Barry regeneration falls at first funding hurdle
6:02am Thursday 12th September 2013 in News
VALE council's bid to secure £15million regeneration funding for Barry was this week rejected by the Welsh Government .
The move was seen as a 'slap in the face’ by some but an ‘opportunity to seek private sector investment’ by others.
All 22 Wales' councils applied for a share of a £90m pot earlier this year with the Vale authority bidding on Barry’s behalf. but on Tuesday the Welsh Government Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Carl Sargeant announced the Vale Council’s bid for funding from the Vibrant and Viable Places programme had been unsuccessful.
Proposals had included maximising opportunities in Gibbonsdown, developing housing models in Castleland and Cadoxton and broadening the mix and appeal of High Street and Broad Street shopping areas as well as infrastructure, education and heritage improvements.
The Vale Council branded the decision disappointing and misguided.
And Barry Island trader and Barry regeneration area board member Marco Zeraschi said he was devastated. He said: “We ticked all the right boxes, but we lacked the ‘wow factor’ and didn’t even make it through the first round.
“It’s like Chelsea being knocked out in the first round by Penarth Wanderers.”
But Pride in Barry chairman and Barry regeneration area board member, Paul Haley said while it was disappointing the Barry bid had failed to progress the decision paved the way for actively seeking private investment in the town.
“Barry’s regeneration struggles have been going on for 20 years and this is a minor blip,” he said.
“We should be making the most of the private sector to explore the opportunities in Barry.”
Vale Council cabinet member for regeneration, innovation, planning and transportation, Lis Burnett said: “To say that we were extremely disappointed to hear the Minister’s decision is a total understatement.
“Barry more than met the criteria for the grant, being a coastal community, having a town centre with regeneration proposals already drawn up and having an excellent track record of regeneration.
“I was extremely excited about the future and in my view this decision is misguided as it fails to recognise the excellent work already undertaken, as well as the need for future and ongoing investment to build on recent success.
“The Minister also appears to have overlooked the fact that Barry benefits from excellent partnership working with a whole host of organisations and individuals already contributing to the regeneration of the town and bringing forward an enthusiasm, commitment and dedication that is unrivalled.
“It appears that housing-led schemes have been favoured but for us it wasn't about building more houses, it was about building vibrant communities.
She added: "There is still a great deal of work to be done in the town. Barry does have its challenges.
“We have some of the most deprived areas in Europe.
“The town has great potential, which we want to harness not only for the benefit of local people, but also for the region as a whole.”
Barry and the other rejected authorities qualify to bid for the further £5million set aside.
She said “That is little consolation, when one considers the comprehensive nature of our bid. The Minister has agreed to meet me in the near future to discuss how he can support future regeneration activity in Barry.
“Even if the Welsh Government has decided that Barry is not a priority, the Council is not prepared to do the same. The regeneration of Wales' largest town remains a top priority for us.
“Discussions will of course include the seeking out of alternative sources of funding and various grants as appropriate.”
Vale MP Alun Cairns said he was angry and frustrated at the announcement.
Alun said: “This is a slap in the face for Barry. I simply cannot believe that we have been left out.
“We are already one of the poorest funded council areas in Wales and this was one of our chances to gain extra cash.
“We had so many hopes for Barry Island and other parts of the town.
“These hopes have been dashed.
“The Welsh Government has some serious explaining to do and I have asked to meet the Minister.
“When I met his predecessor last year, I was told that Barry was ideally placed to benefit from their policies. They were supposedly targeting seaside towns. This has been thrown back at us.
“I am also concerned at the quality of the bid from the council. I hope they will join a campaign and be open to get to the bottom of why Barry has been rejected.
“The matter cannot end here.”
South Wales Central AM, Andrew RT Davies, said the decision was a “body blow to Barry.”
“They clearly need to look closely at whether the application could have been improved in any way because this news is bitterly disappointing.”
“The Minister, when visiting Barry back in May, sang the praises of his own government and the work they were doing for Barry; now he has effectively pulled the plug.”
Vale AM Jane Hutt said further investment in Barry’s regeneration was vital and she was very disappointed.
“I have met with the Minister to discuss my concerns and consider a way forward,” she said.
“The Minister has recognised the benefits of the £9m+ Welsh Government regeneration investment in Barry.
He has also agreed that his officials will work with the Vale Council to look at their proposals for the next stage of regeneration to explore ways of supporting the on-going regeneration.”