- Lawrence Bailey
Joined up approach needed to make progress
The temptation in the regeneration world is to sometimes think that big is inevitably better. As a result, it’s the massive city-based capital projects that get the attention, and the biggest chunk of money.
Comparatively less effort has gone into upgrading towns and the so-called satellite districts in the past. The result has been gradual overall decline.
The latest depressing example is the closure of yet another local bank, this time in Mumbles, although the pattern is a familiar one in Gorseinon, Morriston, Clydach and Sketty.
Of course, we are just as responsible as shoppers and consumers for a change in retail fortunes but it’s not as though this is an entirely new phenomenon.
Back in 2010, Swansea Council recognised that retail districts should be given a significant role in making communities sustainable. They even produced special planning guidance although there’s little evidence of anything proactive happening since then.
A welcome step-change at national level is the recently announced ‘Transforming Towns’ initiative announced by the Welsh government. It’s a £90m package of measures aimed at to increasing footfall by making sure the public sector locate services in town centres.
This is not a brand new idea by any means. Civic centres in Neath and Aberavon, for example, are located within town precincts. The ability for staff to pop into local shops is a small but significant factor for traders.
The Federation of Small Businesses has also been adding its voice on how to rethink the local dimension and redirect resources into communities.
One of the recommendations coming out of their recent research, has been to encourage the idea of a Digital Town Centre Manager. The idea is to give localities an effective and up-to-date presence on social media.
This would supplement the self-help tips and advice you often find on Facebook groups and provide answers to online queries about what’s on offer.
Of course, this also needs far better broadband connectivity, particularly in rural areas. Meeting that aim is down to a different arm of Welsh government - but the sooner the two get joined up, the sooner we make progress.
Getting connected is a business necessity
It's easy to assign notions like “connectivity” as being something restricted solely to the geeks.
Then you suddenly remember that those same geeks went on to create multi-billion outfits that pretty much dominate the global corporate picture.
Connectivity is a key factor in how we do business today. Slow broadband and poor network coverage can kill off trade and deter investment.
That’s why its hugely impressive to see plans evolving for a tech and creative hub with the capacity for 600 workers on the site of the former Oceana nightclub.
What’s now being called ’71-72 Kingsway’ is part of the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District contained within the £1.3 billion City Deal package.
Coincidentally, SA1 Waterfront Business Club are staging a lunchtime briefing next week on how public and private sectors need to look seriously at connectivity.
Speakers from Superfast Business Wales, Vodafone and UWTSD will be providing practical insights at the Village Hotel in SA1. Check out www.SA1WBC.com for more details.
Speaking of lunch, tomorrow [Friday] sees the season launch of Swansea Bay Business Club. It also sees the formal installation of successful Swansea businessman Alan Brayley as president. It’s hardly a surprise to learn the event is a sell-out.