City deal 'fresh start' for south Wales economy

Greg Clark Image copyright Patrick Olner
Image caption Prof Greg Clark has worked with developing cities all over the world

A world expert on urban development said the £1.2bn Cardiff Capital Region city deal is an opportunity to give south Wales a "fresh start".

Prof Greg Clark is to lead the region's Growth and Competitiveness Commission, to analyse and develop a strategy.

He said big projects like the proposed Metro were important but it must be much more than transport.

Prof Clark said the Metro must be transformational - moving jobs around the region and building confidence.

Up to £600m is due to be spent on the first phase of the Metro until 2020.

It is likely to be a mix of light rail, trams, improved trains and faster buses in Cardiff and the valleys. The eventual cost has been estimated at being between £2bn and £4bn.

Prof Clark said: "The Metro is central to the City Deal. That deal is not dependent on membership of the EU. That deal has been signed so the first challenge is to think about how to finance the Metro, not which element of the assumed budget may or may not be available and on what basis.

"It's clearly the project that everyone has agreed has the potential to make this city region work, to raise productivity levels, to raise business investment levels and in particular to raise employment and incomes."

Asked about whether the Metro has £125m from the EU attached to it, Cardiff Council leader Phil Bale said there was "a section of money" involved.

"Discussions continue to make sure we can secure that funding as part of the Brexit negotiations. It is early days.

"We have to make a very strong pitch to the UK Government, we've got them to sign a heads of terms agreement and I would expect them to be honoured by the UK Government."

First Minister Carwyn Jones on Monday called for a pledge to honour EU funding commitments set to benefit Wales.

Cardiff Capital Region city deal


over 20 years

  • £734m South Wales Metro

  • £495m Other projects including Innovation District and software academy

  • £50m Extra UK Government cash for Catapult compound semi-conductor project

Q&A: What does the City Deal mean?

Mr Bale also said the region had to look beyond the Brexit result.

"The challenge is immense from the result last week but that doesn't mean you stop, you've got to look at the opportunities and whether we are going to stay in Europe or leave we still have one of the most dynamic growing successful city regions in the UK and we need to make sure we invest in it to make sure those opportunities continue."

Image copyright Patrick Olner
Image caption Prof Greg Clark (second right) and Cardiff council leader Phil Bale (right)

Prof Clark has been involved in urban planning in cities from Rio de Janeiro to Barcelona, Johannesburg and Mumbai to Glasgow.

He said the south Wales region already had attractive features to make the most of - such as the quality of life, the natural environment, hospitals, universities and employers who want to expand.

Chris Sutton, lead director with Cardiff property consultants JLL, said: "We need to look at the region as a whole.

"There are parts of society who feel disconnected and this creates a vehicle to address that.

"We do need to be open to different methods of financing and funding.

"We see institutional funds looking to place their money into long term safe investments. We just need to create the right package for them to invest in."

The Cardiff Capital Region's growth commission will look at industrial sectors and analyse what the region's assets are, including quality of life, its institutions and investors.

It has been asked to provide a detailed economic analysis and outline a strategy for investment, provide ideas and an outline economic strategy.

The Cardiff Capital Region Transition Board will publish a report in the next few weeks and the commission will gather evidence and produce its analysis in October.

The London-based independent think-tank Centre for Cities will be involved in gathering evidence for the way ahead and opportunities for the region.

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