The Vale of Glamorgan’s towns, villages and rural areas are home to more than 130,000 people – a geography that combines extremes of wealth and poverty; and a blend of ‘old’ and the ‘new’ economies. We spoke with VoG’s Council Leader Neil Moore to find out how this historic and distinctive part of the Cardiff Capital Region has weathered the storm of the past year – and his views on the prospects for the Vale and the wider Region as the focus turns to building back better …
“Widening and deepening our jobs base will be key to regenerating the local economy”
“Widening and deepening our jobs base will be key to regenerating the local economy” explains Neil. “We have a skilled population but also an ageing one; and we’re heavily reliant on micro businesses and certain sectors such as human health and social work, with many of our residents commuting out of the borough for work. So, simply put, there are too few jobs – with 0.6 jobs available for every person in the Vale – so we need to strengthen our local employment base as well as collaborating with the wider region to build better infrastructure, quality business space and stronger connections across the CCR.
“Some of the CCR 2021 objectives are focused on helping businesses navigate the funding support packages available – and identifying any gaps in provision, especially start-up support. We’ve devoted a lot of time to that over the last decade, through our economic development and foundation economy work, so it’s good to be aligned on this vision.
“Our 21st Century Schools Programme will see £167m + invested in our school buildings.”
“The Vale of Glamorgan’s ambition in Education is clear to see in our 21st Century Schools Programme – an innovative £167 million investment programme in school buildings across the Vale of Glamorgan, between 2019 and 2024. The aim is to provide innovative and adaptable teaching and learning environments which are fit for future generations, with two new secondary school buildings opening at Whitmore and Pencoedtre High Schools in Barry – and an expansion and refurbishment of Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Morgannwg due to be completed later this year – all of which taken together represents a £86m investment in Barry. We’re maximising this investment by making ‘community-use’ a key priority of the 21st Century Schools Programme, with the three schools providing state of the art facilities for the community – including rugby, football and hockey all-weather pitches.
“2021 will also see the completion of two new primary school buildings in Rhoose and Colwinston, representing a £10m investment in primary education in the Western Vale. And beyond all that, construction is due to commence on five further projects later this year, including new primary school buildings in St Nicholas, Cowbridge and Barry Waterfront, a new Centre for Learning and Wellbeing to support some of our most vulnerable learners – and an expansion of Ysgol y Deri, the Council’s Special School, to meet future demand for specialist education.
“A £68.3 million housing development programme delivering 530 high-quality, energy-efficient council homes”
The Vale has also adopted its first Housing Development Strategy, with a £68.3 million forward programme of housing development that will deliver 530 new high-quality energy-efficient council homes over the next five years – using the latest methods of construction and off-site Manufacturing techniques, as well as embracing local supply chains, materials, manufacturers and contractors. Neil explains that provision of short-term accommodation has also been a key deliverable:
“The pandemic placed extraordinary pressures on homelessness services in the Vale of Glamorgan and we’ve been able to assist an additional 386 homelessness clients, partly through Welsh Government funding that saw us deliver an additional 116 units of bed and breakfast accommodation in addition to the 147 units of temporary accommodation we already provided. This needs to be seen in the bigger picture of our latest Local Housing Market Assessment (LHMA), which in 2019 identified the need for an additional 890 units of affordable housing per year for the five years 2019 – 2024. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has only increased the number of households in financial difficulties, so we need to make sure our housing plan factors in what has been an exceptionally challenging time of change – working with partners such as housing associations, private landlords, letting agents and third-sector support providers to meet demands.“
“A migration to ‘net zero carbon’ homes – and a green infrastructure fit for the 21st century”
Neil has CCR Cabinet responsibility for Environment and Sustainability so we asked him what would he hope to see achieved across these critical areas in 2021 and beyond?
“The Vale has already completely re-profiled its housing development programme to ensure all new schemes are built using Modern Methods of Construction and Off-Site Manufacturing techniques – with all our new housing developments set to achieve the EPC ‘A’ rating from 2021, before migrating to ‘net zero carbon’ new homes, with all new developments delivered off the current gas network. We’re pushing the agenda in the most innovative of ways – currently collaborating with the other 10 local authorities, supported by Welsh Government and Wood Knowledge Wales, to establish a national procurement framework for the local production of ‘zero carbon’ pattern book homes, to be factory-built by modular homes manufacturers using Welsh timber frames.
“Perfectly placed for a clean growth hub”
“We’re also looking forward to working with the city region to explore the development of clean growth hubs to explore future technology and fuels such as Hydrogen. Barry is perfectly placed with its working Dock to form a key part of this process and the development of regional support for sustainable energy sources is important to our climate change mitigation aims. We’re also keen to see the Welsh Government’s Enterprise Zones and the nearby airport grow in as sustainable a way as possible, with good connectivity which will reduce reliance on the car. Our progress in Housing and Education has shown that, together, we can develop a climate change and green infrastructure fit for the 21st century.”
“Togetherness” and common purpose are critical success factors.
Neil considers ‘togetherness’ and common purpose to be critical for future success across the region. “The pandemic has shown that a clear sense of direction and a widely shared vision is very important. It has led to a more connected way of working and faster decision-making at both regional and national level – and I hope that way of working this will continue for us across CCR.”