The town of Denbigh is an historic market town and centre for retail and professional services such as solicitors, accountants and estate agencies. In November 2020, the number of vacant outlets in Denbigh town centre reached 20% (22 outlets). This is a high increase from 2015 where the percentage of vacant outlets fell to 10%.
Denbigh’s Colomendy industrial estate is a key asset with 115 units offering accommodation to a range of enterprises including construction, manufacturing, telecommunications, food, storage, PR, training, health and housing sectors. The town also has significant public sector employment too, with local government offices, Denbigh High School and leisure centre, St Brigid’s School, primary schools, Denbigh Library, and Denbigh Community Hospital.
Outside of the town there are significant employers such as Mental Health Care UK at Llangwyfan and of course agricultural businesses throughout the area. Llandyrnog Creamery was another significant employer outside of Denbigh but unfortunately closed in 2018. This resulted in the loss of 97 jobs, following a strategic re-evaluation of Arla’s cheese operations.
Parts of Upper Denbigh and Henllan suffer from multiple deprivation and are included in the North Denbighshire Communities First area. There are high levels of unemployment, low household incomes and poor health and education outcomes.
The area contains a number of educational assets including:
- Denbigh High – A mixed English medium non-denominational secondary school
- St Brigid’s School – A mixed English medium Roman Catholic school.
- Myddelton College – A mixed independent fee paying boarding and day school.
- Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn – A mixed English medium nondenominational special school.
- Nine Primary schools of which five are Welsh medium; Ysgol Bro Cinmeirch, Ysgol Carreg Emlyn (Cyffylliog site), Ysgol Henllan, Ysgol Pant Pastynog and Ysgol Twm Or Nant; four are English medium; Ysgol Bryn Clwyd, Ysgol Fron Goch, Ysgol Pendref, Ysgol Y Park Infant School. Ysgol Rhewl which was previously a duel stream school closed its doors in 2018.
A significant development by the housing association Grŵp Cynefin is the HWB Dinbych that provides a range of support services for local people from in and around the Denbigh area. The primary aim of HWB Dinbych is to increase training and employment opportunities locally, achieved by working closely with local businesses, setting up self-employment initiatives, developing local enterprise opportunities and supporting young people into further learning. On the same site as the Hwb Dinbych is The Hafod, which is a supported housing project for six young people aged 16 to 25. The project that is is owned and managed by Grŵp Cynefin, and the support is delivered via Supporting People funding from Denbighshire County Council, delivers support activities to the young people in their accommodation, on site and in the community.
In terms of overall deprivation in the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD), Denbigh Upper/Henllan 2 ranks in the 20-30% most deprived areas of Wales.
Areas of Denbigh Town and around Brookhouse Mill have historically been at risk of flooding. Flood management works have been deployed but the risk cannot be wholly eliminated.
The villages to both the west and east of Denbigh town suffer from the isolation and poor access to services common to rural areas. The wards of Llandyrnog and Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch along with Henllan display relatively high levels of deprivation in the access to services domain of the WIMD.
Nevertheless, examples of local action to build resilience and protect access to services can be found across the area.
Much of the Clwydian Range AONB sits within the Denbigh area with heathland and heather moorland providing habitats for rare plant and animal species. On the opposite side of the Vale Denbigh Moors and Hiraethog provide further upland habitats with the Llyn Brenig reservoir a significant water asset as well as a leisure destination and home to wildlife.
The Woodland Skills Centre is based in the heart of the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A range of courses are held in traditional crafts, bush craft courses and courses for youth and community groups as well as Mindfulness courses as part of the health and well-being programme. The Woodland Skills Centre is a community owned, not-for-profit Social Enterprise company.
Cae Fron Community Orchard has been developed with local groups to allow access and to plant an orchard using tree species of local provenance e.g. Denbigh Plum
In common with other rural parts of the county the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, that came into effect on January 1st 2021, has created a period of uncertainty. Particularly affecting agricultural enterprises who were previously in receipt of aid under the common agricultural policy. A new Agriculture Bill is set to be introduced in Wales, that will create a new system of farm payments that rewards farmers for their response to the climate and nature emergencies and supports them to produce food sustainably.
Across all of rural Denbighshire the energy efficiency and therefore long-term sustainability represents a potential risk. Homes outside of the mains gas network, older homes and those without modern insulation and heating systems present potential fuel poverty and environmental challenges.
In October 2019, work started on the first new council homes to be designed and built for the Denbighshire area in 30 years. The homes will be built on land above Tan Y Sgubour in Denbigh and are low carbon homes, certified to the energy-efficient Passivhaus standard. These homes will help meet the housing needs of residents by providing quality homes that are affordable as well as offering the highest levels of insulation to reduce energy consumption and energy efficiency to minimise carbon emissions and reduce household bills.
The Health domain of the WIMD examines rates of limiting long-term illness, low birth weight, all cause death rate and cancer incidents rates. These are weighted to allow for differences in age profile in different areas. Both Upper Denbigh and Henllan and Denbigh Central appear to suffer from health deprivation in relation to these indicators.
It is also the case that the rural parts of the Denbigh area have relatively high rates of older people (over 65) meaning that the impact of age related illness is likely to be felt more here than in other areas. Significant research suggests that the number of older people with dementia is set to increase. Numbers of people whose illnesses or frailty means that they are no-longer able to perform daily self-care tasks are also predicted to increase; making health in older age a priority for the area. All these factors are likely to put pressure on social care providers including home care, traditional residential and nursing care and modern Extra-Care, reablement, and preventative services.
Denbigh Community Hospital with its emphasis on care for older people and reablement is a key facility in the local area.
A history of tailored care, residential and employment facilities at Henllan, Llangwyfan and Aberwheeler as well as the legacy of the North Wales Hospital mean that there is a relatively high proportion of residents with mental health problems or learning disabilities within the area. Sustaining support for these groups is another priority.
In 2016, Denbigh Leisure Centre swimming pool and changing rooms had been given a re-vamp following an increase in demand to meet the growing needs of residents. The project seen changing rooms made fully accessible with direct access onto pool side; as well as up to date with new wall tiles, flooring and cubicles. The pool hall itself has been fully refreshed, including the installation of a state of the art stretch ceiling. New energy efficient LED lighting has been fitted, a new pool hoist installed and the spectator area improved, doubling the previous capacity.
The Denbigh Leisure Centre fitness suite has undergone a refurbishment in 2020. Denbighshire Leisure Ltd used the closure period due to the Covid-19 pandemic provide new gym equipment as well as mood lighting. It is recognised that following the lockdown periods, leisure facilities will be more important than ever and this investment aims to provide customers with exceptional and unrivalled facilities that are excellent value for money.
Denbigh residents and visitors enjoy access to the Llyn Brenig Cycle Path, the Hiraethog Way and Brenig Way walking routes and Llwybr Tyrnog, Llwybr Clywedog and Henllan Community Miles routes.
The town of Denbigh has similar rates of older people (over 65) as the county as a whole with some parts (notably Upper Denbigh) with a younger profile.
Figures on other protected characteristics are not available at a local level although rates of limiting long-term illness provide an indication of the proportion of people who are disabled. Rates of limiting long-term illness are high in Upper Denbigh and Henllan and in Denbigh Central, whilst in other parts of the Denbigh area they are typical of those across the county as a whole.
The range of successful community organisations clubs and societies is seen as a positive indicator of community cohesion by established residents and new comers to the area as demonstrated in feedback from the county conversation. Sports clubs, youth provision and community groups were felt to be particularly important. Residents felt that community groups and volunteering would become increasingly important in the future and that public agencies would have a role in providing support for groups and individuals to develop their knowledge of good governance, finance and other skills that would help community groups to improve and expand.
Communities First came to an end in 2018. To ensure continued community development and cohesion throughout the county, Working Denbighshire was developed, which hosts a number of Welsh Government led projects such as Communities for Work and Communities for Work Plus. Working Denbighshire aim to reduce poverty by enabling people to access a network of services that supports them in their journey into or towards employment, and to maintain their position or progress once in employment.
In common with other parts of Denbighshire and Conwy, rates of crime and anti-social behaviour are low. Town Centre areas across Wales have higher rates of crime and anti-social behaviour than residential and rural areas. Although Denbigh Central fairs relatively poorly in the community safety domain of WIMD this is largely as a result of comparison with residential and rural areas. When a more proper comparison with other town centres is undertaken Denbigh Central does not appear to be an area of particular concern.
The Denbigh area has a range of significant heritage assets including the CADW managed sites, Denbigh Castle and town walls as well as the historic architecture of Denbigh Town, which can be visited as part of the successful open-doors scheme. Other sites of interest include Theatr Twm O’r Nant, Myddleton College, St Marcella’s Church , St Dyfnog’s Church and well at Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch, the Hillforts of Moel Arthur and Penycloddiau and the North Wales Hospital.
Work has been on going in recent years to find a solution for the former North Wales Hospital site so that the important listed buildings can be restored and the whole site brought back to a beneficial use including, employment, apprenticeships, housing and community use. Planning consents have recently been obtained. This information will be updated as necessary.
The Llyn Brenig Archaeological Trail is a celebration of Welsh culture and heritage. A new leaflet and Archaelogical Audio Trail Map has been developed and the project will contribute to the tourism offer in this area.
Denbigh is also a key cultural centre for the agricultural community playing host to the Denbigh and Flint agricultural show and the Denbigh Plum Festival.
The Denbigh area contains some of the highest proportions of Welsh speakers in the county with 38% of the population speaking Welsh. Denbigh also host the Welsh language provision for ‘late comers’ to the language offering an immersive education for primary age children to give them a start in the language.
The range of heritage, cultural and environmental assets and developments provides Denbigh’s contribution to a Globally Responsible Wales. Sustainability principles will be implemented through the Wellbeing Plan, Local Development and Regeneration Plans, biodiversity and conservation work.
Workshops with Ruthin and Denbigh residents, part of the Better Futures Wales project, identified four themes as being most important to residents. These tend to link into each well-being goal:
- Place: making the most of assets and infrastructure to benefit the community and environment
- The circular economy is a way of life
- A collaborative local economy that enables environmental and social sustainability
- A coordinated and cohesive community that celebrates and promotes diversity and equality
Issues such as access to personal finance services, rural transport, making the most of vacant properties for communal benefit, reducing waste, and valuing diversity were seen as particularly important to the above four themes.
Positive and Successful Experiences
County conversation workshop participants in a North Denbighshire focus group listed many positive experiences related to the local natural environment. They valued areas where there has been additional tree planting, waste lands have been developed into nature reserves and other areas that have been left to grow so nature can regenerate itself. They also valued good housing support, as well as the community support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic which seen communities come together to provide food, support and medication to those in need.
As part of the County Conversation, focus groups were held with all mainstream secondary school councils and the youth council. A theme common across all young people sessions was the positive impact of having access to local green spaces, beaches and scenery throughout the county. They enjoy that these areas are peaceful and calm with opportunities to spot wildlife. It was felt that there are a lot of good walking areas and outdoor spaces which were especially important as they are a free activity for young people to enjoy.
The young people we engaged mentioned the community spirit they have experienced is important. There were many other important aspects of the community that they valued. Some examples include:
- Community events
- Small well connected and friendly community
- Small and independent businesses
- Feeling safe in the community
Young people, particularly in the north of Denbighshire, expressed their enjoyment of a great selection of restaurants and tourism activities such as arcades within their local areas.
North Denbighshire residents envisioned a place where the council would increase its engagement with communities to enable them to be more resilient. Particularly in relation to the council supporting community profiles through assistance, encouragement and through financial support.
Participants said they expected to see more carbon consumption activities and said that the council should ensure economic initiatives that are more environmentally sustainable and supportive of the local area.
Some young people had ambitious and specific career aspirations such a being prime minster or working in the Bermuda Triangle finding new aquatic creatures. In the main, having a successful career featured as a high priority for all young people throughout this engagement. Some young people could see themselves progressing through education to university and others wanted to start their own businesses.
Whilst many could see themselves moving overseas, most young people envisioned themselves staying and settling here in Wales with a successful career and a happy family.
What needs to be done now?
Participants emphasised the need for active travel improvements. It was felt that having these facilities would have economic benefits to encourage people to shop locally rather than online which another pressure local towns and village are facing.
There was also a desire for more activities for older people, to prevent loneliness and isolation, which is felt to be common, and to encourage older people to get back into the community and contribute to the local economy.
Job creation and employment opportunities were a high priority for people.
Consideration was given to the fact that Covid-19 has changed the working styles in many organisations and it was felt that as more organisation are working flexibly, which in turn releases more office space, it was hoped these spaces could be repurposed into social housing or apartments.
Participants wanted to ensure water quality remains at a good standard throughout the county, eg river, sea, streams and fresh water provisions.
Throughout all focus groups that were held with young people, it was frequently mentioned that there are not enough activities for young people. Young people noted that when the weather is bad they struggle to find activities that are affordable, and they can often be labelled ‘trouble makers’ if they are seen in groups on the street with nowhere to go. Some ideas of improvements that were suggested include:
- More investment is needed in youth club’s facilities to make them more attractive to young people. As well as more organised events and better publicity.
- There is a lack of sport activities in general. One young person mentioned that the sports activities on offer are those that may be perceived as male activities e.g. football; and there is a particular lack in female sport such as gymnastics and netball.
- Investment and maintenance of local parks
- Reduce the prices of leisure centres to make them more accessible to young people and locals in the area, namely SC2.
- Utilise leisure centres for activities and clubs aimed at secondary school students as it is felt that there is a lot of young children and infants.
- More sports facilities and other types of equipment’s in outdoor spaces such as volley ball nets and racket sports.
- Reading cafes and healthier food restaurants for young people to socialise in
- Make better use of unused land in towns, a popular idea was an outdoor swimming pool
- Better cycle paths
Young people were enthusiastic about their enjoyment of cultural and community events and they wanted to see more arranged in their communities. Music events and other outdoor events were popular suggestions and it was suggested that annual events would increase tourism into areas. Pupils from one school agreed that there could be better use of events areas and facilities. An example was given of the site which the Eisteddfod is hosted on which isn’t used at certain times of the year. It was proposed that this could be used during these times for events and activities targeted at young people.
There was also a call for a number of environmental improvements across the county, including:
- More bins in the community. Specifically, those that are split into general waste and recycling
- Increase litter pickers to reduce harmful litter
- Biodegradable dog bag dispensers
- Less factories which cause pollution
- Increased environmental education in schools
An important point to note is that young people want to be involved in decision making. They expressed an interest in wanting to understand what the council does and to have the opportunity to have their voices heard within the local council.
Other common themes included:
- Increased employment opportunities for young people especially those with no experience
- Public transport improvements to support young people e.g. lower prices and better routes throughout the county
- Dog specific parks and fields
- Disabled young adult clubs
- Community safety concerns e.g. better street lighting and increased police presence
- Updated highstreets shops as there is currently a lot of charity shops
Risks and barriers to overcome
Participants recognised a tension between land needed for housing and some areas not wanting more housing. Although any new permissions should involve energy efficient technology.
Participants were concerned that a heavy public sector presence in the area, and job automation could pose a risk to local economic jobs and developments, and hinder the progress of other priorities to tackle employment for instance.