High Street Regeneration: Inspiration for Historic Welsh Towns
This half-day online seminar was held on 8th September 2022. Its aim was to inspire participants about the role that the historic built environment can play in town centre regeneration of county towns across Wales. It highlighted the challenges and sought to provide guidance on how to overcome some of those challenges based on the experience and expertise of successful projects elsewhere. The focus of the event was on Carmarthen in West Wales, but inspiration and ideas were drawn from across the UK including England’s Hi-Street Heritage Action Zones and the ‘Special Offers’ that historic towns might have.
You can view the seminar presentations here:
Presentation Summaries & Biographies
‘What have our old buildings ever done for us’
Presented by Nell Hellier, Senior Built Heritage Officer, Carmarthenshire County Council
Carmarthen is arguably the oldest continuously inhabited town in Wales, with over 100 listed buildings in the Carmarthen Town conservation Area, 3 of which are Grade I and 2 are Scheduled Ancient Monuments. This presentation outlines the economic, social, cultural, environmental and personal benefits we can all get from our built heritage if we incorporate it into our plans for regeneration of our high streets.
Nell is the Senior Built Heritage Officer for Carmarthenshire County Council. In this role she has statutory responsibilities for Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings in Carmarthenshire, but also runs the Tywi Centre which promotes traditional building skills and education in the care and repair of historic buildings across Wales.
Boosting pride in place in the evolving high street
Chris Wade, Director, People & Places Partnership
Chris Wade talks about the work of the People & Places Partnership in understanding, nurturing and monitoring what contributes to local pride in place for town centres, including recent research in to delivering the objectives of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.”
Chris Wade is the Director of the People and & Places Partnership which provides specialist support to place managers, leaders and partnerships across the UK including through the preparation of the LGA’s Revitalising Town Centres Toolkit. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Place Management and a High Street Task Force Expert. Chris is also an Advisory Board member of the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM). Chris has Masters in Environmental Management from the University of Central England and in Community Enterprise from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School.”
Tackling Vacant Units: from issue to asset
Presented by Iain Nicholson, Founder of The Vacant Shops Academy and part time Strategic Development Lead at The Institute of Place Management
Too many places have more empty units than they need to - some of those in heritage buildings. This presentation focuses on how the ‘audit, engage, encourage, promote’ approach will help, and the part a place can play.
Iain Nicholson is a placemaking specialist focused on tackling high street empty shops challenges, and improving the mix of use types in towns and city centres or suburbs. Much of his town and city centres work has been with agents, landlords, businesses and communities, using an ‘audit, engage, encourage, promote’ approach to reducing the number of vacant units, including extensive experience of running ‘meanwhile… use’ and pop-up shop projects. He is also p/t Strategic Development Lead with The Institute of Place Management, the professional body for place leaders and managers.
Continuity and Change – the Challenges of Re-using Vacant Listed Shops
Helen Ensor BA Hons MA IHBC, Practice Director and Office Leader
Listed buildings present specific opportunities and challenges in terms of re-opening existing vacant retail units. Much of identifying the potential for change and development of a Listed Building relates to understanding its historic significance and this is key to overcoming the challenges of using vacant buildings to their full potential. This presentation uses examples to highlight these opportunities and how challenges have been overcome.
Helen has over 25 years’ experience of working in heritage and conservation in both the private and public sector, as a conservation officer and English Heritage Inspector. She is a Director of the Historic Towns and Villages Forum and regularly lectures on conservation, heritage, significance and setting. She has produced hundreds of heritage impact appraisals, statements of significance and CMPs and believes that these documents are the key to unlocking the potential of the historic environment.
(Re)Making Great Places
Ben Reynolds, Director, Urban Foundry
This presentation discusses the ingredients that constitute sustainable urban environments: What do we need to protect and what do we need to consider when planning any new developments?
Ben Reynolds PhD (Culture & Urban Regeneration) BSc (Hons) MMRS FRSA is the founder and Director of Urban Foundry. He has a Doctorate in the creative regeneration of cities and over 20 years of experience in regeneration. Ben’s approach is one that uses creative thinking combined with a strong theoretical understanding and entrepreneurial thinking to solve a range of problems, from small community initiatives to nationwide schemes and programmes. He is a pioneer of pop-up urbanism initiatives, developing projects in public space such as street markets, live music and art events, and pop-up parks, as well as pioneering Meanwhile/Pop-up uses in empty buildings.
Oswestry: A practical look at the advantages of heritage led regeneration.
Samantha Jones, Samantha Jones, Project Officer, Oswestry Hi-Street Heritage Action Zone
This talk focuses on the ongoing implementation of the Oswestry Hi-Street Heritage Action Zone. Case studies highlight the advantages and hurdles faced when using heritage for economic regeneration.
After gaining a degree in Archaeology at Trinity College, Carmarthen, Samantha first worked at Denbighshire Countryside Service as a warden creating promoted routes before becoming their Hillforts Conservation Officer for the Heather and Hillforts Project. After this role Samantha developed a career in heritage delivering externally funded projects and working with communities to explore their past in organisations such as Conwy County Borough Council and RCAHMW. She now works as the Project Officer for the High Street Heritage Action Zone Project in Oswestry for Shropshire Council.
A Vibrant Destination: Abergavenny’s story
Cllr Tony Konieczny, Mayor of Abergavenny
Abergavenny, like all towns across the country, has faced enormous challenges in retaining a healthy high street, particularly during and post-Covid. Tony presents some of the key ingredients that he has identified, that have enabled Abergavenny retain a vibrant and welcoming community for business and visitors alike.
Mayor Tony Konieczny has been a Labour town councillor for Castle Ward in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire since 2017. A retired deputy head teacher, Tony originally came to work in the area in the early eighties and has lived in Abergavenny since the mid-nineties. Prior to joining the council, he has been a former chairman of Abergavenny and District Civic Society, a trustee of Ty’r Morwydd (Mulberry House) and also Civic Trust Cymru. Currently he is supporting the Plas Gunter Mansion project as vice chair of the Friends’ group and he is also vice chair of Friends of Abergavenny Library Service (FOALS).