To receive a report by Hardisty Jones Associates, commissioned by Devon County Council, reviewing the potential for urban renewal in Devon’s Coastal and Market Towns.
Mr Gareth Jones from ‘Hardisty Jones’ attended the meeting via Zoom to present a report prepared for Devon County Council entitled ‘Urban Renewal in Devon’s Coastal and Market Towns’. This study was about the future role and prosperity of market and coastal towns in Devon. The county was part of the Heart of the South West (HotSW), so original research undertaken for the study on Devon complimented recent work on the future of towns in HotSW.
The following was highlighted within the presentation:
· Policy Objectives for Towns
· Devon Towns: Future Objectives
· Pilot Towns: High Level Plan
· Potential Projects: Themes
· Recovery from Covid 19
· Places to live
· Places to work
· Places to visit
· Places to shop
· Places to access services
· Healthy and vibrant places
· Inclusive places
· Sustainable places
· Connected places
The following comments and discussion took place following the presentation regarding:
· Managing to achieve affordable housing within towns remained a difficult issue. A number of mechanisms could aid this such as accessing available government funds, investing in the conversion of unused spaces, working with Homes England and developing robust Local Plans and development strategies.
· Evidence for the study had been gathered from businesses, resident groups and district councils. All the towns spoken to had shown great enthusiasm for economic growth.
· Investors needed confidence in the potential success of suggested projects. Taking an initial risk which proved to be successful could lead to further investment and an increase in confidence amongst investors going forwards.
· The Group felt that they agreed with the aspirations and goals of the study but that they had heard a lot of this before and questioned the reality of being able to achieve these objectives given current financial constraints.
· The key was having projects, a strategy and a vision that were ‘shovel ready’ so that when government funding was available the Council was ready to proceed as quickly as possible.
· ‘Business improvement districts’ could have a strong role to play in the future but there were challenges since they were largely funded through additional Business Rates.
· The need for examples of projects nationally where initial investment had led to successful outcomes for the economy of regenerated towns.
· The need for reality checks, for example, public transport challenges in the local area, also Mid Devon had a limited amount of land available and that which was available was expensive. Also the lack of adequate Broadband continued to be a key issue of concern in rural areas.
· Applying for funding was an extremely competitive business, however, funding pots were available. Local Councils had been promised ‘Levelling Up’ funds and Devolution in the future so there was a reason to be optimistic.
· The study had identified Tiverton as being one of the towns which would benefit from further funding. Work was being undertaken to articulate a clear vision and strategy which could be used as a future template for other towns within the district.
The Chairman concluded the discussion by stating that the Economic Development Team needed to thoroughly analyse the report and extract from it the benefits that could be applied to Mid Devon. The key appeared to be having ‘shovel ready’ projects so that as soon as government funds were available the Council could apply without delay. It was about putting the Council in the best possible position and investing in project plans and business cases as soon as possible.