models including the Want2Work pilots and other exemplars.
Links with action by the Department of Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus will also be important. Wherever possible, links will be made between such work to provide individuals with skills and support, with initiatives that generate employment including construction work linked to housing refurbishment under the Welsh Quality Housing Standard, town centre renewal, and waterfront projects. It will be important to ensure that the geographical pattern of provision caters for people in more remote communities as well as those in the larger towns.
Action is already underway in the Area to help people back to work. This includes work with families under Flying Start and measures to tackle the deep-rooted patterns of ill-health in deprived communities in the Area. Improving access to information on, and the development of facilities for public transport, car sharing, walking and cycling will also help to reduce
barriers facing economically inactive people.Economic activity rates are low among some ethnic minority communities,and especially among females in some ethnic minority groups. In the interests of social cohesion it is important to develop culturally-sensitive tailored support for people in such communities to become economically active, and to improve their linguistic skills in English or Welsh, using EU funding.
Strategic Employment Sites will be key investment and employment locations in determining the future function and inter-relationships of settlements. They will need excellent public transport links so people, including those living in the more deprived areas, and more remote valley communities, can access them. The list of sites is under review but those currently identified are:
· Baglan Energy Park (Strategic Site)
· Coed Darcy (Strategic Mixed Use Site)
· Cross Hands Food Park (Sector Specific Strategic Site)
· Dafen/Llanelli Gate (Business/Employment Site)
· Fabian Way Gateway (Strategic Mixed Use Site)
· Felindre (Strategic Site)
· Llanelli Waterside (Strategic Mixed Use Site)
· SA1 Waterfront (Strategic Mixed Use Site)
· Swansea Vale (Strategic Mixed Use Site)
A collaborative priority for the Spatial Plan area is the big opportunity to regenerate the waterfront. A Waterfront Masterplan covers development based on land and water to create a vibrant and distinctive waterfront from Pembrey to Porthcawl. It has been developed in partnership to bring together existing proposals and identify new opportunities and enhance the links between the Western Valley communities and the coast. Key activities include:
· Developing marinas and waterways to act as catalysts for growth
· Maximising the coastal route for tourism growth creating a Swansea Bay
· Linking communities to the coast through sustainable transport options
· Waterfront regeneration to facilitate the growth of the knowledge economy within the Swansea Bay area both in terms of creating high quality employment sites and the environment and lifestyle to retain and attract skilled workers
· Recognising the opportunities offered by the unique environmental assets within the zone, whilst also addressing the need to tackle challenges faced by climate change
· Building on the progress made by the Swansea Bay Partnership and widening the remit of the Group to reflect the whole of the Waterfront area, including regional partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors
· Linking interventions to training and help for people who are economically inactive to get jobs
· Securing wider community involvement
· Maximising opportunities to improve the area's health through Waterfront activities
· Supporting sub-regional working to improve the tourism offer including accommodation, catering, retail and strategic events
The area is exceptional in terms of its potential for tourism and leisure. The Gower is world-famous, but the area has other attractions that deserve to be no less widely recognised, including the wider coastline, the Black Mountains and Afan Forest. Tourism and leisure, allied to culture, have the potential to improve health and quality of life, raise economic activity, enhance regeneration and conservation and improve overall sustainable development across the wider region. Tourism has a particular role to play in providing jobs in the more remote Valleys communities, allied to outdoor activities and recreation. The area also needs to draw on its link with the Brecon Beacons National Park to help strengthen its image for tourism.
In the past five years there has been a significant increase in new hotel development particularly in Swansea. Tourism in the region also remains seasonal, with a clear peak in the third quarter of the year. The challenge is to take tourism up-market while also increasing off-peak business.The Welsh Coastal Tourism Strategy will guide the sustainable progress
along the Welsh coastline and actions will focus on maritime, activity based and environmental tourism as well as co-ordinating a strategic events programme allied to a Waterfront branding.
A tourism study has developed an action plan with a number of projects to improve the tourism, culture and leisure offer in the region which have direct links to the other priority areas for the Spatial Plan area, especially economic inactivity, skills, transport and the Waterfront Masterplan. Tourism has the potential to link outdoor activities in the Valleys with outdoor activities along the waterfront.
The study's strategic approach is to:
· Create an all year destination
· Concentrate on `place making' creating attractive and distinctive urban
and rural environments people will wish to visit
· Develop centres of excellence for sport, recreation and activity holidays
· Strengthen conservation and interpretation of culture and heritage in its
own right while also providing a leisure and tourism resource
Underpinning this approach is paying equal attention to the needs and opportunities presented by local people, and visitors and being aware of sustainability issues in all aspects of planning and management.
iv Valuing Our Environment
The natural environment underpins the success of the area. It is central to the quality of life of residents, visitors and employees and is vital in ensuring that we retain jobs, attract inward investment and diversify our local economy. The area has a large number of significant environmental assets, many of which are designated as being of National and European importance such as the Special Areas of Conservation in Carmarthen Bay and the coal measure grasslands of Mynydd Mawr. Its landscape is also nationally recognized through such designations as the Brecon Beacons National Park, and the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It benefits from historic landscapes and parks, beautiful beaches, rolling sand dune systems, dramatic upland valleys, extensive woodlands, and vibrant waterways. The
area is rich in industrial heritage, in prehistoric sites and archaeological features. The rural environment forms an important backdrop to the urban areas and tourism, recreation, forestry and farming play a significant role in the local economy.
The Swansea Bay: Waterfront and Western Valleys Area Spatial Plan Group has a key role in developing tailor-made local action under the Welsh Assembly Government's Environment Strategy for Wales. The group in consultation with key stakeholders have identified strategic intervention opportunities for the area summarised into the following key issues/priority
· Reduce the area's carbon footprint
· Ensure local communities are resilient to flood risk
· Protect and enhance the biodiversity of the area and manage the risks of the disconnection and isolation of habitats arising from changes in land use and climate
· Manage our important landscape and geological features sensitively
· Provide a high quality built environment with easy and sustainable access to between employment centres, residential areas, local green space and the wider countryside
· Align strategic infrastructure investment to our spatial development aspirations in particular for waste and sewerage
· Strategic management of flood risk is critical to the long term sustainability and economic viability of the area
· Utilise natural resources more sustainably
· Protect and enhance the quality of our rivers and bathing waters
· Maximise the tourism and recreation opportunities provided by our high quality environment without causing it damage
· Facilitate and support the forestry and agriculture sector to continue to become more sustainable, protecting valuable habitats, developing greater synergy with tourism and leisure, and developing local products that add to the area's appeal
· Foster respect for the environment and empower local communities and businesses to become actively involved in positive actions towards achieving the area's vision for sustainability.
Each smaller settlement and town together with the city needs to foster its own distinct sense of identity, building on its history and culture. The aim is to create a network of settlements with real character which complement each other and add strength to the attractiveness of the city-region as a whole. The area's distinctive quality of life will be a critical factor in enabling it to compete with city-regions that are closer to the UK's economic centres of gravity. Few other places offer a world class waterfront and valleys of outstanding beauty combined with modern, city living. Strengthening its distinctive character is therefore a priority. Conserving and celebrating the area's heritage and development in terms of sites, buildings and people is one aspect of this. New development must add rather than subtract character. The quality of the design of buildings and public spaces in the area's city, town centres and smaller settlements needs to be high, giving places wherever possible a distinct sense of identity, and fostering a sense of civic pride and community. Local authorities will work with the Design Commission for Wales to encourage best practice in creating distinctive, safe and sustainable development through the design. The same principles apply to the regeneration of the waterfront. A regional partnership approach will add value to marketing the choice and quality of life on offer to residents and visitors to the area as a whole.
Welsh language and culture
Swansea Bay and the Western Valleys have much that is distinctive in cultural terms. Many of the communities in the area are traditional heartlands of the Welsh language. The area is rich in archaeology and history, and was an early cradle for the industrial revolution and Swansea also has a strong heritage in the arts. This is not only an integral part of what the area has to
offer in terms of tourism and leisure but also offers a base on which to foster a bi-lingual cultural identity that is proud of its heritage, confident and outwardlooking. The presence of minority ethnic communities in the area needs to be embraced for the positive part it can play in this vision.
C . PEMBROKESHIRE: THE HAVEN
'Strong communities supported by a robust, sustainable diverse economy based on the area's unique environment, energy opportunities, maritime access and tourism growth opportunities'
The Spatial Plan area of Pembrokeshire and western Carmarthenshire combine exemplary coast and countryside, with a history of development based on agriculture, tourism, defence and the Milford Haven Waterway. The area is characterised by a series of distinct, yet interdependent settlements. The unique coastal environment and strong sense of community is attractive to both residents and visitors and provides a distinctive sense of place. The
Pembrokeshire ports and the Haven Waterway are national assets, critical to the future well being of the UK. These assets need to be managed carefully for both local and national benefit and to safeguard the unique environment.
There are a number of important spatial challenges that need to be addressed. Despite its peripherality, which poses significant challenges for the area's rural population in terms of communications and access to services, the area is a centre of national importance in terms of the energy and marine sectors based on the Milford Haven Waterway. The local economy has grown much stronger in recent years and it is important that the area continues to build on these strengths. However, wages remain amongst the lowest in the UK, with a high proportion of employees earning less than £6.50/h. Moreover, whilst the Pembrokeshire local economy has benefited significantly from the LNG related construction programme, the uncertainties associated with the run-down of this programme remains a significant risk factor to future
The next priority therefore for the economy is to promote diversification into sectors with growth potential, particularly those where there is potential to create more highly skilled and better paid jobs. A further priority is to develop a more stable economy by creating a stronger base and mix of medium sized enterprises. Critical to this will be the provision of a range of good quality affordable sites and premises to meet a range of business needs. The area has significant opportunity to develop new sustainable technologies as part of this.
The area's unique environment and coastal National Park designation is a key asset, not only in terms of tourism, but more generally as a key element in the area's attractiveness as a place in which people will choose to live and work. However, the impacts of tourism need to be addressed. Key issues include the impact of the demand for second homes on affordable house prices, the need to protect environmental assets from environmental damage and the
demand placed on local services by tourist numbers in the high season. In addressing these challenges, quality is a central theme, particularly in terms of creating:
· Highly skilled, better paid jobs, in an economy that is more diverse and entrepreneurial and less reliant on a few major public sector employers
· A high value-adding all-year tourism and leisure sector as part of this;
· A highly skilled and adaptable workforce
· Improved Trans-European links to Ireland and to adjacent spatial plan areas
· A high quality of life that makes the area attractive as a place in which to live and work
· Strong communities, built upon focused action to address social deprivation and economic inactivity and housing provision appropriate to all
· Distinctive, quality urban centres with an offer that helps support the visitor economy and the quality of life for all
· A natural environment that is second to none and which underpins sustainable economic development
The aim of the Wales Spatial Plan is to bring together key players from each
sector within the region to work in partnership to address these priority areas.
i. Building Sustainable Communities
The Pembrokeshire Haven Spatial Plan area has a resident population of some 150,000 in an area of just over 230,000 hectares. This makes the area second only to the Central Wales region in its sparsity. The area displays a pattern of small and market towns, none with a population in excess of 20,000, separated by rural areas populated with small villages and hamlets characteristic of rural Wales as a whole. These small market towns differ from the extensive urban areas that characterise the North East Wales, South East Wales and Swansea Bay and the western Valleys Spatial Plan areas in their relative isolation, their enhanced service function compared to population and their interactions with the surrounding rural areas. Because of the area's rurality, relative peripherality and population sparsity, its most populous
settlements need to fulfil roles and functions that would normally be associated with much larger towns.
The key challenge, therefore, going forward, is to ensure that the area's settlements, and in particular its urban centres, have the scale and catchment areas to sustain the level and quality of retail, leisure and services that will help improve what the area has to offer to both residents and visitors (who can double the population of Pembrokeshire in the peak season) throughout the year. This so that, taken together, the settlements can work more effectively than they could if they were competing. Improving the area's communications infrastructure, including facilitating better access to the area's town centres, is not only integral to their future success but essential if we are to enable settlements seeking to develop complementary roles and functions to work together more effectively.
To help meet this challenge, the Spatial Plan Group has identified a number of key settlements that perform an important regional role and should therefore be an important focus for future investment.
The Haven Towns of Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Neyland, Pembroke and Pembroke Dock, which cluster around the Milford Haven waterway and together have a population of 50,000 people. Theses towns need to develop roles and functions so that, collectively, they complement rather than compete with one another. Further work will be undertaken in 2008 to define this in order to identify complementary priorities and market opportunities for each of
the towns, and the nature of their relationship with Carmarthen and larger
towns to the East.
Carmarthen plays a pivotal role between three Spatial Plan areas- Pembrokeshire Haven, Swansea Bay and the Western Valleys and Central Wales. As a gateway to West Wales Carmarthen fulfils a key role as a regional centre for retailing, health care, administration and agriculture. Investment in the town has made it increasingly popular as an attractive place
in which to live, work and visit. Its status as a regional retail centre has been further strengthened through recent developments with proposals such as the flagship scheme proposed for the former mart site set to further enhance its retail and leisure offer.
Future development opportunities such as those at West Carmarthen are set to reinforce the towns status enhancing its appeal and its position as a residential, cultural and employment centre. The Quayside proposals seek to further develop on the asset presented by the River Tywi by providing a range of services and uses specifically aimed at further maximising leisure
opportunities, developing the riverside brand as a leisure and social contributor to the town.
Fishguard and Goodwick are important drivers of the regeneration of North
Pembrokeshire. The area needs to be regenerated to respond to economic
change. The ferry port gateway to Ireland, marina development, and the
brownfield development site at Trecwn are some of the specific opportunities
in the area.
In addition to the above regionally important settlements, the area also has a
pattern of medium-sized settlements - Tenby, Narberth, Whitland and St
Clears - which have a service centre/employment/tourism function, as well as
a number of smaller settlements - Saundersfoot, St. Davids, Crymych,
Kilgetty, Begelly, Laugharne/Pendine, Newcastle Emlyn, Newport and
Letterston - which are principally local centres, with some being significant
tourism centres. These medium- and smaller-sized settlements are a key part
of the area's attractiveness as a place to live, work in and visit.
The communities situated in South East Pembrokeshire, in particular Tenby/Saundersfoot, together with those situated within the coastal corridor reaching to Laugharne in western Carmarthenshire, are very important to the future development of the area's tourism offering.
Going forward, it is important that the area also looks outwards, and develops in ways that recognises the important role and function of places outside of its notional boundaries (e.g. Cardigan, which performs an important service centre role for parts of Northern Pembrokeshire) and seeks to build upon and strengthen those links, including links to the east to support the area's economic growth.
All regenerative, development and other investment activity in the area needs to reflect best practice and aim to meet the highest practicable environmental standards. Coherent programmes are needed that run over a number of years, so that a real difference can be made. They need to combine investment in buildings with help and support for local people in terms of training and business support, and be tied together by effective community
involvement. Physical regeneration requires improvements to sewerage infrastructure, which is a constraint generally and in a number of areas (e.g. Haverfordwest/Withybush) is becoming a significant block to potential development.
Town centre regeneration and new housing more generally, needs to adopt high standards of design and sustainability, to increase the attractiveness of the area's settlements and to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, in line with Welsh Assembly Government policy commitments. The area's most important town centres all have wards that fall within the 25% most deprived
in Wales, which deprivation is largely driven by employment and income measures. Rural areas suffer widespread deprivation in terms of access to services, with more than half of rural wards featuring in the worst 10% in Wales. Regenerating the area's key town centres is crucial in order to attract a wider range of private sector services and employment opportunities, which
opportunities offer the most significant prospect of addressing problems experiences by those suffering deprivation. Tenby, Fishguard and Narberth are excellent examples of rural and coastal centres which are regenerating their local areas. Out of town retail development risks undermining the regeneration and viability of town centres, which is crucial to the area's future, as well as contributing to unsustainable traffic patterns. Appropriate planning tests must therefore be applied which avoid these disbenefits.
The area has a diversity of brownfield sites, some of which have genuine potential in terms of land regeneration opportunities (e.g. the former Whitland Creamery site in western Carmarthenshire and Trecwn in Pembrokeshire) and others that are less well located in relation to their prospects for development (e.g. the MOD land at Pendine and old WW2 airfields in Pembrokeshire). Such sites should be strategically assessed and, wherever appropriate, prioritised over Greenfield sites. Strategic forward planning and upfront investment in essential service infrastructure (water, transport, sewerage, sustainable urban drainage) is essential in order for the area to realise its aspirations for sustainable development.
The demographic profile of the area has changed as result of a high number of economic in-migrants and the long-term growth in the number of retired people, which has been well over twice the Wales average growth rate over the last two decades. Both trends have impacted upon service provision and availability of affordable housing. The challenge then is to sustain the vitality of the area's communities by responding and adapting positively to population
change in ways which enhance the population age balance, ensures the housing mix supports that balance and does not exclude people from local housing, whilst sustaining the distinctiveness of local culture. As part of this, close attention needs to be paid to addressing the pockets of deprivation that exist within the area's urban centres and deprivation arising from poor service provision to the area's more remote communities.
Planning authorities that make up the South West Wales Regional Planning Group (Pembrokeshire County Council, Carmarthenshire County Council, Neath Port Talbot Borough Council, the City and County of Swansea, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority) estimate that the scale of housing needed in South West Wales will exceed the level predicted in the 2003-based WAG housing projections for Wales. However, as at November 2007, no formal agreement had been reached on apportionment.
Housing growth is likely to reflect the historical pattern of development in the area, commensurate with the settlement hierarchy identified above and the existing Joint Unitary Development Plan (JUDP) in Pembrokeshire, where there is a continued emphasis on the urban corridor, and the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) in Carmarthenshire, where the emphasis is on the settlement hierarchy in the sustainable strategic settlement framework. The
JUDP/UDP approach will be rolled forward in the Local Development Plans to 2021. Thus, the emphasis will be on key settlements identified as having an important regional role, such that rolling forward the existing JUDP allocations in Pembrokeshire to 2021 gives rise to a predicted dwelling change in Haverfordwest ranging from 2050 to 2550, in Milford Haven/Neyland from
1200 to 1350, in Pembroke/Pembroke Dock from 800 to 850 and in Fishguard/Goodwick from 300 to 350. However, new projections are being worked on under the auspices of the Regional Planning Group and are likely to suggest that higher numbers of dwellings will be required.
Notwithstanding the emphasis on key settlements, it is important that housing growth also
seeks to revitalise and sustain smaller centres and communities. The aim will be to create sustainable places through the co-location of housing, jobs, infrastructure and leisure. Housing should be well-designed, affordable and sustainable. Improving the energy efficiency of the current and new-built housing stock is an important objective to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions. Major developments of new housing should be near public transport nodes and here, higher densities of housing should be favoured, to foster use of public transport and opportunities for combined heat and power schemes. Housing provision within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park should continue to meet the needs of the local population, commensurate with the Park's landscape capacity.
Further work by the local authorities and the National Park linked to on-going assessments of local housing needs will be undertaken as a priority to ensure the future supply of affordable housing to support a local workforce and to achieve a socially inclusive and balanced population.
Health and Well-being
Based on health needs assessment work, the indications are that the Pembrokeshire Haven area has a relatively stable population, which is in reasonable health and is not generally deprived compared to the rest of Wales. The area faces many challenges common to Wales as a whole, such as: increasing life expectancy and the consequential increase in the number
of people over retirement age, both of which put increased pressure on services; more people surviving serious illness; rising levels of obesity and other outcomes of an unhealthy lifestyle and negative aspects of dependency arising from increases in lone parent and lone pensioner households; and the correlation between poor health and economic inactivity/deprivation. But the area also faces some specific spatial challenges, most notably those associated with the area's low population density and sparsity, which have a significant impact on access to services and equity, where the imperative is to find ways of developing and optimising primary, secondary and community care services.
Key priorities identified for future action need to be developed around two core themes of service delivery in partnership and supporting people to be as healthy as possible. Partnership is critical to both themes if the area is to meet the big challenges, in particular forging stronger links between health and social care, across Spatial Plan area boundaries and engaging with
communities more effectively in planning and designing services. This is already happening under the auspices of the Three Counties Planning Forum, which is considering how best to network secondary care services across the three counties of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Future plans for healthcare reorganisation will follow the principles of locating
services within or close to key settlements and in locations easily accessible by public transport. However, the emphasis needs to be on health services, not hospitals; on improving and integrating services, not on beds or buildings; and on delivering more services to patients in the community. Individual Local Health Boards, through their Health, Social Care and Well-Being Strategies, are placing renewed emphasis on illness prevention and strengthening
primary and community based services.
ii. Achieving Sustainable Accessibility
The area is strategically placed with important TEN-T road and rail network links to Ireland, and has two key ferry ports at Pembroke Dock and Fishguard, which provide a `southern corridor' route to Ireland that avoids the increasingly congested Dublin area. The port at Milford Haven is one of the UK's largest and deepest and critical to the continuing success and growth of the area's nationally important energy sector.
Improvements to the strategic transport links and infrastructure have the potential to deliver safer and more reliable journey times on current networks, and a TEN's East-West corridor of international importance, which is essential to the regeneration of the area's economy and employment base and in overcoming its peripheral location. Improvements to the rail links are an important part of this, in particular improving the frequency and journey times and access to the area's ports, strategic employment sites and strategic hubs. Removing the pinch-point caused by the single rail track between Cockett and West Dyffryn is essential in order to create opportunities for increasing services west of Carmarthen.
In terms of roads, the A40 road link between the M4 and the area's ports is designated in the Assembly Government's forward trunk road programme.Improvements to the A40 are being made with the current scheme of bypasses allowing for dualling of the A40 at a future date if the business case is proven. The need for further investment will be kept carefully under review
with the economic case for dualling re-examined at an appropriate time in the
future as part of the TENS Review. The provision of public and community transport in rural areas will always be financially challenging and therefore priorities will need to maximise the
beneficial impacts on people and the environment. Going forward therefore, key issues for public and community transport in the area are as follows:
· more and better public transport options are necessary to reduce reliance on the private car. The development of improved transport interchanges and transport networks to, from and within key settlements and strategic employment sites is critical to success
· Significant new employment sites should wherever practical be served by public transport. Public transport to existing sites needs to be strengthened
· Health care, education and leisure services need to be easily accessible by public and community transport from the local service and tourism centres and smaller settlements. Public transport services need to offer improved opportunities for concentrations of economically inactive people to gain access to jobs
· Public and innovative transport links from rural areas to the area's key settlements need to be improved. The key settlements should become the transport hubs for smaller surrounding settlements
· Ensuring there is adequate capacity to deliver safe, reliable journey times on the trunk road network connecting the M4 to the area's ports
· Maximising use of the area's ports and maritime facilities
The South West Wales Integrated Transport Consortium (SWWITCH) is developing a Regional Transport Plan (RTP) for South-West Wales as a whole. SWWITCH will continue work closely with the Pembrokeshire Haven Spatial Plan area groups both to inform and guide the further work of those Groups on delivery and to ensure that the RTP it is developing is closely aligned with and will help achieve the strategic priorities for the spatial plan area within the context of the South West Wales region as a whole.
The area's ICT links are a key factor in its competitiveness and have the potential to reduce the need to travel. Although nearly all exchanges are now enabled for broadband, there are significant constraints on geographical coverage, capacity and cost. It is crucial to develop bandwidth and coverage, and to encourage competition between suppliers, so that the area has access to competitively priced, high specification broadband. Wireless broadband
opportunities need to be exploited as part of this. More work is needed to increase take-up of ICT applications by local business, and by the public more generally. A programme of action on ICT will be developed to take this forward.
iii. Promoting a Sustainable Economy
The area is heavily reliant on a few major, predominantly public sector, employers, many small employers, and a high proportion of self-employed people. The nationally important oil and gas sector, for example, is hugely significant to the economic prosperity of the area as a whole and particularly the towns of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock. The area is dominated by
micro-businesses employing fewer than 5 people. The area has a high rate of business start-ups but these businesses tend to remain small rather than grow. There are relatively few medium sized high growth companies. There is an urgent need to improve business performance and profitability. Claimants of unemployment-related benefits are below national levels but the proportion of families claiming tax credits are the highest in Wales (JRF
Findings 2005).Unemployment rates have fallen well below national levels. The figures reflect the fact that a high number of workers rely on income from more than one part-time job, seasonality and low levels of earning have an impact on job security. Economic activity rates are improving, albeit that about a quarter of those eligible to work in the area are not in employment and inactivity rates remain high in some pockets of urban deprivation within
the towns of e.g. Milford Haven, Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Haverfordwest.
The area is developing a diverse, more stable business economy to secure long-term prosperity, and create more opportunities for young people to stay in the area or return to it. Developing indigenous business - and, in particular, supporting small and micro-businesses to compete, diversify and become the bedrock from which growth businesses can succeed - as well as attracting inward investment in high-value added niche inward investment will both be important.
The agricultural and rural economy remains an important aspect of future growth in the area. It supports a wide range of local economic activities, in particular related to tourism and small businesses and there is potential to increase value-adding, processing activities. Agriculture also has the potential to provide support to energy generation related opportunities, for example bio-fuel production, and, for example through local sourcing initiatives, to reduce `food miles'.
Strategic employment sites will be key investment and employment locations in determining the future function and inter-relationship of settlements. They will need excellent public transport links. Going forward, a range of good quality affordable sites and premises need to be available to promote the development of small and medium size businesses, with the appropriate infrastructure, particularly communications and information technology. At present there is concern that the private sector may be unable to build to BREEAM excellent standards and stay within Sate Aid limits for public sector support. Specialist premises need to be available for agri-food and fish processing businesses, the latter for example in recognition of the area's
Larger strategic sites may be needed to maximise the strategic potential of the Milford Haven Waterway, and sites with such potential need to be identified and reserved for such waterway-linked uses.The current liquified natural gas (LNG) developments are providing a major
economic boost, and the development of gas-fired power stations has the potential to add to this. Many of the jobs created have been in the construction phase and it will be important to ensure that the local economy remains strong when this phase winds down. A priority is to develop an energy strategy for Pembrokeshire Haven to provide a platform for taking forward opportunities for employment, skills and the environment arising from its energy sector, and in particular to make the area a centre for innovation in the energy and environmental goods sectors, including low-carbon and renewable energy. The Pembrokeshire Energy Technium with its specialist research and business incubation facilities has a key role to play in this. Work
to develop action to establish the area as a centre for renewable and low carbon energy sources will be taken forward as a priority.
Tourism and leisure are already a big part of the area's economy but must develop further, including through the implementation of the tourism opportunities action plan, developed as part of the Spatial Plan process. The area should be a premier all-year round destination, with the emphasis on high quality in all levels of provision, supporting well-paid jobs. Reinforcing the
area's distinctive character, allied to outdoor activities, marine leisure, recreation and interest in the area's wildlife, archaeology, history and culture, is central to offering visitors something really special. Synergy between farming, the environment and tourism needs to continue to grow stronger to support this, coupled with greater value-added processing and promotion of
speciality local farm produce to strengthen the area's reputation. There has been a strong growth in tourism in recent years. New opportunities will result from the luxury short-break eco-village (`Bluestone') development, and similar investments in `five star' facilities, as well as opportunities in niche markets, including those linked to marine leisure, will help not only extend the attractiveness of the area, but crucially, increase per capita visitor spend.
Marina developments need to maximise the opportunities for local communities to benefit. There will be significant opportunities to enhance facilities and services available to visitors in key towns and villages. Quality management of all aspects of visitors' experience, including accommodation, retail and cuisine is a critical factor, coupled with the skills and training to
support this. The Welsh Coastal Tourism Strategy will ensure that the potential of coastal tourism around Wales develops coherently. The development of tourism enterprises situated within the Tenby Tourism Growth Area and along the coastal corridor reaching to Laugharne in western Carmarthenshire is particularly important for the area's tourism offering.
Labour market and skills
The area faces a big challenge to equip all its people with the skills they will need to be part of a successful knowledge economy. The attraction of high value, higher skilled employment to the area is an imperative and therefore it is necessary to change the attitudes and mindsets of both employers the employee population to one where the gaining of skills is seen to be the norm rather than the exception. Developing the area's own FE/HE sector, and strengthening its links to out of area FE/HE institutions is also important, with the potential to become an economic driver in its own right.
Faced with an aging population and a reduced number of new entrants coming into the labour market, raising economic activity rates, is a key priority. Relevant agencies must link together to develop action to reduce this inactivity, particularly in areas of high concentration. Pembrokeshire's Return to Earn intermediate labour market initiative, which led on to permanent employment for many of the participants, is one example of successful engagement of the economically inactive with local businesses.
A further priority is to ensure that the area has access to a sufficiently strong and innovative network of vocational skills providers, with the capacity to respond to demand from individuals and employers and to underpin the developing knowledge economy. It is important that the development of vocational options in the 14-19 curriculum, the expansion of Modern
Apprenticeships and lifelong learning more generally strengthen the supply of skills to support the energy sector, as well as skills in construction, tourism, catering, care and food processing. Work on town centre renewal, and investment in housing linked to the Welsh Quality Housing Standard, needs to be linked to construction training for local people, including Intermediate
Labour Market schemes, where appropriate.
Tailoring learning and up-skilling needs to meet business needs, balancing this with the realities of delivering learning in timely and cost effective ways, continues to be a significant challenge. Recent developments in the labour market have brought business representatives and learning providers together to explore new delivery possibilities as evidenced in the energy and the hospitality sectors. For example, a tailor-made package of skills provision is being put in place to support the current LNG developments and the existing refineries. This will need to be developed further if the proposed gas power stations go-ahead in order to help match skill availability to predictable demand. An Energy Sector Workforce Development Group, facilitated by DCELLS and led by the private sector, has developed a targeted action plan to drive forward this agenda. This initiative has the potential to serve as a model to identify and address other sector needs.
More generally, a focus on Key Skills, including for example. team working; effective communication; problem solving; and working with figures, remains a high priority at all levels of learning in schools, further education and learning in the workplace. These are the skills which employers rate highly within their workforce and the acquisition of such transferable `skills for life' are particularly important in an area dominated by small and micro businesses.
The challenge for learning providers is to deliver learning in a work place setting. Resources such as the new Skills Centre based at Pembroke School provides a potential resource to help benefit a wider group of learners of all ages, in particular those who wish to access community learning provision.The impact of local demographics and reduction in numbers entering the
local labour market is coinciding with efforts to promote parity of esteem between educational and vocational learning pathways for young people. Efforts are being made to increase the vocational opportunities in schools for all young people and those who wish to combine this form of learning with traditional subject areas at AS/A level. Pembrokeshire College continues to promote a range of educational and vocational options, including at higher education level, which provide an alternative for those who wish to remain in Pembrokeshire to continue their studies. Similarly, FE provision via Coleg Sir Gar and the proximity of higher education learning opportunities in Carmarthen is seen as a valuable resource.Disengagement of young people from learning before and after age 16 is a further concern for the area. Efforts are required to ensure that the mix of learning offered to young people whilst at school accords more with thei interests if they are to remain engaged. Innovative projects such as the PRIDE initiative have served as a pathfinder project in Pembrokeshire by offering young people a combination of educational and vocational learning.
However, this targeted support now needs to be evaluated for best practice and mainstreamed where possible to form a credible part of the aged 14-19 learning offering in all centres of learning. Securing high volumes of work placements for pupils and students in a market
place comprised of micro businesses is challenging. Nevertheless, exposure to the demands of "the world of work" is becoming an important feature of learning. Therefore, new and imaginative ways of bringing learners as close as possible to the workplace are needed which will require innovative collaboration amongst the partners and stakeholders. One possible example might be the expansion in "shared apprenticeship" schemes which are currently being explored by DCELLS within the construction and engineering sectors (e.g. the scheme in Carmarthenshire managed by the Carmarthenshire Construction Training Association) and which engage a number of small businesses who then provide the breadth of learning required
by each apprentice. Similarly, the delivery of improved careers education which equips young people with knowledge and understanding of the labour market remains a key priority area if young people are to make informed choices about jobs, careers and the associated learning required.
The current economic developments taking place within the Pembrokeshire Haven has generated the need for some businesses to seek the skills and workers they require from further afield. The expansion of the EC has also created the opportunity for those from Eastern Europe to take up employment in West Wales with the result that demand for English language skills has been significant in the area. To date, learning providers have been able to respond to requests received but a sustained increase in demand (which is likely) will place further pressure on the community learning providers who will need to balance their learning provision against the income they are able to generate and the core funding they receive for community learning.
iv. Valuing Our Environment
The area is renowned for its beautiful landscape, pristine beaches, ancient heritage and flora and fauna. It has ecological and environmental assets of national and international importance, including: the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park; Wales' only Marine Nature Reserve; three marine/riverine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs); numerous Sites of Special Scientific
Interest (SSSI), which cover some 6% of the total land area; eight National Nature Reserves; several terrestrial Special Areas of Conservation (SACs); and a number of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the EU Birds Directive and the Habitats and Species Directive. Effective protection and enhancement of these assets is important not just for its own sake but is intrinsic to supporting the socio-economic regeneration of the area as a whole and critical to achieving the long term vision for the area. A flourishing local economy based on tourism and agriculture are dependent upon these natural resources. The challenge, however, is to maximise the potential economic opportunities arising from the area's unique environment assets whilst at the same time protecting and enhancing them.
Uniquely, the region's urban areas and its heavy industries are intimately associated with a high quality environment. The majority of the area's industrial developments, including for example its nationally significant industrial processes such as oil refining and the Liquified Natural Gas developments, are centred on the Haven, due to its proximity to shipping channels and large natural harbour. Going forward, therefore, it is essential to develop the industrial potential of the area in ways which safeguard its environmental assets. Collaboration between Spatial Plan partners and partners more widely is critical to ensuring that economic, social and environmental objectives are achieved in harmony through sustainable development. To that end, five strategic themes, where there is the greatest potential for collaborative action, have been developed to take this agenda forward:
· The economic potential of the area's environment is maximized sustainably
· The area adapts to climate change already underway and mitigates against future change
· The man-made, natural and cultural environment of the area supports a high quality of life for its residents and visitors
· Sustainable development is facilitated by effective forward planning and upfront investment in strategic infrastructure
· The quality of the area's built and natural environment is protected and enhanced
The Pembrokeshire Haven Area Spatial Plan Group has a key role in developing tailor-made local action and priorities for action to address these strategic themes, based on an rigorous assessment of the area's key challenges and opportunities. Strategic intervention opportunities will be developed to response to the following key issues / priority areas:
· Respond to a changing climate, in particular to improve the environmental performance of new and existing buildings, facilitate more sustainable transport options, manage the increasing risk of flooding, facilitate the linkage of wildlife habitats and diversify the energy sector. The area should build on its existing strong energy sector to foster new jobs and a knowledge economy linked to renewables and be seen as an exemplar in Wales. Strategic management of flood risk is critical to the long term sustainability and viability of the area: future planning will be informed by an assessment of these risks
· Utilise our natural resources more efficiently, in particular seek to manage water consumption and reduce waste production. The availability of water supplies from local rivers is under pressure and there is a need to develop a network of integrated waste management facilities to enable the greater reuse and recycling of waste
· Ensure that investments in the sewerage network are aligned to development proposals, if not aligned there is a risk of damaging our environment or constraining development
· Create healthier communities by increasing access to outdoor recreational activities
· Strengthen the area's tourism economy by protecting and enhancing the quality of our environmental assets
· Maximise the opportunities to enhance biodiversity through sensitive land use and development planning
· Encourage local communities and businesses to take positive action in support of the area's vision of sustainability
· Unlock the strategic potential of the Haven Waterway in ways which are consistent with the marine Special Area of Conservation designation
v. Respecting Distinctiveness
Being distinctive is central to the area's economic success and to the quality of life of its people. Work to enhance bio-diversity and the natural and built environment, action to conserve and interpret the area's rich archaeology, history, and mythology, and action to foster the area's contemporary culture, all complement each other as investments in the area's future.
We recognise that the Welsh language is a special part of the culture of the area in North Pembrokeshire and western Carmarthenshire. Maintaining a distinctive culture is dependent upon a dynamic, sustainable economy. The area has had strong cultural links with Ireland since prehistoric times. Celebrating and marketing these will help attract tourists from Ireland.
The regeneration of town centres needs to be handled in ways that strengthen the sense of place of each community, using good design and local materials where appropriate. Spatial Plan partners will work with the Design Commission for Wales to encourage best practice in creating distinctive, safe and sustainable development through the design process.
Attracting newcomers to the area, whether this is returning former residents or new migrants, is critical both to its economic future and to the establishment of sustainable communities. The challenge is to support newcomers to understand the communities they have become part of and how they can play their full part, both in order to maintain cohesion and to strengthen and enrich the area's communities and further develop their distinctiveness. Given the area's exceptional environment and the importance of developing higher value tourism and diversifying into the knowledge-based economy, there is a need to ensure that `quality' is promoted as a distinct and unique selling point for the area, and becomes a cross-cutting theme in terms of infrastructure provision, product development and customer service.