THE biggest ever investment for south west Wales has been secured following the approval of the ground-breaking Swansea Bay City Deal. UK and Welsh Government Ministers visited Swansea Bay on Monday 20th March 2017 to sign the Deal together with members of the Swansea Bay City Region Board. Leaders from Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire councils are celebrating having secured the £1.3 billion deal that will transform the economic landscape of the area, boost the local economy by £1.8 billion, and generate almost 10,000 new jobs over the next 15 years. Eleven major projects will now get underway, delivering world-class facilities in the fields of energy, smart manufacturing, innovation and life science, with major investment in the region’s digital infrastructure and workforce skills and talent underpinning each.
The total investment package is made up of £241 million of UK and Welsh Government funding, £396 million of other public sector money and £637 million from the private sector. The Swansea Bay City Region Board - including the four local authorities together with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Hywel Dda University Health Boards, Swansea University and the University of Wales Trinity St David’s, and private sector companies - worked under the Chairmanship of Sir Terry Matthews for over a year to develop and submit the City Deal proposal to the Welsh and UK Governments.
It culminated in a pitch to Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, and other UK Ministers and their advisors, following months of rigorous challenge and negotiation.
WHAT THE CITY DEAL MEANS…
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There are three specific projects for Carmarthenshire – a Wellness and Life Science Village in Llanelli; a creative industry project at Yr Egin in Carmarthen; and a skills and talent initiative which will support skills development for all 11 projects. The Wellness Village and Life Science Village at Delta Lakes, is being led by the council, under the ARCH (A Regional Collaboration for Health) programme, which is a partnership between Hywel Dda and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Boards and Swansea University. The £200million project aims to create 1853 high quality jobs and boost the economy by a staggering £467 million over 15 years. The proposals include an Institute of Life Science with laboratory and clinic space and an incubation facility for business start-up, research and development; a wellness hub incorporating a new ‘state-of-the-art’ sports and leisure centre, a wellbeing centre, a wellness hotel and an assisted living village all interlinked and set within a ‘green’ eco-park.
Yr Egin involves the construction of a creative and digital hub and the development of a creative industry sector cluster. It will create around 203 jobs and help the local economy, along with boosting the Welsh language. A skills and talent initiative will provide educational and training pathways to support the next generation workforce delivering specific sector skills required in order to meet the demand of the City Deal themes of Digital, Life Science and Wellbeing, Energy and Smart Manufacturing.
Carmarthenshire County Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “This is a unique opportunity for Carmarthenshire and the wider region to increase prosperity and opportunity. The City Deal will help the long-term sustainability of the economy in Carmarthenshire, creating jobs, growth and training opportunities.
“This is a truly exciting time for the region; the level of investment we are talking about is incomparable to anything we have seen before. The City Deal will allow us to deliver what we have worked so hard to achieve and local people and businesses will soon start to reap the benefits.”
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In Swansea, there are a number of City Deal projects. These include the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District. Under this project, 100,000 square feet of flexible and affordable new office space will be constructed on Kingsway in the city centre for tech businesses as part of a digital village that will benefit from world class digital infrastructure. This will help support local enterprising and entrepreneurial talent, allowing these businesses to set-up and flourish. The City Deal will also lead to a 215,000 square foot box village development on the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s under-construction Waterfront Innovation Quarter in SA1. Built out of shipping containers, this will provide affordable space for start-up firms with links to the university’s academic programme. City Deal approval will also enable the digitalisation of the 5,000 to 6,000-seat indoor arena planned for the city centre’s St David’s development site, as well as the development of a digital square with state-of the-art digital screens and digital artworks.
Overall, the £169m Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District will generate over 1,300 jobs. The digital village on Kingsway will also complement broader plans to develop an employment district on Kingsway, which is why the environment will soon be improved there to help attract major employers.
Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “This is an historic day for Swansea and the Swansea Bay City Region as a whole because City Deal approval will lead to an unprecedented level of investment, helping improve thousands of people’s lives. “Across the region, the City Deal investment will create more than 9,500 new jobs, opening opportunities for people to find well-paid employment. “As well as supporting local business talent to set-up, thrive and generate high-quality employment opportunities, the projects we’ve identified for Swansea will transform Swansea’s cultural and entertainment offer, thanks to enabling the digitalisation of an indoor arena that will attract world class musicians, comedians, exhibitions and conferences to the city centre. This will generate more footfall and spending for our existing businesses, while also creating far more opportunities for local supply chain companies during construction of the developments.
“The ‘Team Swansea Bay’ approach between the public and private sectors we’ve developed over recent years was always aimed at delivering innovative projects for the benefit of local residents. It’s hugely satisfying that we’ve delivered on our promises by ensuring Swansea gets its fair share from the UK Government. “Our focus will now be on aggressive delivery to ensure the people of Swansea benefit from this investment as soon as possible.”
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Pembrokeshire is involved in three key schemes as part of the City Deal. Spearheaded by the Port of Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock Marine is a £76million project to establish a marine energy centre around the Milford Haven waterway. The world class facility will be the centre for marine energy development, fabrication, testing and deployment in the town’s naval dockyard. The other two schemes - which will be rolled out across the whole region - involves improving broadband and mobile continuity and creating a new industry based around innovative and sustainable energy generation.
Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, said: “This announcement is the culmination of several years hard work by the Leaders, Chief Executives and officers not only from the region’s local authorities but also those from universities, health boards and the private sector.
“The Port of Milford Haven has partnered with Marine Energy Wales, ORE Catapult and Wave Hub and is working alongside Swansea University and Pembrokeshire College
“Together they are poised to drive innovation and herald the commercialisation of wave and tidal stream technology in Wales.
“It will make a vital contribution to the Welsh economy; increasing productivity, export potential and skilled employment opportunities for today and for future generations.”
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A new development that would be based in Neath Port Talbot to attract clusters of high-tech companies, modelled on a successful approach in Canada, developed by Sir Terry Matthews. Centre of Excellence for Next Generation Digital Services (CENGS) will be at the heart of the regional digital super hub, providing a data analytics facility that would support rapid commercialisation of entrepreneurial ideas by turning innovations into new products and services. The aim of CENGS is to make the UK a global leader in the commercialisation of technologies that will underpin the next generation of converged global communication services.
A Homes as Power Stations project will target both new build housing projects and retrofit of existing housing. Led by Neath Port Talbot Council on behalf of the region, this programme will deliver innovative low carbon homes. The project will support the delivery of carbon reduction targets, security of housing supply in the region and a reduction of demand on electricity and gas grid systems. A major aim will be to reduce fuel poverty and its impact on health and wellbeing, together with a focus on digital connectivity and smart metering.
A new housing development pilot will be constructed in Neath and the concept will then be rolled out across the region. The Steel Science Centre would be based in Neath Port Talbot, providing an Open Access Innovation Centre for the UK steel sector and its supply chains. It would build on regional excellence and Tata’s recent commitment to the steel sector to develop carbon positive products, environmentally friendly steelmaking processes and supply chains and new construction materials. It builds on regional strengths in steel production and strong partnerships between business and academia to develop research and supply chains. The project aims to ensure that there is a long term future for the steel sector by making the City Region the UK’s natural centre for research and development in steel science.
Cllr Ali Thomas OBE, Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, said: “The City Deal provides an important long term vehicle for increasing economic resilience in our region, for restructuring our economy and for opportunities for young people in particular.
It will not only help us deploy digital technologies to improve productivity and competitiveness in our regional economy but help us address fuel poverty, energy efficiency and innovation in the health and wellbeing sector in our local communities.
I am particularly pleased to see that the city deal package includes projects to support existing jobs and grow supply chains in our businesses and industries including in steel, construction and in engineering.”