Building the region

Building the region

At 4theRegion we’ve been very excited about the construction of Copr Bay. Phase one of this £135m project has brought Swansea an amazing new arena (where we hosted its first major conference!), a stunning new bridge, the first new park in the city centre since Victorian times, new apartments, and spaces for food and drink businesses.

Swansea Arena lit up for our Swansea City Centre Conference on March 17th 2022 (Pic: Adam Davies)

This has been a major boost for local workers and businesses. In fact, research has found the main growth driver for the Welsh construction sector is the £1bn worth of planned developments that will transform the centre of Swansea, which includes Copr Bay Phase One.

A report by Swansea Council and main contractor Buckingham Group found Copr Bay Phase One supported 8,000 person weeks of employment, apprenticeships and trainee placements. And it was good to see that 41.5% of supply chain spend stayed in the region, with 64% staying in Wales.

The development and construction sectors offer fantastic career opportunities, and we need to think about how we get more young people into the industry.

Why is that important?

A report by the Construction Industry Training Board has found, if Wales is to meet our projected growth prospects, we’ll need to recruit an extra 11,500 construction workers by 2026. If you, or someone you know, is interested in a career, the most in demand roles will be in bricklaying, the electrical trades, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Regeneration is something we should all do together. So how do we ensure major projects are designed and delivered in a way that will provide long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for our region?

Some very exciting opportunities could come from the 20 year agreement Swansea Council recently confirmed with regeneration firm Urban Splash to transform the centre of Swansea with a series of £750m developments.

And last week, Urban Splash announced a joint venture with real estate developer Milligan to transform a 5.5 acre site in the area of St Mary’s Church. Early proposals include new office buildings, shared workspaces, apartments and an area for small creative businesses to make and sell their products.

Other ideas could include transforming the Civic Centre site into a mixed use destination, anchored by the beach, with new homes and a leisure and hospitality focus, and the residential led regeneration of a site in St Thomas featuring a new terraced walk providing direct access to the river for the first time in over 150 years.

And what other development projects could be coming to the region? We’ve taken a look at just a few of them.

Could a building feed us?

Bouygues UK have now started work on 71/72 Kingsway, which will include an urban farm style greenhouse set over four floors. Plants and vegetables will be grown in water and fed by waste pumped from fish tanks at the bottom of the building! This ‘living building’ will include green walls and green roofs, an educational facility, retail, offices, a landscaped courtyard, rooftop solar panels, battery storage and gardens. Set to accommodate 600 workers, 71/72 Kingsway will be made up of the former Woolworths and a new 13 storey structure. Pobl Group will manage 50 affordable apartments forming part of the scheme.

What about somewhere to spend quality time and relax?

Swansea’s Castle Square was once much greener than it is now, and is set to return to its former glory. There will be more plants, lawned areas and trees, as well two green roofed commercial units, and a water jet feature which can be switched on or off for different events at different times.

How can old buildings be put back into use?

Old theatres and cinemas, which are have lain empty for years, are being given new life as spaces for local businesses and communities. Swansea’s Albert Hall and Port Talbot’s iconic Plaza building will also once again be entertainment venues, while Swansea’s Palace Theatre will become a home for tech, start-up and creative businesses, with workspaces for over 130 people.

How Swansea’s new city centre community hub could look (Pic: Austin-Smith:Lord Ltd)

Oxford Street’s former BHS/What! building will become the new central location for Swansea’s main library and key council services, such as housing, benefits, employability, lifelong learning, and archives. Designers say the appearance of the structure, built in the 1950s, will have an impact appropriate to a public building, with translucent cladding backlit as a beacon to attract visitors.

It’s hoped Carmarthen’s former Debenhams will also be transformed into a hub to deliver a range of health, wellbeing, learning and cultural services. It could also become home for some of Carmarthenshire’s museum collections, an exhibition space, and a welcome point for visitors to the town.

How can a building generate its own power?

That’s happening with the Bay Technology Centre! The 25,000 square foot office and laboratory space in Baglan Energy Park uses innovative design and materials, including specialist photovoltaic panels made to look like cladding, to provide a sustainable building that’s energy positive. The design also means the ‘thermal mass’ of exposed precast floor slabs can store and transfer heat from the building, providing a cost effective heating solution. The plan is to convert excess energy into hydrogen at the Hydrogen Centre nearby.

The Blue Eden project will go even further than that! A 9.5km tidal lagoon will provide the energy for a manufacturing plant, a battery facility, a floating solar array, a data centre, residential waterfront homes for 5,000 people, and approximately 150 floating eco-homes in Swansea waterfront. Blue Eden will create over 2,500 permanent jobs, support a further 16,000 jobs across the UK, and create additional jobs during its construction.

The pandemic has changed the way people think about their living space, community areas, and the importance of work-life balance. So how could we be living differently?

St Modwen wants to expand the Coed Darcy neighbourhood in Llandarcy, Neath. The huge site, a former oil refinery, is set to be home to more than 1,800 new homes, a school and shops. It will be an ‘innovative and sustainable new 15 minute neighbourhood’, where everything that’s important would be within a 15 minute walk or bike ride.

What about our health and wellbeing?

The first phase of the £199m wellness and life science village in Llanelli has been given the go ahead. Based at Delta Lakes, this will feature a new leisure centre, hydrotherapy pool, clinical and research space, and education and business space. The project will eventually feature four zones, including assisted living accommodation and clinical recovery space, spread over 83 acres. The contract with Bouygues UK included ‘the highest level of community benefits ever prescribed’, including targets for sourcing through local suppliers. It’s hoped Pentre Awel will create just over 1,800 jobs when completed.

What about innovation?

University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s £9.3m Innovation Matrix will be home to small but growing businesses. It’ll be a digital space, but with a manufacturing centre, testing laboratories and 3D printing facilities in UWSTD’s IQ building next door. The roof would feature solar panels, and the environmentally friendly building wouldn’t require any gas.

What about transport?

The Welsh Government’s flagship £200m Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) will create a hub for rolling stock and infrastructure testing, innovation, storage and maintenance at the site of the former Nant Helen opencast mine and Onllwyn coal washery at the head of the Dulais and Tawe Valleys, straddling the border between Neath Port Talbot and Powys.

It’s expected to create over 100 direct jobs, and could create many more as academic and industrial partners are attracted to the site. Featuring the UK’s first net zero railway, GCRE will include the first comprehensive rail testing and innovation facility of its kind in the world, with capacity and capabilities for rigorous testing of rolling stock, infrastructure, and integrated systems from prototype to implementation.

And what about tourism?

The steel framework of the new Hafod-Morfa Copperworks clock tower is put in place (Pic: Swansea Council)

The Hafod-Morfa Copperworks were once the largest copperworks in the world. After lying derelict for years, work started to transform it into a new visitor attraction for Penderyn Whisky. Much of the new visitor centre is now up. The roof of the powerhouse, which will include an on-site distillery, is well advanced. And contractors John Weaver will recreate the powerhouse’s original clock tower. Plans also include a shop, tasting bar, exhibition space, offices and VIP bar in the fully refurbished grade two listed building.

Regeneration is something we should all do together. We need to ensure major projects are designed and delivered in a way that will provide long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for our region.

4theRegion are hosting our next Construction & Development Sector Forum on July 12th. Meet businesses and organisations from your sector to talk about opportunities to collaborate for the greater good in South West Wales. Hear from 4theRegion members and partners about their work in the region, their social purpose, and their ambitions for the future, emerging opportunities to collaborate and support each other across South West Wales! You can register your free place here.

A New App To Promote Local Suppliers

A New App To Promote Local Suppliers

A new app has been created to promote local sourcing, and businesses are being encouraged to sign up ahead of its official launch later this month.

4theRegion has created the app to promote “buying regional”, which is one of our six impact areas.

“Our members know that procurement and local sourcing are at the heart of our mission at 4theRegion, which is why we are excited to be able to release this new tool for businesses and buyers in South West Wales. We really want to see major organisations spending their money with regional businesses, in order to maximise the social, economic and environmental benefits of that spend,” said Dawn Lyle, 4theRegion cofounder.

Businesses are now being encouraged to sign up to the app and list their products and services. It’s free to register, and the aim is to raise awareness of the wealth of local suppliers that exist across the region, becoming a useful directory for organisations committed to relocalising more of their spending.

Click here to register on the app on your phone or web browser – no download necessary.

“Local businesses are embedded in their communities, they create jobs and give back to local places in a whole range of positive ways – and by supporting local firms we can create a thriving regional economy that benefits everyone in South West Wales,” said Julie Jones, Local Sourcing Champion at 4theRegion.

The app has been in development for some time, and will be formally launched in Swansea at a meeting with major regional organisations on 28th June, involving the big housing associations, local authorities, and major anchor institutions such as the Universities, the DVLA and others.

The initial roll out is supported through a partnership project with Swansea Council, funded through the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund, aimed at “creating opportunities for local sourcing” among major employers across the county. It is hoped that the other three local authorities in South West Wales will get involved as the initiative moves forward, along with major buyers from across Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

Click here to register for the launch event on Tuesday 28th June 2022, via Zoom (12pm-2pm).

Energy is all around us

Energy is all around us

Rising energy prices have put a huge squeeze on household budgets and continue to drive inflation. But the energy we need is already all around us, it’s just a lot of it’s untapped!

The International Energy Agency estimates that floating wind turbines could help provide enough electricity to satisfy the world’s electricity needs eleven times over (Pic: Principle Power Dock 90)

Did you know renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels, which have soared in price during the war in Ukraine? Onshore and offshore wind and solar power cost about £40 per megawatt hour, but gas fired power generation costs about £140 per megawatt hour.

And some of the most exciting opportunities are around floating offshore wind farms, which the Celtic Sea seems purpose built for.

If you don’t like the look of wind turbines – don’t worry because floating wind farms are much further out to sea! Conventional offshore wind turbines are fixed to the seabed, which means they can only be used in waters up to sixty metres deep. That means around 80% of the exploitable energy resources of our oceans remain largely unharnessed. The International Energy Agency estimates that floating wind turbines could help provide enough electricity to satisfy the world’s electricity needs eleven times over!

The floating wind sector contributed nearly £2.2m to the Welsh economy in recent years. It’s expected to grow significantly over the next decade, with £682m in supply chain opportunities for Wales and Cornwall predicted by 2030!

So what kinds of projects are we going to see?

Blue Gem have proposed Erebus, a 96MW test and demonstration project, which will become one of the largest floating offshore wind projects in the world when constructed in 2026. Erebus will consist of six to ten turbines up to16MW in size. These turbines could be up to two hundred and sixty five metres from sea surface to blade tip, which is about twice the height of the London Eye! Just one rotation provides enough energy to power an entire household for over twenty four hours. Erebus will be followed by Valorous, a 300MW early commercial project, capable of providing green energy to 279,652 homes per year. Both projects are named after famous ships built in Pembroke Dock.

Pembroke Dock based Hiraeth Energy, working in collaboration with Magnora Offshore Wind, will develop two floating wind projects in the Celtic Sea, called Môr Glas and Môr Gwyrdd, with up to 700MW total installed capacity. It’s been reported that these wind farms could power half the homes in Wales! This partnership is particularly exciting as it’s committed to enabling a proportion of community ownership and has ring fenced 10% of the Môr Glas and Môr Gwyrdd  projects for this purpose.

Floating wind farms also form part of the £60m Pembroke Dock Marine programme, which aims to place Pembrokeshire at the heart of global zero carbon marine energy innovation.

The Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone, managed by WaveHub, is a 90km2 area of sea, being developed for the demonstration of wave and floating offshore wind technologies with a capacity of up to 180MW.

Pembroke Dock Marine will also include the Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence, providing research, development and demonstration support, developments to Pembroke Port to create spaces that help industry fabricate, launch and maintain devices, and the Marine Energy Test Area, which provides eight low cost, low risk test areas for marine energy developers. The programme is expected to generate £73.5m a year for the regional economy.

But it’s not just Pembrokeshire.

There are also a big opportunities for Port Talbot, who RWE are working with to see whether their port facilities can support a number of gigawatt scale floating wind projects.

At a recent meeting of the Neath Port Talbot Innovation Exchange (which we host in partnership with Neath Port Talbot Council for businesses in the manufacturing and engineering sectors across the county), Andrew Clarke from ABP presented exciting plans for investment in the expansion of the port, specifically with a view to it being a key gateway to Wales’ floating offshore wind sites.

This would see Port Talbot becoming a globally significant production hub by the end of the decade, using the port’s unique combination of deep water access, brownfield land, rail connections, manufacturing capacity and skilled labour. Port Talbot will be where thousands of blades, mooring systems, substructures and cables are made, married up with tower sections and nacelles, and towed out to destination sites.

Swansea based Marine Power Systems have developed the only solution of its type that can be configured to harness both wind and wave energy in deep water. Notably they consider the whole lifecycle of their platforms. With the earliest offshore wind farms already reaching the end of their lives, Marine Power Systems have worked with Swansea University to look at how they can eventually be recovered and recycled back into their component parts.

We don’t always know when the wind will be blowing. But marine renewables are always predictable!

A groundbreaking project proposed for Swansea’s waterfront will see a newly designed tidal lagoon, featuring state of the art underwater turbines generating three hundred and twenty megawatts of renewable energy from the 9.5km structure.

The lagoon is part of the larger Blue Eden project led by DST Innovations which will also include a manufacturing plant to make high tech batteries for renewable energy storage, a battery facility that will store the renewable energy produced (If constructed now, it would be the world’s largest facility of its kind), a floating solar array (This would be the UK’s largest facility of its kind), a data centre (This would be the UK’s first centre of its kind), residential waterfront homes for five thousand people, and approximately a hundred and fifty floating, highly energy efficient eco-homes. All of this will be powered by the renewable energy produced on site!

Blue Eden will create over two thousand five hundred permanent jobs, support a further sixteen thousand jobs across the UK, and create additional jobs during its construction. Subject to planning consent, work could start early next year.

And what about on dry land? If you’re a business, solar energy offers plenty of opportunities.

Egni Co-op has already installed over 4.5MWp of capacity on ninety sites, including schools, community buildings and businesses (Pic: Egni Co-op)

Could the sun power a hospital? It was hoped a solar farm would supply Morriston Hospital in Swansea with a fifth of its energy consumption every year. But at times it was able to provide all the electricity needed to run the site, even during the winter months, and even sell energy back to the National Grid! It was thought, when fully operational, the scheme would cut carbon emissions by a thousand tonnes and save £500,000 a year, but with energy prices rising, the health board now believes savings could be almost double that figure.

Could the sun power a university? RDM Electrical & Mechanical Services and EFT Consult are working on a highly innovative project to install rooftop and carport solar photovoltaics schemes, as well as a battery energy storage system and electric vehicle chargers at Swansea University. The project will demonstrate how a large site can control its impact on the grid by storing energy generated from renewable sources, drawing down from the grid only when power is cheapest or least carbon intensive.

Could the sun power your business?

Egni Co-op has already installed over 4.5MWp of capacity on ninety sites, including schools, community buildings and businesses.

Swansea BID wants to go even further than that, and is currently crowdfunding for Solar Swansea, a project to create an urban solar farm on the flat roofs of Swansea city centre. This, combined with the Blue Eden project, would potentially make Swansea city centre self-sustaining!

But you don’t always need to think big with solar energy. When Ashley Collins, sole trader of Flynn’s Coffee, wanted to convert her mobile café to run entirely on solar power she was told it couldn’t be done. She taught herself electronics by researching online and watching YouTube videos and now runs her mobile barista venture on solar power while selling her coffee at festivals and events across South Wales, in between basing the business in Swansea Marina.

Energy prices are rising. But renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels. It’s all around us, it’s just a lot of it’s untapped!

4theRegion has been given the opportunity to host a business conference for Swansea that will give local companies a meaningful voice and part to play in the county’s green transition. Energy will be a big part of that! The Swansea Green Recovery Business Conference takes place in Brangwyn Hall on June 27th. You can register your free place here, and if you’d like to be involved, please contact zoe@4theRegion.org.uk

How do we feed ourselves?

How do we feed ourselves?

The food and farming sector is different from every other sector because it’s vital for our survival. We need food for our health, continued life, and continued participation in our communities.

How can we take action to transform food and farming in South West Wales, making healthy local food accessible to all and good for the planet? (Pic: Pixabay)

Food can be a powerful force for good, reconnecting us with our natural world, with our local places, and with each other, and making us more resilient, as people and communities.

Food resilience has become ever more critical in the face of multiple threats, from the increasing cost of food and energy to growing global instability.

How can we take action to transform food and farming in South West Wales, making healthy local food accessible to all and good for the planet?

In 1984, Britain produced enough food to feed itself for 306 days of the year. By 2021, the country only produced enough to feed itself for 233 days.

In terms of meat, Wales produces mostly beef and lamb but eats mostly pork and chicken. Only 0.1% of our land is used to grow fruit and vegetables, producing 19,551 tonnes a year. That’s enough to give 3.5% of the population their five a day!

The war in Ukraine has made us even more aware of our reliance on imports for up to 40% of our food. Before the war, Ukraine was producing 12% of the world’s wheat and 46% of its sunflower oil. Russia is also a major producer of wheat and seed oils.

So what can we do?

In Wales about 400,000 tonnes of food are wasted each year. If only 1% of that is edible it would be enough to contribute to over nine million meals! Thankfully there are groups ensuring some of this food goes where it’s needed. FairShare Cymru distributes surplus food to organisations working to address poverty. Swansea Community Fridge provides surplus food to all on a take what you need pay what you can basis.

Sometimes farmers and growers have no choice but to leave some crops unharvested. The food gets left in the fields or is ploughed back in the soil. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as unpredictable weather reducing demand, overproduction, and because crops don’t meet the cosmetic specifications required by retailers.

FairShare Cymru are looking at working with growers on a gleaning project. This would involve teams of volunteers salvaging fresh, nutritious food from farms and directing it to organisations such as homeless hostels and charities. Similar schemes in England have already salvaged tonnes of excellent but unharvested produce, including apples, cabbages, cauliflowers, spring greens and kale.

But we can also grow a lot more food!

Agroecology is the application of ecological concepts and principals in farming. We should be driving increased production of, and demand for, sustainably and regionally produced, nutritious, culturally appropriate foods as part of a green economic recovery.

In a world of increasing urbanisation, producing food in and around cities has the potential to improve nutritional and health outcomes, alleviate poverty, provide habitat for wildlife, create sustainable cities, and reduce food miles and transportation costs.

Not that long ago, market gardens were providing most towns and cities with a flow of fresh produce, so it makes sense to revive and improve upon this model. There are exciting opportunities to use the peri-urban fringe (land adjacent to urban settlements) to provide more agroecologically produced food and to connect urban and rural economies through food growing.

Research has found converting just 1.4% of land growing cereals and grassland around London to vegetables could produce an additional 1.3 million kilos of food for communities.

And peri-urban farming would provide a lot of additional social, economic and ecological benefits. It would generate goods and services that support community wealth building, provide jobs and training, give people access to green space and outdoor learning at the edge of built up cities, and support community development through community owned resources, events and volunteering.

Carbon capture and storage, above and below ground, through farming approaches that work with natural cycles would in effect create ‘carbon sinks’ surrounding urban space and would benefit natural capital assets such as flood risk adaptation.

We’ve said before that trees are great and we want to see more of them. However, there is a danger that corporations are ‘pricing out’ farmers by buying up land for tree planting. So how can we address this?

Agroforestry is a great example of agroecology. It means combining trees and farming and demonstrates how food production and nature can co-exist. Grazing farm animals under trees gives them shelter and food, while their manure enriches the soil. And planting trees on land normally used to grow cereal crops means you can provide another crop, such as fruit, nuts or timber. This provides another income stream for farmers and also protects soils from erosion, because the trees’ deep roots help create a healthy soil structure.

And what about within our towns and cities themselves?

Currently only 1% of urban green space is used for allotments, but research shows urban and under utilised green spaces could produce nearly 40% of the UK’s fresh fruit and vegetables!

A recent study found ‘citizen scientists’ in Brighton and Hove, who were growing fruit and vegetables on their allotments, gardens and balconies, were able to harvest a kilo of fruit and vegetables per square metre in a season. This puts their yields within the range of conventional farms! And some people were harvesting up to 10 kilos per square metre. This is just from insect pollinated crops, so it’s probably an underestimate.

The urban growers were each able to grow an average of £550 worth of produce between March and October. £380 worth of this was from insect pollinated produce, such as squash, courgettes, blackberries, tomatoes, apples and beans, weighing an average of 70 kilos. Berries were the most attractive crop to pollinators. Growers used less pesticides than conventional farming techniques, using them in under 10% of pest cases. If you’re wondering, the most common pests were slugs, snails and aphids, and the worst affected produce was soft fruit and beans.

Urban and peri-urban farming can further be supported by removing the current 5 hectare eligibility criteria for farming support. This would make it easier for small growers to produce sustainably grown nutritious local food.

We need to take action to transform food and farming in South West Wales, so that healthy local food is accessible to all and good for the planet. We believe food can be a powerful force for good. It can reconnect us with our natural world, our local places, and with each other, and make us more resilient, as people and communities.

On behalf of Swansea Council, 4theRegion is convening a Green Recovery Conference & Exhibition on June 16th to showcase the businesses, projects and organisations who are leading the city’s green recovery. Food will be a big part of that! You can register for free here, and if you’d like to be involved, please contact zoe@4theRegion.org.uk

Everybody’s Business

Everybody’s Business

At 4theRegion we want to ensure South West Wales is a welcoming and safe region where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and progress fulfilling careers. Building cohesive communities is about developing neighbourhoods, social spaces and workplaces where difference is welcomed and celebrated. This involves moving beyond narratives of ‘us’ and ‘them’ towards a greater sense of trust and a shared sense of belonging.

How can businesses play a role in supporting cohesive communities? (Pic: fauxels)

Building a more cohesive society is everybody’s business. We are all part of the social fabric, the strength of which can be an important influence on our wellbeing as communities and individuals. We all have a responsibility to build and maintain the relationships, connections and understandings which make up that social fabric. Cohesion is a shared objective, in which every person, community and organisation has a role to play.

So how can we support social cohesion?

A new report from Belong looks at just that! Everybody’s Business, produced in conjunction with the Intercultural Cities Network, sets out how businesses can play a role in supporting cohesive communities, and how local authorities can support them in doing this. The report draws its findings from a series of roundtable conversations with local authorities and businesses in a number of towns and cities across the UK, including Swansea.

Belong use the term ‘social cohesion’ to describe how well people from different backgrounds mix, interact and get along with each other. Those differences can be ethnicity, faith, social class, age, gender, sexuality, or a range of other differences that might potentially divide us.

There’s lots of potential to support community cohesion within a business! Research shows that workplaces can provide the opportunity for people from different backgrounds to connect in a way that leads to more positive attitudes towards diversity and higher levels of social cohesion. If you work in a diverse workplace you’re more likely to have friends from different backgrounds, although your interactions will need to be more than passing for the effects to extend beyond the workplace.

By their very nature, some businesses represent vital social infrastructure providing opportunities for people to meet and mix across different boundaries. And the experience of the pandemic has made clear the vital importance of these shared spaces! As ‘third places’, other than home and work, they provide a venue where members of the community can interact with one another informally, and where collective space can be provided for community initiatives such as charitable fundraising.

So how can you as a business help maximise the positive impact you have?

First and foremost, recruiting a workforce which fully reflects the diversity of local communities, across all functions and levels of seniority, is necessary for any business that wants to support social cohesion.

As a business, you can promote an inclusive culture through cohesion aware management. This means creating a climate of openness and trust, ensuring demographic attributes (ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc) do not overlap with functional roles and supporting meaningful interactions between people of all backgrounds across the workforce, are key elements of workplaces that support cohesion.

You can enable minorities and diverse groups to lead innovation. Ensuring that innovation is led by diverse teams and people from under represented groups enables better understanding of the needs of communities and increases awareness of market and product opportunities that might otherwise be missed.

You can invest in social infrastructure in the local community. What can you do to support welcoming, inclusive community spaces? This could be in the course of your everyday operations or, for example, through the innovative use of your commercial property.

Businesses can also deliver added social value by supporting community organisations and initiatives which build cohesive communities.

You can do this by partnering with a local community group or charity. Imagine if more businesses were regularly twinned with a local community group or charity as part of an ongoing relationship? This could involve sponsorship or support in kind, and would help deepen the connections between a business and the community around it.

You can provide direct support through employee volunteering. You can enable more employee volunteering which aids charities, community groups and hubs supporting community life and bringing people together. This helps to connect employees to the community and to people from different backgrounds.

You can localise your supply chain. By applying the ‘think local’ principle to as much of their supply chain as possible, businesses can extend more opportunities to the local community, and help to strengthen the networks of social and economic ties that can support cohesive communities.

And, wherever possible, you should evaluate the impact of work that you’re doing to support social cohesion.

It’s great to see the report citing our members Gower Gas and Oil as example of what businesses in the region are already doing! The heating services company has led a variety of initiatives to address social isolation. The #DontDanceAlone social media campaign, in partnership with The Wave and Swansea Sound, has raised awareness of isolation amongst older people and helped raise money for older people’s charities. Gower Gas and Oil also help coordinate the Gower Isolation Support Group, which helps ensure that isolated older people are visited regularly, with a view to ensuring positive social and health outcomes, which was particularly important during lockdown.

And what can local authorities do to support businesses to do all this? The report says they can provide leadership by being clear about how businesses can support local cohesion objectives and playing a coordinating role in helping them do so. They can incentivise businesses to act through highlighting cohesion outcomes in their approach to procurement and social value, and by recognising businesses that do this well. And they create an evaluation framework based on local needs, providing a robust and rigorous framework for evaluating cohesion oriented activity that businesses carry out, including shared measures and reporting.

Everyone has a role to play in building and maintaining cohesive communities. And it is particularly good to see a report which focusses on the often under appreciated role businesses can play in supporting social cohesion. If you’d like to find out more about how businesses can be a force for good, join us at the Introbiz Expo on April 7th!

4theRegion is an alliance of people, businesses and organisations across South West Wales, who love where we live and want our region to flourish. We connect people, share good news and enable collaboration, through our forums, events, projects and comms, for a future that promotes the wellbeing of people and planet. Support our movement and be part of the solution!

How do we get there?

How do we get there?

Last week 4theRegion hosted our City Centre Conference. We’re so proud to have been the first major exhibitor at the new Swansea Arena – which looks amazing! We had over a hundred and twenty exhibitors and over two thousand five hundred people registered to attend.

We all have a part to play in the transition to a greener, healthier, more equal, more integrated, more accessible and more affordable transport system (Pic: MART PRODUCTION)

Even before our conference had taken place interest in Swansea Arena was already skyrocketing. They expect their calendar to be pretty much full for the next six months, but say they’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the potential for city wide events. These events would involve the arena working with hotels and other venues across the city. We’d see the hotels fully booked and Swansea really put on the map for conferences!

Of course it isn’t just conference goers that we’ll be welcoming to our wonderful region. An integrated, sustainable travel network is essential to prosperity and wellbeing, with tourism being a key economic driver for South West Wales. And we all have a part to play in the transition to a greener, healthier, more equal, more integrated, more accessible and more affordable transport system. We need to work collaboratively to address the challenges we face, to create flourishing local places, connected by inclusive and sustainable transport that meets the needs of businesses, serves communities, and improves wellbeing across the region.

So how do we get there?

How about a rail network integrated with bus routes, ticketing and timetables, so that you can seamlessly switch between trains and buses to get to your destination? This is the vision for the Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro. It’ll also offer an enhanced rail network with new stations serving Swansea’s outlying communities and a significantly increased number of trains stopping at stations every hour. An extension of the much publicised South Wales Metro, developed for Cardiff and the surrounding area, we’ve been told the Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro will start to deliver visible results this year.

Another key component of the Metro are plans to introduce hydrogen buses as part of a pilot scheme in Swansea Bay and Pembrokeshire. And these aren’t the only clean solution to road travel in the region. Eight electric buses will replace diesel buses on the route between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth by the end of this year.

But of course it isn’t just about public transport. How do we travel more sustainably as individuals and businesses? For some people the solution might be an e-bike. You pedal it like a regular bike but it has a battery to get you more easily up hills or to enable you to cover longer distances. But how do you know if one would be right for you? Well how about a free trial? If you live in Swansea, Sustrans could offer you a four week trial of an e-bike absolutely free!

But an even more exciting travel solution is an e-cargo bike! If you’re a business in Swansea business you could be eligible for a three month trial to see if one of them could be right for you. This too is absolutely free!

Could an e-cargo bike benefit your business? Research has found e-cargo bikes make deliveries about 60% faster than vans in city centres. Vans can obviously travel along clear stretches of road much faster, but they get slowed down by congestion and have to spend time looking for parking spaces. E-cargo bikes, on the other hand, can bypass traffic jams, take shortcuts through streets closed to through traffic and ride directly to the customer’s door. On average, e-cargo bikes will drop off ten parcels an hour, compared to six parcels for vans. They also cut carbon emissions by 90% compared with diesel vans, and by a third compared to electric vans. Recent estimates suggest that up to 51% of all freight journeys in European cities could be replaced by e-cargo bikes.

And what else do we want to see?

We think transport should be regarded as a universal basic service – like healthcare and education. Low cost, or better still free, public transport is central to creating a healthier, more equal, more prosperous region and achieving Wales’ climate emergency commitments. We also need much more infrastructure for charging electric vehicles across the region, but we’re not sure private electric cars are the answer or will, in themselves, be enough to address the climate crisis or transport inequality. So how about EV car share projects, which would be supported in communities and by employers? This would ensure everyone has access to a car, without actually needing to own one.

An integrated, sustainable travel network is essential to prosperity and wellbeing. At 4theRegion, we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can get there. Read our Transport Manifesto to find out more.

Help create a happier, healthier region with a thriving economy! Your support and involvement makes our work possible! We welcome you to join 4theRegion, to demonstrate your commitment to South West Wales and to access our support.