The Elwy area is home to some of the key employment sites and development land in Denbighshire. The intersection of the A55 and A525 mark the centre of the area with key sites in close proximity. These include St Asaph Business Park, Kinmel Park, Bodelwyddan Business Park and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. There are also significant retail and leisure sites, such as those at the Tweedmill shopping outlet. Further, substantial residential and employment development has been earmarked for the Bodelwyddan area in Denbighshire’s Local Development Plan. These sites are in addition to the traditional market town / city function of St Asaph with its live-stock market and local facilities as well as the local shops and facilities at Rhuddlan and Bodelwyddan. Over recent years Rhuddlan town centre has developed well with reducing numbers of vacant properties and increasing numbers of service outlets. St Asaph has fared less well and has experienced an increase in vacant units from 2012.
As at November 2020, 17% (9) of Rhuddlan’s and 14% (8) of St Asaph’s town centre outlets were vacant.
Levels of unemployment have generally been lower than in Denbighshire as a whole and have been at a rate similar to or lower than the rate for Great Britain. Within Elwy 1.97% are unemployed, compared to 3.25% for the entire county.
Education assets in the area include:
- Pengwern College.
- Ysgol Glan Clwyd, the county’s Welsh medium secondary school.
- There are also nine primary school in the area. Five of these are English medium non-denominational schools; Ysgol Bodfari, Ysgol Cefn Meiriadog, Ysgol Hiraddug, Ysgol Y Castell and Ysgol Y Faenol. Four are Church in Wales schools of which three are English medium Ysgol Esgob Morgan, St Asaph Infants, Ysgol Trefnant, and one Ysgol Tremeirchion is Welsh medium.
The Elwy area includes the villages of Dyserth, Cwm, Waen, Rhuallt and Tremeirchion which skirt the boundary of the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the northern portion significant limestone habitats can be found supporting many wild flowers including some rare and uncommon species such as autumn gentian and orchids. These in their turn support a variety of invertebrates including many butterflies and moths such as the common blue butterfly and the red- spotted burnet moth. Further south heather moorland and heathland support upland birds such as stonechat, tree pipit, hen harrier and merlin which visit the moors during the spring and summer months to breed.
A number of local environmental improvements are planned. The designation and management of Rhuddlan Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is intended to protect and enhance this accessible green space and actively engage with the local community. It will provide good access for both walking and cycling together with practical volunteer tasks.
A partnership approach between Denbighshire County Council and Dyserth Environment Group is expected to achieve Local Environmental Quality Improvements throughout the village, beginning with transforming Carreg Heilin into a Local Nature Area.
Finally, further development of the Prestatyn/Dyserth Way for its excellent recreational and biodiversity opportunities will improve this sustainable transport link.
A key concern in the Elwy area is flooding from the rivers Elwy and Clwyd. Recent flooding events have affected St Asaph and Rhuddlan as well as wide swathes of agricultural land. In January 2021, Grade II listed Llanerch Bridge was swept away by flood waters caused by Storm Christoph. Since then, residents in Trefnant and Tremeirchion have to take a seven-mile detour (11km) to cross the River Clwyd. These incidents have significant safety, economic and environmental consequences that require mitigation, together with the impacts on the personal well-being of those affected.
The expansion of employment land is likely to result in an increase in traffic which could have consequences for the road network in this part of the county. Concerns with the volume of traffic passing through St Asaph have been expressed over a number of years.
The wide range of outdoor leisure opportunities in the pleasant countryside surroundings, particularly walking and cycling are also key assets for enabling and promoting healthy lifestyles. Examples of work being undertaken in the short-term include expanding the St Asaph and Rhuddlan Health Walks and developing Tremeirchion Community Miles walk to encourage healthier lifestyles and regular exercise and increase visitors to the area.
There are excellent facilities at St Asaph Leisure Centre following the re-development of Ysgol Glan Clwyd. This has brought the facilities in line with the rest of the county with the addition of a dedicated studio for exercise classes.
Ysbyty Glan Clwyd is the general hospital for the central part of North Wales and as such is a significant health asset.
The Health domain of the WIMD examines rates of low birth weight, all cause death rate and cancer incidents rates. These are weighted to allow for differences in age profile in different areas. None of the neighbourhoods within the Elwy area appear to suffer from health deprivation using these indicators, though 22.5% Elwy population are living with limiting long term illness (compared to a total of 23.5% Denbighshire population).
The Elwy area has 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. 26% of Elwy population is over 65; this is 4.13% of Denbighshire population. 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.
Currently, the Elwy accounts for 15.88% of the population of Denbighshire. 3.54% of the Denbighshire population of people living with limiting long term illness, and 0.20% of Denbighshire people providing unpaid care.
Elwy has 2.34% mixed ethnic people within its population. Many of the Indian, Pakistani, and Filipino residents of Bodelwyddan work at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. Other parts of the Elwy area are less diverse and have a similar make up to the rest of the county (2.59%).
66.5% Elwy population are Christian, and 1.6% other religion. 24.7% state they are of no religion. These figures are similar to the overall Denbighshire status.
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 in the Elwy area are typical of those across the county as a whole.
Participants in the County Conversation focus group for the area highlighted concerns about availability of affordable housing, the out-migration of young people from the area. They felt that local community groups and volunteering played a major role in community cohesion and that this should be extended in future through greater engagement between residents, local groups and public agencies.
Examples of successful support for community initiatives include the Llys y Felin Gardening Project where a community garden outside the community room and a shed and tools to start a gardening club for the members to maintain the area has been created.
Community cohesion is also helped by leisure and youth programmes delivered through the Ysgol Glan Clwyd site support development at personal and group levels enabling participants to contribute to community life.
The proposals in the Local Development Plan are likely to mean rapid increases in the number of residents and day time visitors to the Bodelwyddan area. The impacts are being explored with local residents.
The villages within Tremeirchion, Cwm and Waen and Trefnant wards, share a degree of physical isolation and relatively long travel times required to access services such as GPs, dentists, shops and leisure facilities. For many residents with access to private transport this may not be a problem but residents in these communities without their own vehicle may have poor access to services and be at risk of social isolation.
In common with other part of Denbighshire rates of crime and anti-social behaviour are low (110.72 rate for Denbighshire, 84.3 rate for Elwy).
The density of Welsh speakers varies from community to community within the Elwy area, and equates to 3.4% total of Denbighshire population. The area hosts the Ysgol Glan Clwyd the county’s category 1 Welsh Medium secondary school. Participants in the County Conversation expressed concerns about the sustainability of the language and felt that migration patterns (both the out migration of young people from the area and the in migration of people who do not speak Welsh) had a detrimental impact.
Elwy is rich in historical and cultural assets. St Asaph, one of the smallest Cities in the UK boasts a 13th Century Cathedral on the site of Saint Kentigern’s 6th century church. It is the home of the William Morgan Bible. Today the Cathedral hosts the City’s annual music festival and remains a key ecclesiastical centre of the Church in Wales.
Rhuddlan also retains historic buildings and archaeological legacy of a long and eventful history. For five centuries Rhuddlan was a flashpoint in Anglo-Welsh wars, the site in turn of a great battle between King Offa of Mercia and the Welsh; a Saxon fortified borough; a Welsh princely palace; a Norman fortress (the ‘Twthill’); and finally a powerful stone castle. The first English Prince of Wales, was promulgated by a parliament held here in 1284.
The area from Dyserth into the neighbouring Meliden ward has a rich industrial heritage including the Clive Engine House which had conservation work undertaken, contributing to enhancing the local tourism offer.
Bodelwyddan boasts the iconic St Margaret’s ‘the Marble Church’. In addition to this Bodelwyddan is also home to the Grade II listed Pengwern Hall and Faenol Fawr, a Country Manor Hotel which dates from 1597. The site, which is now Kinmel Park Industrial Estate, and its nearby woodlands, was once the Kinmel Park Military Training Camp. A large, busy military training camp during both world wars and up until the 1960s. Kinmel Camp was built in late 1914 and by 1919 it was over 3 miles long and had been used to train over more than 17,000 soldiers destined for World War 1.
The range of heritage, cultural and environmental assets and developments provides Elwy’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.
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.
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 with 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.
As part of the County Conversation, focus groups were held with all mainstream secondary school councils and the youth council. 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.
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.
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