Wales politics

Mid Wales just 'playground' unless growth deal succeeds

Countryside around Talgarreg, Ceredigion
Image caption Mid Wales could follow Cardiff and Swansea in getting a growth deal

Mid Wales has little future other than as a "playground" for tourists unless plans to boost its economy succeed, a council leader has warned.

Ceredigion leader Ellen ap Gwynn said a mid-Wales growth deal could mean more than 4,000 new jobs and a £200m boost.

Mid Wales has relied heavily on public sector jobs that have been lost as public services have been cut.

Growth deals involve the UK and Welsh governments, councils and private firms using cash to boost a region's economy

Ms ap Gwynn said the project was a chance to support businesses at a time of Brexit uncertainty.

She and Powys council leader Rosemarie Harris outlined the 15-year plans to assembly members on Thursday.

Growth deals for the Cardiff and Swansea regions have been agreed, although UK and Welsh ministers announced an independent review of the Swansea deal last month. A plan in north Wales is still being finalised.

Ms ap Gwynn told BBC Wales the proposal for mid Wales had to be truly "transformative".

"The way things are sounding with Brexit, who knows what will happen between now and the end of March.

"We have got to try and take every opportunity we can to support businesses and the development of businesses in mid Wales. Otherwise there is not much future apart from as a playground."

She said mid Wales had relied too much on the public sector in the past "because of the weakness of the economy".

She added that the deal "gives us a pot of money with which we can invest in the future. And hopefully invest to the benefit of the private sector".

Image caption Ellen ap Gwynn says the plan is a long-term project

The UK government said it would welcome proposals for a mid Wales growth deal at the Budget in November 2017, to complete the picture of growth deals covering all parts of Wales.

Giving evidence to the assembly's economy committee on Thursday, Powys council's deputy chief executive David Powell suggested such a deal was needed to save the very social fabric of mid Wales.

"I just reflect on the importance of doing this for the sustainability not only of mid Wales but for public services in mid Wales, because we're seeing depopulation in mid Wales.

"Now unless this is reversed this really does call into question the sustainability of the current structures that we've got across mid Wales."

'Tremendous potential'

Environment Systems, based at the Aberystwyth Science Park, is backing a mid Wales growth deal.

The firm's Dr Jamie Williams thinks the area needs to invest in transport links because "Aberystwyth is reasonably isolated as far as connections go".

"Some of the connections, the transport links, could be improved. The railway network and fast links."

Aberystwyth University's Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan sees "tremendous potential" in a growth deal for a region with a "certain number of challenges and opportunities".

"We think that with the sort of experience we can bring to the table, the research and innovation excellence we have, as well as working more closely with businesses across a range of sectors, we can make use and take advantage of the opportunities we have," he said.

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