A recent MIPIM webinar examined how Cardiff and the surrounding region, through increased development and new infrastructure, is attracting investment and positioning itself for the future. Here, Owen Watkins looks at some of the ways in which the region is positioning itself to take big steps forward.
The region attracts over 20 million annual visitors and is home to world-renowned universities, global companies and cultural institutions. The City Deal sets out a transformative approach in how the region will deliver the scale and nature of investment needed to support the region’s growth plans, such as the £1bn investment in a new South Wales Metro, development of Cardiff Parkway station and Hendre Lakes, regeneration of Central Square, and developments in Cardiff Bay (including a new indoor arena, velodrome, and the ongoing Cardiff Harbour Regeneration Project).
Whilst Councillors Huw Thomas (Leader of Cardiff Council) and Jane Mudd (Leader of Newport City Council) welcomed the recently announced Welsh Government budget for 2021/2022, they agreed that the Barnett formula does not result in sufficient funding for major infrastructure projects required around South Wales, and such projects would require additional substantial UK government investment. The panel agreed that South Wales’ recovery can be driven by the cities in South Wales working with those in the SW of England, particularly as Bristol and SE Wales will be economically disadvantaged by HS2. This is not helped, of course, by the scrapping of the M4 relief road.
South Wales has been very good at promoting energy and creative industries. Chris Potts (Savills) suggested that South Wales is a good option for newcomers because it involves a coalition of regional partners and Welsh Government, which, with devolved power, can be more nimble around developments and funding. A good example of this can be seen in the Welsh Government’s use of the Mutual Investment Model for infrastructure investment (which we have reported on previously here and here) is being used on the continued dualling of the A465 and potentially for new developments at two schools in Cardiff.
The Kalifa Report also recognises Cardiff and South Wales as a growing FinTech hub. Sarah Williams-Gardener (FinTech Wales) outlined that new businesses find Cardiff’s thriving FinTech community and the fact that Cardiff offers flexible office provision and easy connectivity to London particularly desirable.
It has also been reported that Associated British Ports is looking at securing Freeport status covering all of its ports in South Wales - Port Talbot, Swansea, Newport, Cardiff and Barry. For more on Freeports please see our previous post here. Whilst there was no Welsh Freeport confirmed in the recent UK Budget, ports policy is generally devolved to the Welsh Government - who may produce its own policy on Freeports soon.
We are watching the region closely; the pace of development and the stream of funding will need to continue to ensure the region properly benefits, both economically and culturally, propelling it into a prime investment location.