South Wales has many of the ingredients that make it an attractive proposition for regeneration and development, including an extensive supply of brownfield land, low land values, large urban populations and supportive local administrations. In this report we will focus on what is going on and planned in the cities of Swansea and Cardiff.
First, let’s look at a few of the underpinning issues: South Wales suffered from post-industrial decline during most of the 20th century. Moves at reinforcing the heavy industrial base in the area over the years now seem to be struggling. Ford’s Bridgend Engine Plant, a one-time saviour of the local economy, closes imminently while Tata’s Port Talbot steelworks seems perennially insecure. More recent attempts to strengthen the economy here however appear resolutely future-facing and include digital sectors, knowledge-based industries and advanced manufacturing.
In this regard something should be said about the Welsh Government, which is taking an increasingly active role in shaping its own destiny. The Welsh Government last updated its Economic Action Plan ‘Prosperity For All’ in 2019. The report says that Government financial resources and proactive support will be targeted in what it calls the thematic sectors of tradable services, high value manufacturing and enablers. It says that the Government will focus on a number of foundation sectors namely tourism, food, retail and care. It says businesses seeking direct financial support will be required to respond to ‘calls to action’ encompassing decarbonisation, innovation/entrepreneurship, exports and trade, high quality employment plus R&D, automation and digitalisation.
Infrastructure must be considered an issue here, since the region is somewhat out on a limb from much of the UK. The M4 motorway connects both cities to England but suffers from a congested pinch point at Newport with plans to reroute the road now seemingly having been shelved. Rail links, however, have been improved of late with line and rolling stock improvements putting Cardiff within just 2 hours of London and Swansea within 2hrs 45 minutes.
Plans to improve regional transport might be of more interest to investors and developers. The South Wales Metro is a Welsh Government plan to provide a faster, better integrated regional network of trains, buses and light rail services with initial work on the scheme recently commenced. Cardiff appears to have much to benefit from under the proposals, which could make some areas much more accessible by public transport. New railway stations are being considered for Cardiff Bay (relocated station) and Loudoun Square in Cardiff Bay, Cryws Road and Gabalfa in the suburbs and a Cardiff Parkway station at St.Mellons on the South Wales mainline to support the Cardiff Hendre Lakes commercial development.