Aberdare Town Centre Strategy approved after positive consultation

Written by on 21st December 2023

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet has approved the adoption of the Aberdare Town Centre Strategy which outlines investment themes and a future vision for the town. The draft version was revised using important feedback from a recent consultation. 

In July 2023, Cabinet Members agreed to consult residents on a draft strategy for Aberdare Town Centre, to set out strategic objectives that will serve as a blueprint for future investment. The draft was compiled after initial engagement with local residents and businesses – and the wider public consultation subsequently took place from August 7 to September 18, 2023.

On Monday, December 18, Cabinet considered the consultation feedback, reviewed officers’ proposed revisions to the strategy, and approved the updated version. This is now agreed as the final adopted strategy.

The consultation included six in-person events in local communities, an exhibition at Aberdare Library and engagement with four local schools, while an information page and a survey were hosted on the Council’s website. The exercise was promoted online (including on social media), and via leaflets and posters sent to town centre businesses. In total, 142 surveys were returned, 17 people completed an online ‘quick poll’, and 50 people attended an event.

Positive feedback was received from the survey responses – 69.3% agreed with the opportunities outlined in the strategy, 86.4% ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the strategy’s overall vision, 77.5% supported the investment themes, and 80.4% agreed with the identified challenges facing the town.

Key themes from the in-person events included strong support for improving the town centre’s appearance and offer, focusing on the town’s identity as a tourist destination and linking to local attractions, growing the programme of events, and increasing partnership working with existing community groups.

Following the consultation, officers undertook a final review of the strategy to integrate some of the key points raised. These include specific promotion of ‘adventure tourism’ to build on Aberdare’s green credentials and to promote the natural landscape within the visitor offer, further acknowledging the need to support the Welsh language through locally-led initiatives, and identifying the potential for new development in and around Aberdare’s ‘Market Quarter’.

Other revisions include promoting the Cwmbach Wetlands following recent positive work to preserve and protect the area’s nature, habitat and wildlife. The amended strategy also references using vacant shop windows to promote Aberdare’s offer and to tell the town’s story, and identifies improvements to existing connectivity routes.

Monday’s Cabinet report includes a full summary of the consultation survey responses and the feedback received during the in-person events – as well as further details about the revisions made to the final version of the strategy.

A summary of the Aberdare Town Centre Strategy – its future vision, strategic objectives and investment themes – is included at the bottom of this update.

Councillor Mark Norris, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Development and Prosperity, said:

“Cabinet Members have agreed to approve the updated version of the Aberdare Town Centre Strategy, which will now be adopted by the Council as a clear framework through which all future investment for the town can be coordinated. Similar processes have worked very well for other Rhondda Cynon Taf towns such as Mountain Ash, Porth and Pontypridd, to plan and deliver the next stages of regeneration activity.

“The positive consultation response made it clear there is strong support for what we want to achieve in Aberdare. I’m pleased that officers were able to further tweak the draft strategy using the feedback from residents, and to bring an updated version for Cabinet’s consideration. My thanks go to residents and businesses that took part in the consultation, for providing very constructive feedback that has helped shape the final, now-agreed strategy.

“We know there are significant challenges facing Aberdare Town Centre, replicated at high streets across the UK. However, there are many things to be optimistic about. Derelict sites like the Boot Hotel, the Old Town Hall and the Black Lion have recently been brought back into use, while just outside the town centre there has been major investment at the Sobell site, the Coleg y Cymoedd building and the business units at Robertstown – while the South Wales Metro and the repurposing of the Rock Grounds are on the horizon.

“There is also a very strong business community locally, brought together by the ‘Our Aberdare’ Business Improvement District whose 250 members are working together to discuss initiatives, tackle challenges and deliver positive change in the town. Now, with the Aberdare Town Centre Strategy in place, there is an agreed blueprint through which the Council can plan and develop future investment, towards achieving a set of shared goals for the town.”

Now agreed, the Aberdare Town Centre Strategy sets out the following vision:

“To build upon Aberdare’s unique heritage and strategic location to create a more vibrant, dynamic and attractive destination for both local residents and visitors to the area”. Its strategic objectives include:

  • Improving sustainability by increasing footfall and capturing a greater share of visitor spend.
  • Maximising the use of town centre sites and premises to diversify the range of services and amenities.
  • Improving the safe use of public spaces at street level, and providing better connections to nearby destinations.
  • Supporting the development of a greater variety of businesses within the town for both visitors and local needs.
  • Enhancing the town centre’s overall appearance and identity.

Six investment themes have been put forward to help deliver these objectives:

  • Redeveloping and re-using existing buildings for high-quality restaurants, visitor accommodation, workspaces, and a unique retail offer.
  • Working with businesses and the community to bring Aberdare’s story to life, making the town’s offer and heritage more visible, and strengthening its conservation area.
  • Strengthening the town’s identity as a desirable place to live, work and visit by enhancing the visitor experience, and building upon the existing ‘Adventure Tourism’ offer.
  • Improving and promoting walking/cycling routes and improved signage, including to nearby destinations.
  • Further enhancing town centre open spaces, supporting biodiversity, creating high-quality spaces for new businesses and leisure opportunities, and hosting more events.
  • Exploring local partnerships and building on the good work of the Our Aberdare Business Improvement District (BID) to establish new initiatives and further support businesses.

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