Wales politics

Regeneration funding targeted on communities in decline

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Media captionThe Welsh government calls it a 'step change' in the way regeneration is funded

Funds for regeneration will be targeted to make bigger improvements in fewer places, the Welsh government says.

Up to £30m will be available to turn around rundown communities that are deemed to be in decline.

Launching its new regeneration policy, the Welsh government said it wanted to get maximum impact from the money.

However, seven designated regeneration areas will gradually be wound up, so anywhere in Wales will be able to apply for money to pay for improvements.

The government said it would "target investment more intensively in fewer places".

Town centres, coastal communities and parts of Wales included in the Communities First anti-poverty scheme will be a priority.

The £30m set aside in the next financial year is £4m less than was budgeted this year, although other sources of funding could become available later in the year.

The Welsh government said it wanted to get the private sector involved in efforts to breathe new life into towns and villages.

Regeneration Minister Huw Lewis said local councils would lead applications for funding to pay for schemes that will bring lasting improvements and tackle poverty.

'No second chance'

He said: "With the current squeeze on public finances we have to ensure that every pound spent - be it on health, transport or education - has a regenerative consideration.

"As the economic crisis - and uncertainty - persists, there is no second chance for those of us who serve our communities, to help them create new opportunities."

Image caption Coastal towns like Rhyl will remain a priority for investment

The health, prosperity and skills of local people will be monitored to see what progress is made towards three "national outcomes".

For example, data will be collected on the proportion of families where no-one works, as well as the number of people with qualifications and adults who say they are in good health.

The outgoing regeneration areas are: the Heads of the Valleys, Aberystwyth, Barry, Mon a Menai (Anglesey and the area around the Menai Strait), the north Wales coast, Swansea and the western valleys.

The Heads of the Valleys was the first to be established in 2005.

They will be phased out as existing funding commitments are fulfilled.

The new policy - called Vibrant and Viable Places - says there were limitations to the old approach.

In future, most of the resources available "need to be directed at a few key town centres, coastal communities and Communities First clusters if we are to have a transformational impact", it says.

Under the new scheme, partnerships of councils, other public services, voluntary groups and businesses will bid for funding.

It defines regeneration as reversing economic, social, environmental and physical decline in places where the market will not be able to achieve improvements without help from the government.

Internet and out-of-town shopping present a fundamental challenge to the traditional role of town centres as a places to shop, it says.

Building projects that have helped rejuvenate parts of the country are unlikely to return to the "speculative levels" of the past.

The Conservatives pointed to their own proposals to revive town centre high streets.

Tory AM Byron Davies said: "Carwyn Jones' government must provide reassurances that such money will be wisely spent, because after 14 years of successive Labour governments in the assembly, many Welsh communities still rank amongst the poorest in Europe".

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