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LEVELLING UP

Levelling Up in Practice: Barry Interim Report

Barry is well on its way to being levelled up, but more measures are needed to battle deprivation and boost local economic growth.
Adam Hawksbee, Luke Stanley, Shivani H Menon
February 7, 2023
Levelling Up in Practice: Barry Interim Report

“It’s already getting there. Crime is falling, things are getting better. And Gavin and Stacey has put us on the map.”

Onward’s fourth interim report for the Levelling Up in Practice programme examines the challenges and opportunities facing Barry. 

The Levelling Up White Paper set out the strategy to rebalance the economy at a national scale. It created broad missions to spur policy action until 2030, commitments to devolve power to local leaders, and plans to kickstart a regeneration revolution. But action also needs to come from below.

Our research programme Levelling Up in Practice gives local policy makers the tools to do exactly this. Based on quantitative data and qualitative evidence from conversations with local political leaders, businesses, community organisers and members of the public, it seeks to guide policy makers in levelling up the UK’s left-behind places.

 

Interim evidence and lessons from Barry

Our previous interim reports in the Levelling Up in Practice programme have looked at Oldham in Greater Manchester, South Tyneside in the North East, and Walsall in the West Midlands. This research note covers our analysis, findings, and initial recommendations to level up the Welsh town of Barry in South Wales. These are based on focus groups conducted and meetings with local businesses, local leaders, and community organisations.

Barry is well on its way to being levelled up, and has seen a major physical regeneration over the last 30 years. The revitalisation of the Waterfront through the repurposing of former industrial land has created more housing, co-working areas, and community spaces. 

These developments are the result of active partnership between the community and council, and local entrepreneurs have also created new economic and civic assets that have underpinned renewal. Proactive neighbourhood policing has tackled antisocial behaviour and brought back family tourism. Economic plans have harnessed the relationship between Barry and nearby Cardiff, boosting connectivity and the larger labour market. And Barry’s regeneration efforts have been aided by the TV show “Gavin and Stacey” that boosted local tourism.

 

But this upswing obscures some of the challenges faced by the town. These include: 

  • Low productivity: Typical of a commuter town, Barry has low productivity and hosts lower-skilled jobs in health, retail, and in an underpowered tourism sector. 
  • Concentrated deprivation: While the rest of the Vale of Glamorgan is mostly affluent, Barry is predominantly made up of neighbourhoods that rank among the 10% most deprived in all of Wales. Deprivation levels in Barry have also only marginally improved over the past decade. 
  • High street vacancy: The Holton Road high street in the east reported a vacancy rate of 18%, compared to 9% on the Broad Street high street in the west, and 8% across high streets in the Vale.

 

To combat these challenges, the interim report sets out some recommendations: 

1) Strengthening the economy: The local council could work with short-term letting platforms to better advertise overnight visits to strengthen tourism. Linking up higher productivity businesses like Aston Martin to educational institutions and better capital could retain skilled labour. 

2) Improving public services: Restoring public confidence in health services and improving educational attainment in schools with poor leadership must be key priorities for local leaders. The council could work to increase visibility of health services, a first step for which could be restoring the local Broad Street Clinic. The council could also financially incentivise senior teachers from good schools to transfer to underperforming schools in the town.

3) High street vacancy: Local leaders could make greater use of the ‘Meanwhile Use’ model and create a consolidated High Street Buyout Scheme to revitalise the high street.

 

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