Cities and towns generate wealth and improve living standards while providing the networks and interactions that make us more creative and more productive.
The concentration of talent and creativity make them engines of innovation and economic growth – places that we should be celebrating.
And for the first time in our history, most of the world’s population live in these urban communities. More than half of the world’s population live in cities alone – within 30 years this figure is expected to reach 70% – and the trend in Wales is no different. In 2010 it was calculated that around 66.1% of the Welsh population lived in its urban areas, and this percentage has continued to grow year-on-year.
Yet in Wales, cities are still not at the centre of a strategy to drive our country forward to reach its maximum potential. We in the Welsh Conservatives have recognised this absence of ambition, and have put forward our vision to create towns and cities that are fit for the 21st Century.
We believe that it is essential to create liveable cities and urban areas which are good for the economy, socially inclusive, environmentally sustainable and that are built on the principle of promoting the health and well-being of citizens. They need to offer the quality of life and opportunity that not only makes citizens want to live in them, but also to create a business friendly environment for sustainable investment.
We have the opportunity to attract highly skilled young people who are currently squeezed out of London and the overheated South East of England.
The great cities of Wales must be centres of excellence for our young people and for tomorrow’s social, creative and business entrepreneurs. We can build the new modern, state-of-the-art, 21st Century cities that will set new standards for other cities, in Europe, Asia and America.
We are still yet to see the significant economic growth that has materialised in many other cities across the UK, such as Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. But the advent of the Cardiff and Swansea Region city deals between Westminster and Cardiff Bay provides the Welsh Government with an opportunity for greater ambition.
Whilst the deals are a hugely significant and welcome development for Wales, they also present us with a big challenge. As we have witnessed in many cities around the world, a lack of innovative and sustainable planning has too often left the blight of deprivation, overcrowding and urban sprawl. Our White Paper, entitled ‘Liveable Cities – A Strategy for Welsh Urban Renewal’ introduces 25 policy proposals that will transform our urban environments, and puts forward our plans to prevent these problems.
The policies are conceived with the short, medium and long-term in mind, and address four key themes: Lifestyle, Transport, Housing and Design. Each theme is further divided into specific factors that are key to urban liveability, and which are linked and measured by health and wellbeing outcomes. These factors include: parks and green spaces; internet connectivity; cycling & walking; electric vehicles; energy efficiency in housing; and increased tree coverage and green roofs.
Our strategy provides us with a clear path to towns and cities of excellence – the places where people want to work and live.
And at the heart of our strategy are these key commitments:
- To make Cardiff the UK’s first Carbon Neutral City;
- To pilot a city wide single-use plastics ban in Wales;
- Ensure that all commercial developments of over 1,000 m² must have green roofing for at least 50% of the total roof area of the development;
- Publicly owned urban brownfield sites will be provided at a discount to develop Urban Eco Quarters – housing developments with shared gardens and which are high density, sustainable and provide for a mixture of tenures;
- To implement clean air zones in Newport, Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham;
- Co-ordinate our urban policies so that more of Wales’ busiest streets can become pedestrian zones.
Our towns and cities belong to all the people of Wales and need to be engines of growth, creativity and learning. Above all, people must be put first. Our White Paper puts forward our policy proposals to transform our communities by enhancing the great urban inheritance that has been passed to us, and by adding a new sense of ambition for the future.
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