Barry, Wales’ largest town, is more than just another seaside town. It is a town with a bright future and a key player in the Cardiff Capital region.
Just eight miles from Cardiff, with its shopping, restaurants, bars and leisure facilities, one would be forgiven for thinking that Barry is just another commuter town. Indeed with four railway stations, direct routes into Cardiff and beyond and an airport just 15 minutes away, there are plenty of transport options. However, these routes are increasingly being used to bring people back to Barry, to live, to work and to visit.
Its journey over recent years offers an intriguing insight into how regeneration can work, even when attention appears focussed on its neighbouring vibrant capital. There is now no doubt that the once premier seaside resort of south Wales is returning to the big time. The Vale of Glamorgan Council has achieved this in a quiet and unassuming manner, through working with key partners across all sectors.
‘A whole-town, joined-up approach to regeneration involving
public, private and third sectors, residents and traders’
A town of just over 50,000 people, with a rich industrial and cultural heritage, is building on that legacy. The regeneration of Barry does not rely solely on state funding and intervention. There has remained a buoyant interest in the town and so a suite of interventions and innovative approaches build on that strength. In practice this means a whole-town, joined-up approach to regeneration involving public, private and third sectors as well as individual residents businesses and traders. The regeneration of Barry is more about adding value so that progress is sustainable and at the same time truly cements its place in the region.
Work in our Communities First areas has focused on improving health and opportunities, driving up education standards and providing access to jobs through training and development. Town centre initiatives enhance public realm and bring back empty buildings into beneficial use. Alongside this, the renewal scheme has led to improvements in physical appearance and energy efficiency for hundreds of properties. A major multimillion pound regeneration scheme on Barry Island has rejuvenated interest in the resort, through public art, a vibrant events programme and a widened offer for visitors. Shortlisted by The RTPI this year, it is again shortlisted by RTPI Cymru for another planning award.
A focus on place and community development is not restricted to existing communities. A major redevelopment scheme at the former dock will see the construction of up to 2000 new houses, retail development and a new school. This new community on a brownfield, edge of centre site is truly sustainable, with access to rail and bus transport as well as new cycling provision. A new road link will provide a second much needed link to Barry Island.
Recognising the role of heritage the council and Welsh Government have also intervened to save the town’s hydraulic pumphouse. Built initially over a century ago to power the dock gates, a renovation and conversion scheme is now completed and will provide live work units, restaurants and a gymnasium. This scheme has also been recognised by the RTPICymru and shortlisted for an award. The pumphouse itself sits alongside the Innovation Quarter, another joint initiative by the Council and Welsh Government to develop new business units, a new hotel and a medical centre.
Alongside this, there are even more innovative approaches. S106 funding has been used to match Welsh Government money to improve health and lifestyle through enhancements to various parks, provide active travel facilities and support the establishment up of a watersports centre within the former Dock area. A bursary scheme has been developed in partnership with the Waterloo Foundation to allow young people the opportunity to kick start their own businesses.
There is more to be done. Key sites within the town and on the Island are currently being marketed, with a focus on commercial and leisure uses to complement the work already undertaken. Our focus remains not on building houses, but building sustainable and vibrant communities for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.
Barry is back, addressing its weaknesses and building on its strengths and ready to play a central role in a successful capital region.
Lis Burnett is cabinet member for regeneration at Vale of Glamorgan council. She tweets at @lisburnett