RURAL areas of Flintshire are being earmarked for regeneration as part of the council’s plan for the next five years.
Members of Flintshire Council’s environment and economy scrutiny committee were given an update on the authority’s plan for 2023-2028 by head of planning Andrew Farrow.
He said that Levelling Up projects had been removed from the plan after recent funding bids for projects such as renovation of the clocktower in Sealand had been unsuccessful earlier this year.
Cabinet member for the environment, Caergwrle Cllr Dave Healey (Lab) singled out a commitment to focusing on the needs of rural areas in the county as an important part of the five-year plan.
He said: “In this council plan we are reaching out to communities across Flintshire to an extent we have not done before.
“It will aim to commission a review for rural Flintshire and hold a community consultation to better understand rural community needs by March 2024.
“That is the first time anything like this has gone into one of our Flintshire Council plans.
“The issues are different from the town centres, there are fundamental problems with access to services and I think we have an opportunity in Flintshire to arrive at innovative ways of addressing some of the issues that affect people in rural communities.”
Buckley Pentrobin Cllr Mike Peers (Ind) asked about the phosphates issue currently affecting planning, with river pollution fears holding up developments and seeing applications refused until it is resolved.
Mr Farrow responded to say progress was being made on this issue.
He said: “We intend to bring a paper to planning strategy group, just in terms of what the situation is because I think that Welsh Water and NRW are both committed now to improving the treatment works within the critical catchment area for Flintshire – the non-tidal area of the River Dee.
“I think we’ve got some good progress there.”
Cllr Peers also asked about whether the Levelling Up projects could be kept on ice in case other funding opportunities become available.
Mr Farrow said: “We’ve withdrawn it as we don’t know what the future for Levelling Up is.
“The feedback we had from central government is the quality of our bids were high but it was just the competition that was there.
“There were some aspects about value for money on some of them, but essentially we’ve got three projects which are sound and could be brought forward, so I don’t see it as a waste of time to have developed those projects.
“We don’t know if there will be a round three (of Levelling Up) but we’ve got projects so that if other resources become available we can align those with whatever becomes available.”
Cllr Peers’ next point was about public transport and the impact of car parking charges and empty shop premises in town centres.
He said: “The way Welsh Government is looking at the moment, pushing everyone towards reliance on public transport is all well and good but it needs to be in place.
“We also have the issue of car parking as well. It’s been demonstrated that car parking charges do have an impact and if we’re looking at town centre regeneration we need to look at the impact that could affect that and the footfall.
“Certainly we need to look at doing something with redundant buildings that have got the metal shutters down.
“It does not look good in the street scene, looking at these shutters down all day, and I think also we need to look at night-time economy proposals as well.
“The shutters come down at 5pm and that seems to be it.”
Mr Farrow assured Cllr Peers that the council plan aimed to resolve some of these issues.
“I would hope that as a result of the place plans we’re doing it will look at what’s holding back some of the development in these towns”, he said.
“Car parking charges will have an impact on it as well, we’ll take that into account.
“Redundant buildings are an interesting one.
“Walking down streets with the shutters down is not an attractive look and I think we can look at what’s been done in other towns where they have put temporary features up, displays in shops – it just gives it a different look and makes it more welcoming.
“Part of that is the council providing funding to get the displays in place.”