Saturday, September 30, 2017

Newtown. Facing the Global-Rural challenge. Again.

A hugely encouragingly visit to Newtown this afternoon. Parked by the Post Office and walked through an almost fully let Ladywell Shopping Centre. Not seen that for years. Just needs the supermarket site to be occupied now. Then through the new Market Hall. Full of bustle. Bursting at the seams with business activity. Not seen that since is was upgraded two years ago. I know one afternoon is not a renaissance, but it felt a bit like that.
The reason I was there was to visit 'An Exhibition of Newtown's Global Past' located next door to the Market Hall. For me it was as emotional as it was informative. What was being presented as history was (and is) a part of my own life. The only depressing part of the day was me appearing as an interviewee on screen almost 30 yrs ago. Oh the ravages of time!
The history was there, even if it seemed 'current' to me because of the connections to today. When I left Caereinion School to work on the family farm, the economy of Montgomeryshire was being disrupted on two fronts - two aspects of 'globalisation'. Firstly there was the movement of population from farm based employment to our market towns. And after the 2nd World War, the exodus of population from Mid Wales to areas with better communications and access to the big markets. In the 60s/70s/80s/90s, government intervention turned the economy around. I thought that 'intervention' ended two years too soon.
And on to today. The threats to the Mid Wales economy are all around us. Promotion of economic development is being arranged all around us. The Cardiff City Deal, Swansea City Deal, North Wales Growth Deal and the Midlands Engine connected to the Marches LEC. I don't advocate a body based on 'top down' Government intervention like the DBRW, but there does need an organised locally based partnership drawing on Welsh and UK Governments, local economic interests and local authorities. My own experiences of 'top down' intervention lead me to despair at the absence of planning to maximise the benefit of the new Newtown Bypass.
The questions being asked by the Aberystwyth University's GLOBAL-RURAL project was about confidence in the future of Mid Wales. I am an optimist. I usually am about what can be achieved. I know there are threats, and not just from competition on our borders. There's the changes into how government support into the rural economy will impact post Brexit. Certainly planners must become more supportive of farm diversification. But I do think the new Bypass will have a positive impact, even if not planned and maximised.
The exhibition is going to be moving around. I recommend anyone with an interest in our economy takes an hour or two to visit.

1 comment:

Jude said...

For once, a blog post where I agree with everything you say.

To add, i notice the county times ran a story this week about an MP visiting with Powys county council. This I welcome. My only concern is we have had a Conservative government and a Conservative MP here since 2010. Why has it taken 7 years for an MP to work with the council?

Chris Davies MP (B&R) is really trying for Powys.

Love Jude.