The project advisory group recently reviewed the ‘Moving Rural Carmarthenshire Forward’ report by Carmarthenshire County Council’s Rural Affairs Task Group, which contains 55 recommendations across 10 key areas.
The report is wide-ranging, but a major flagship of the report is the launch of the ‘Ten Rural Towns Initiative’, which focuses on harnessing economic, social, environmental and cultural sustainability for rural towns and surrounding villages by maximising job creation and supporting the development of a knowledge economy.
The report includes useful statistics on rural Carmarthenshire that give a further understanding of the county. The analysis of data, alongside the results of a wider consultation, has lead the task group to identify overarching themes that recognises that many issues in rural areas are linked. The themes include community life, housing and one specifically about fears over the future of agriculture following Brexit. Of particular resonance with the Arsyllfa project are the following priority themes:
- The Carmarthenshire pound, keeping spending both from organisations, businesses and individuals in Carmarthenshire.
- Economic regeneration. Appropriate and sustainable growth. Focus on developing suitable core and distinctive sectors for Carmarthenshire.
- Broadband and transport infrastructure in support of economic as well as social development.
- Welsh Language, recognising the importance of rural communities to the future viability of the language although the report does not go into details regarding this.
A strong, place-based approach is advocated throughout the report, based around the focus on towns. The local authority is urged to take a leading role in promoting it as a means of developing thriving and sustainable rural communities. Also support for the foundational and circular economy is a strong theme throughout.
A key principle in the report, which accompanies the work of the Arsyllfa project, is supporting entrepreneurship amongst young people and the need to nurture and support those who want to develop and raise their aspirations within the County. The main vehicle for fostering an entrepreneurial culture is to work through the Swansea Bay City Deal and Regional Learning and Skills Partnership and Talent Project, with the report also suggesting that Coleg Sir Gâr could be an important driver of innovation through a technology and skills hub.
The report makes 7 recommendations for Carmarthenshire County Council under the heading “Economic Development” with housing, education and skills just some examples of the dimensions that the recommendations cover, although the report does not go into detail regarding these.
To conclude, it’s obvious that ‘Moving Rural Carmarthenshire Forward’ is an ambitious and wide ranging report which explores the issues facing rural parts of the County, while recognising that a one size doesn’t fit all. The report does discuss the importance of entrepreneurship well, but its various strands that either implicitly or explicitly refer to it need to be brought together into a coherent strategy and programme of work.
To view the full feasibility assessment and accompanying reports see below: