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Caerphilly Council proposes masterplan to regenerate Blackwood boosting economy

An aerial view of Blackwood (Pic: CCBC)

A NEW town square or market, a food festival, and more bars and restaurants could all help Blackwood flourish in future, according to a new masterplan for the town and surrounding area.

Caerphilly County Borough Council is drawing up the plan, laying out ambitious proposals to develop and regenerate the region, and bring in jobs and tourists.

That vision will “strengthen the economy and improve cultural, environmental and social conditions for residents and visitors alike”.

The draft plan – seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) – aims to “establish Blackwood as a sub-regional centre” distinct from Caerphilly and nearby Cardiff and Newport.

Driving part of the council’s vision is the need to shore up local job prospects. The borough has a higher than average number of people working in manufacturing – a sector “vulnerable to the effects of a recession”.

Other reasons for the masterplan include parts of Blackwood town centre looking “dated”, and many businesses operating out of “small, old buildings”.

Store 21 in Blackwood High Street, before and during redevelopment into flats and shops (Pic: Google)

The council believes the masterplan can capitalise on the area’s “strong and broad employment base”, its north-south transport links, “attractive” parks and landscape, and its “strong” night-time economy.

There is an opportunity to create “more lively streets” in Blackwood town centre by encouraging temporary uses, such as markets, and holding more events, such as the annual beach party, which in 2023 brought in a record 7,000 visitors.

The draft masterplan notes a “well-known food and drink festival” could raise Blackwood’s profile, and an event celebrating the area’s “rich” mining history could also bring people in.

The square next to the town’s central bus station has been earmarked as a centre for markets and similar activities.

The market square next to Blackwood bus station, pictured in 2021 (Pic: Google)

The town centre should be “diverse”, the council adds, explaining that mixed-use developments will “help to make the town centre busy both during the day and at night”. The conversion of the old Store 21 in High Street, into five smaller shops and nine flats, shows the potential for change.

The council said Blackwood would also “benefit from additional bars, restaurants and live-music venues” if the town is to attract more footfall in the evenings.

The plan’s reach extends beyond the town centre, however, and includes steps to improve or create community facilities in Cefn Fforest, Crumlin, Oakdale and Pontllanfraith.

The council also believes four areas of land in Oakdale can be developed to build a “cluster of job-creating uses”.

Cllr Jamie Pritchard, the council’s deputy leader and the cabinet member for regeneration, told the LDRS the Blackwood area masterplan was “not a wish list” but would help the local authority “get a feel for what the community at large wants”.

Its proposals will be open to public consultation before any final decisions are made.

Cllr Pritchard added: “We’re engaging with the business community, residents and local councillors to consider what needs doing in the town.

“We recognise town centres have been struggling for a long time.

“The views of businesses are very important to this, as are the views of residents.”

Cllr Kevin Etheridge, one of the three independent councillors representing Blackwood, told the LDRS: “Although I appreciate it is only a draft plan, I look forward to a full stakeholders’ engagement as the views of the retailers and residents matter in regard to any development of our town”. 

He added: “It is essential to see the cost benefit analysis, funding and timescale on these projects, as the Blackwood residents are my priority.”