Economic Acceleration and Regeneration Through Innovation (EARTh)

Page updated on: 21/08/2023

The EARTh project aims to identify opportunities to build institutional capacity, capability and administrative arrangements across the four Local Authorities that make up the Swansea Bay City region, specifically across the four key themes of Economic Development; Energy; Land Use Planning and Transport.

The programme is supported through the European Social Fund Priority Axis 5 – Public Reform and Regional Working and will work collaboratively across the region as a partnership between Carmarthenshire County Council, Pembrokeshire County Council, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and the City and County of Swansea.

An overview of each theme is detailed within their respective section;

One of the service reforms that The Swansea Bay City Region through the Corporate Joint Committee and in partnership with the Welsh Government committed to deliver as detailed in the Swansea Bay City Deal Heads of Terms is Transport Planning. Transportation helps shape an area’s economic health and quality of life. This operation, through a series of investments in people and systems will ensure that there is sufficient capacity to develop and deliver the transport vision for the region.
With regional collaborations already in place, there is a need to ensure that the region can address the challenges of the future, for example congestion and reducing CO2 emissions. Transport needs to play its part in reducing CO2 emissions and reducing car dependency is a key part of meeting these targets. This will call for better quality and more reliable public transport and better integration between the models.

The ongoing preparation of the National Development Framework (NDF) by the Welsh Government and the potential to prepare and deliver a Strategic Development Plan (SDP) across the South West Wales Region provides a framework for investments, growth and environmental enhancements across the region. The commitment at a national policy level through the emerging NDF provides a backdrop for the future shape of strategic planning across Wales. Translating and applying this to the region whilst recognising and understanding the needs of its individual communities will be essential in safeguarding the area’s economic vitality and the quality of life of its residents and visitors.
Key to this is the recognition of health, wellbeing and placemaking as a strategic contributor as well as the need to create great places for people to live and work. Developing a strategic framework across the region with the aim of enabling the delivery of high-quality healthy environments, which embed high quality design and the principles of Green Infrastructure and greening towns and cities is central to delivering a progressive agenda that delivers against national well-being and zero carbon agendas.
With regional collaborations already in place, there is a need to add to and consolidate on current strategies and policies. Essential will be the broadening the understanding of the benefits and their role in driving environmental improvements - including reducing flood risk, tackling climate change and reducing pollution.
Planning has a central role in delivering the national objectives for growth and development, whilst also facilitating and guiding the provision of key infrastructure nationally and across the South West Wales Region.

Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan outlines and establishes the basis for regional working and the shift to regional economic development. Chief Regional Officers have been appointed and regional teams established that are currently in collaboration with stakeholders developing Economic Frameworks that will come forward with a vision for the future. Welsh Government has also proposed the establishment of Regional Corporate Joint Committees (CJCs) covering areas such as economic development, transport, planning and education. Welsh Government has also recently unveiled its ‘Town Centre First’ approach with regeneration funding to support it.
The economic development challenges that this operation is seeking to address are challenges which have also been identified by Welsh Government in its various strategies. EARTh aims to share learning and best practice whilst delivering on these.
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the Welsh economy. There are undoubtedly huge, unprecedented challenges ahead. However, the pandemic has also highlighted opportunities to rebuild our economy and has demonstrated the importance of the foundational economy in this. Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan had already set the direction for the foundational economy and in making the communities we live in stronger and more resilient.
Inward Investment, as well as supporting local, indigenous businesses are key Economic Development Challenges within the region that this Operation will focus on. Attracting large, private businesses can significantly contribute to local employment. It is key to economic growth that the region looks at new, dynamic, and innovative ways of attracting inward investors as well as supporting those that are growing here.

Three of the four Authorities in South West Wales Region have declared a climate emergency and there is a need to urgently identify practical solutions that demonstrate a clear and effective response to address this regional, national, and global challenge. As a result, this Operation seeks to identify opportunities to build capacity and develop a robust regional strategic delivery to achieve ways to capture, use and store carbon; and to reduce carbon emissions across the public and private sector in South West Wales.
Local Authorities, Public Bodies and businesses across the region are already developing different approaches to meet the challenge set by Welsh Government to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales is just one policy response by Welsh Government to emphasise the importance of adopting approaches to carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS). There is a need to identify a regional solution to develop and share good practice; and avoid duplication. There is a commitment amongst the four Counties to understand what is already being undertaken within South West Wales, within the rest of Wales and elsewhere to meet the challenge and develop an effective response.

The Cross-Cutting themes of this operation will demonstrate alignment with the principles set out in the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act and ensure integration with the CCT’s for the 2014-2020 Structural Funds Programme in Wales of Equal Opportunities, Sustainable Development and Tackling Poverty throughout the delivery of the programme.

The CCT Case Level Indicators for this project are:

  • Activity supporting speakers of the Welsh language
  • Local sustainable supply chain development (Community Wealth Building workstream within the Economic Development Theme)
  • Integrating Social Clauses into activity (Community Wealth Building workstream within the Economic Development Theme)
  • Developing / engaging CCT champions (within each theme, particularly the theme coordinators)

Working collaboratively is not a new concept to the region. There has been effective regional working across a broad partnership led by local government directors and supporting officers over the last decade to deliver and collaborate on a range of regeneration initiatives and to ensure that the resources coming into the region have the greatest strategic impact. Over this time the Authorities have responded to major investment opportunities such as the EU Convergence and subsequent programmes and other opportunities from Welsh Government.
This operation aims to build upon on and strengthen the current work that is underway with the local authorities in each of the themes detailed above. Although some progress has been made on collaborative regional approaches to delivering some aspects of these services, there are barriers facing this work. Regional collaborations and working practices are often at an ad-hoc basis when resource and capacity allow for it. Organisational and budgetary constraints often prevent development of regional working. A lack of capacity and knowledge within local teams on regional issues and data coupled with the comfort of traditional working practices have all hampered fast paced progression of regional working.
EARTh will provide the region with the capacity and staffing resource required to coordinate and formalise the approaches currently underway across the region in each of the themes. The operation will bring together current localised work to avoid duplication of activity within the region. It will look at cross-border successful models and innovative new ways of working that challenge existing traditional working practices. It will enable the region to pilot and trial new innovative approaches to address regional challenges in each of the themes and provide the resource necessary to invest in the current workforces in each of the LA’s, to ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to support the development of new processes and service delivery to address regional challenges.

EARTh will assist the four Local Authorities within the Region to develop the skills and knowledge within the existing workforce to enable them to work regionally and collaboratively on the delivery of key services to address challenges facing the region.
The operation will deliver the following Output Indicators under ESF West Wales and the Valleys P5 SO1: Collaboration and innovation in public service delivery

Output Number of projects targeting public administrations or public services at national, regional or local level 1
Output Number of methods, processes and tools being developed with support 2
Output Number of entities participating in projects targeting public administrations or public services at national, regional or local level 4
Output Number of new methods, procedures and tools developed and disseminated 2

The Operation is based within the Economic Development Division of Carmarthenshire County Council. The division has a proven track record of delivering successful European funded operations within Carmarthenshire and the region.

To ensure robust governance of the operation, a Regional Steering Group has been set up that will serve to monitor the performance of the project, give it strategic direction and ensure that it is meeting its remit.

Long term sustainability is key to the EARTh operation. The capacity which is currently holding back regional working will be built. This operation is based upon building the capacity within the current workforce to deliver key functions at a regional level. Corporate Joint Committees have been established to exercise functions relating to Strategic development Planning and Regional Transport Planning; they will also be given a power to do things to promote or improve the economic well-being of their areas. These are areas where there is consensus that working at this scale makes sense – aligning economic development, transport, and land use planning approaches to develop successful regional economies and encourage local growth. The focus and themes of this operation are directly aligned with those of the CJC’s and as such it is anticipated that this operation will compliment and seamlessly integrate with the work of the CJCs as they evolve.