IGN in action

Cultural regeneration and inclusive growth in Cardiff

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Inclusive Growth Network

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Cardiff Council is taking an innovative and novel approach to embedding inclusive growth into the development of a new music arena. Following support from the Inclusive Growth Network (IGN), they have secured funding as part of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to appoint a dedicated Communications and Engagement Officer as part of a programme to embed communities in the development of major projects.

Too often, regeneration happens to communities rather than with them. As a result, new development falls short of maximising the economic opportunities and social benefits that could be delivered to local residents and communities. Meaningful and sustained engagement and participation are essential to driving support for major projects, as well as ensuring that the development feels authentically grounded in its community.

Since the early 2000s, the regeneration of Cardiff Bay has transformed the local landscape. However, there is widespread recognition that future development must be better aligned with the city’s inclusive growth ambitions, particularly improving access and opportunities for the residents of Butetown.

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Developing a new arena in Cardiff

The next stage of the Bay’s development journey will centre around Atlantic Wharf, with a new mid-size arena bolstering the city’s thriving music industry and creative ecosystem. Cardiff Council is committed to leveraging this investment to generate local benefits, support the growing creative and cultural economy in Cardiff, and establish good practice in inclusive development that can be continued in major projects throughout Cardiff and beyond.

To this end, Cardiff Council reached out to the IGN to embed inclusive growth principles into the design, construction and operation of the new arena, working with Metro Dynamics and the Centre for Progressive Policy. The broad and ambitious package of recommendations developed through this work benefited from engagement with representatives from the Butetown community as well as members of Cardiff’s wider music industry and culture sector.

Specific recommendations were focused on:

  • Employment - ensuring construction and operational roles are high quality jobs that are of benefit to residents.
  • Residents - establishing the arena as a local asset, part of the community's social and cultural fabric.
  • Creative ecosystem - complementing the city's music strategy and growing cultural offer, supporting the wider creative ecosystem.
  • Physical space - building accessible, appealing, and sustainable spaces.

What next?

Cardiff Council is collaborating with the arena development and operator partners to put many of these recommendations into action, as well as through the delivery of Cardiff Crossrail Phase 1, which has recently been awarded £50m Levelling Up Fund.

Taking an innovative approach, the Council has allocated funding from the UKSPF to community participation and engagement relating directly to major projects, with a dedicated strand of the work looking specifically at the Atlantic Wharf development. This approach is gaining national attention, with Andy Haldane, Chief Executive of the RSA and former Chief Economist at the Bank of England, referring to the adoption of an inclusive growth approach as an example of ‘levelling up in action’.

Key learnings

  • Consider who and where to target activity

Social value framework commitments set out positive additional outcomes that the arena will bring but they do not set out who will be the beneficiaries or how benefits will be retained in the local community. Analysis of the Butetown and Cardiff Bay area suggested that priority beneficiaries for local inclusive growth interventions should include people experiencing medium and long-term unemployment, particularly those with low or no qualifications and young people, especially those not in employment, education or training (NEET). Going beyond the data, it’s key to meaningfully engage with communities as well as local voluntary and community organisations to understand local requirements and interests. This should take the form of a two-way dialogue with long-term structures put in place to continue engagement beyond a one-off exercise.

  • Engage with local residents and relevant sectors

Engagement with council officers, as well as community and sector representatives, is key to understanding the status of development plans and the potential to influence thinking. This is crucial to build inclusive growth principles and interventions into the design, development and operation of regeneration projects. The conversations in Cardiff were open and honest, and the willingness to participate and collaborate, particularly across the cultural and creative industries, demonstrated a strong existing collaborative infrastructure and a sense of community that will be fundamental to delivering meaningful change. Securing buy-in from the community is just as vital as commitments from developers and investors, bringing together institutional and individual interests in a system of inclusive growth-informed development.

  • Develop cross-cutting interventions and complementary activity

The nature of development means that its impacts are felt in a variety of ways: with new physical spaces, new employment opportunities, and sectoral implications. Cardiff’s challenge and opportunity is to bring inclusive growth to all of those different areas of impact, whilst also maintaining a focus on benefitting the local community. For example, a key recommendation is for Cardiff Council to work via existing outreach groups such as the Cardiff Commitment to connect schools and young people in the community with the new arena and with exposure and pathways to the range of careers available in the music, creative, and associated professional industries.

This work has been delivered through fully funded IGN implementation advice – bespoke delivery support, tailored to member needs, which helps to unlock projects that deliver inclusive growth.