UK: Securing economic resilience outside the UK's main cities

How can planners and policy makers help small and medium sized towns secure a strong and sustainable economic future? UK national event on 17 September 2014 in Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, LL29 7SP.

Working in collaboration with European research partners, the RTPI has been investigating resilience in small and medium sized towns during the recent economic downturn. This varied and informative event provided an opportunity to interact with experts in planning, economic development, and regeneration about the challenges facing small and medium sized towns across the UK. The vast majority of current research on successful places is focused on cities, but yet half the UK's population still lives outside the main urban conurbations. The event was an excellent opportunity to meet with those with an interest in planning and sustainable growth in small and medium towns and discuss the latest ideas and research, and how these can be put into practice by planners and policy makers.

The economic crisis increased income disparity across Europe, with the UK having one of the most marked increases in inequality. Within the UK, Wales, has suffered poorly in terms of resilience and is at the bottom the spectrum of widened income disparity. The presentations in Colwyn Bay explained how spatial policies at a regional level can have a hugely important role to play in facilitating economic success in localities, and that there are measures that can be adopted to support regional economic resilience. Learning from European examples, the development of specialised economies, in combination with spatial focus and prioritisation, can help develop some key attributes that can contribute to greater economic resilience, such as: highly skilled and specialised labour force, the development of local economic specialisms, better connectivity, amongst many others. Regeneration can also be a key policy to helping achieve some of the above attributes, as it enables areas to recalibrate the sector-focus of their economies, improve connectivity and enhance specialisation. The excellent regeneration works carried out in Colwyn Bay, as well as along the towns of the North Wales Coast more generally,were highlighted as examples of what successful regeneration policies can look like in small and medium sized towns.

The programme of the event included:

  • 10:30 – Welcome from local representatives, refreshments and networking
  • 10:45 – RTPI: Overview of latest research outputs discussing some of the factors and policy initiatives that can ensure economic resilience in small and medium sized towns
  • 11:00 – Professor Cliff Hague: Regional development messages for Wales from Europe
  • 11:40 – Alan Southall  - Regeneration Wales: Latest overview of the regeneration industry in Wales
  • 12:20 – Lunch and refreshments provided. Further networking opportunities.
  • 13:20 – Professor Rob Atkinson and Doctor Ian Smith (UWE): Review of latest economic and analytical trends for small and medium towns and associated policy implications
  • 14:00 – Rob Dix - Head of Business and Enterprise, Conwy Borough Council: Bay Life – turning a town around, positive outcomes and lessons learnt from Colwyn Bay’s regeneration
  • 14:40 – Peter James – Welsh Government: Initiatives for helping communities deliver economic success
  • 15:20 – Further discussion and wrap up
  • 15:30 – Close.

Below you can find photos from the event.