Ruthin is a classic thriving market town and centre for professional services such as solicitors’ accountants and estate agencies. It also boasts niche comparison retail offer and high quality food and accommodation services that complement the tourism industry in the area.
Public sector, industrial and agricultural employment is also important in the area. Denbighshire County Council is a major employer in the centre of Ruthin town itself. In the North of the town is the livestock markets and industrial sites at Lon Parcwr and around Lon Cae Brics.
Unemployment is generally low both in the town of Ruthin and in the surrounding countryside. Household incomes are generally higher than in other parts of the county and include some of the most affluent wards.
Resident discussions revealed a perception of ‘red tape’ as a barrier to voluntary, community and commercial activity. Calls for the removal of restrictions on the use of buildings, and other concerns around building control and planning policies were made, alongside a call for more support to be provided to voluntary and private sector organisations for activities such as securing grants and becoming more sustainable.
Education and skills are a crucial enabler of prosperity. In recent years schools provision in the Ruthin Area has undergone significant restructuring as Denbighshire’s Modernising Education Programme has sought to place school provision on a more sustainable footing. Currently education assets in the Ruthin area include:
Ysgol Brynhyfryd (senior) – following a poor Estyn inspection in early 2015, a new headteacher has been in place for 12 months. Summer 2016’s GCSE results were hailed as being the school’s best ever (78% achieving the level 2 threshold), and the A-levels results are reported to be the best in any Denbighshire county-controlled school.
Ruthin School (independent, senior) – A mixture of day and boarding pupils, with a high proportion of boarding pupils coming from overseas. Pupils perform very well academically, and the school is undergoing a phase of expansion. In recent years there has been extra accommodation provided through a mixture of new builds and renovation, and the school is shortly to have a new canteen.
- Ysgol Borthyn Junior School: English medium Church in Wales primary school
- Ysgol Bro Elwern: Welsh medium non-denominational primary school
- Ysgol Bro Famau: English medium non-denominational primary school
- Ysgol Carreg Emlyn: Welsh medium non-denominational primary school
- Ysgol Dyffryn Ial: Predominantly English medium with significant use of Welsh Church in Wales primary school
- Ysgol Llanbedr: English medium Church in Wales primary school
- Ysgol Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd: Duel stream Church in Wales primary school
- Ysgol Pen Barras: Welsh medium non-denominational primary school
- Ysgol Pentrecelyn: Welsh medium non-denominational primary school
- Ysgol Rhewl: dual stream nondenominational primary school
- Ysgol Betws Gwerfil Goch: Welsh medium non-denominational primary school
- Rhos Street County Primary School: English medium non-denominational primary school
Parts of the Ruthin area have suffered with flooding in recent years, as both the Clwyd and Clywedog rivers flow through the area. Significant work has been undertake (particularly in affected areas). Advantage has been taken of these flood mitigation schemes, which have provided the opportunity to develop more sustainable environmental improvements. Plans are in place to ensure the Glasdir Mitigation Area is managed for biodiversity and priority species e.g. water vole. Further plans are in place to develop the site as a community and education resource with links made with the new school being built on a nearby site.
Much of the Clwydian Range AONB sits within the Ruthin area, with heathland and heather moorland providing habitats for rare plant and animal species. These areas support upland birds such as stonechat, tree pipit, hen harrier and merlin, which visit the moors to breed during the spring and summer months.
Links between land management, sustainable food production and tourism are being developed as part of a Sustainable tourism strategy for the AONB. This includes the Clwydian Range Food Trail, which promotes local produce and establish effective supply networks for local produce. An example of this is in working with farmers on the Clwydian Range to brand and promote Clwydian Range lamb, associating the high quality landscape with high quality local produce in order to provide a premium for stock, and contributing to conservation management of the uplands.
Sensitive management of road verges is in place, in order to protect and enhance the biodiversity value of some of the last remaining remnants of wildflower-rich habitats in the county. In close collaboration between Highways and Countryside staff, a lower-intensity cutting regime has been implemented on rural roads within the AONB. In addition the most special verges have been designated ‘Roadside Nature Reserves’ and management is tailored to the plant species and communities found there. This management approach improves the resilience of our natural environment by safeguarding a habitat that has declined by over 95% in the last century, providing shelter and forage for a range of invertebrates, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, including protected species. The beautiful wildflowers also enhance the appearance of the county’s roads and may contribute to a positive visitor experience. Working to eradicate Invasive Non Native Species along the River Alyn – working with communities and volunteers to remove Himalayan Balsam.
With the AONB, the Llandegla community has developed a small visitor area in St Tegla’s Church in the village. Visitors are able to get refreshments, and a display providing information about the village and near-by places of interest has been produced. The Youth Centre in Ruthin engages partners and local young people to deliver programmes that support community resilience.
Transport and connectivity issues were raised by residents with several suggestions for improvement including: Reliable and connected public transport; increasing the range of vehicle options so that less efficient large vehicles were not relied upon, and the creation of more safe walking and cycling routes. There was some talk of reinstating a cycle path along the disused rail route, and benefits cited in respect of health and tourism.
Outside of Ruthin itself and in common with other rural parts of Denbighshire access to services can be difficult for those without access to a car. Also in common with other rural areas there are a comparatively high number of properties without access to mains gas and a number suffering with poor energy efficiency.
Uncertainty around future of agriculture is a key issue for the Ruthin area with many employment and supply chain opportunities dependent on agriculture as well as the farming communities themselves.
Community health and social care assets in the Ruthin area include Ruthin Community Hospital, Extra-care housing and residential facilities at Awelon. Ruthin Community Hospital has 22 GP medical inpatient beds. Consultant outpatient and community clinics are also held there.
Other services provided include:
- Outpatient and inpatient Physiotherapy
- Occupational Therapy
- District Nursing
- Therapies Department
- Phlebotomy service – appointment system only
Ruthin also contains a number of private health related providers such as podiatrists and chiropodists.
There are two GP practises in the town, both within a short distance of one another: The Mount Street Clinic (two doctors, 3,000 patients), and Plas Meddyg (nine GP’s, 10,444 patients). Both also offer health visitor services, and employ practice nurses.
Ruthin Dental is a privately run practise offering a mixture of NHS and private appointments.
Assets to support healthier lifestyles through active leisure include the natural environment which provides for walking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits throughout the county, along with specific sites such as Llandegla mounting bike centre, Loggerheads and Moel Famau Country Park.
Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms are also available through a number of private providers and the local authority provision. A new fitness suite and all weather pitch has recently been added to Ruthin Leisure Centre (which also features a swimming pool). This had led to a significant increase in usage by both the community and Brynhyfryd school.
The Llanfwrog Centre offers tennis courts, a golf driving range, foot golf, and a bowling green.
Each ward in the Ruthin Area displays a very large proportion of people who identify their ethnic group as White at 98-99%, except Ruthin town itself. In Ruthin town 2.7% of people identify as Asian or Asian British. This is larger than the proportion in Denbighshire (1.5% and Wales (2.3%) but much smaller than the proportion in England (7.8%). In the Ruthin Area 29% of residents identified as British which is the same proportion as for Denbighshire as a whole. Slightly more people identified as Welsh (55% in Ruthin compared with 51% in Denbighshire) and slightly fewer as English (22% compare with 23%).
Llanarmon-yn-Ial/Llandegla, Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd/Llangynhafal, Ruthin and Efenechtyd wards each have smaller proportions of their population who are disabled or experience a limiting long-term illness than is the case in Denbighshire, Wales, or England. Ruthin leisure centre provides a Disability Sport programme with Swimming lessons, plus triathlon with Ruthin Tri Stars and Ruthin Tennis Club.
There is little research about other protected characteristics that is specific to the Ruthin area. Nevertheless, many of the challenges faced by different groups (described in other parts of this assessment) are likely to affect some Ruthin residents too.
Both the town of Ruthin and the surrounding villages are free from concentrations of multiple deprivation and contains the most prosperous areas of the county. This is not to say that residents are universally prosperous, rather there are mixed communities including those in lower, middle and upper income bands.
In common with other part of Denbighshire and Conwy rates of crime and anti-social behaviour are low.
There is a strong and developing tradition of community initiatives in the area with a history of charitable and community organisations, churches and chapels. Ruthin also hosts the main offices of Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council at the Naylor Leyland Centre. More recently community intervention to take over an run assets such as village shops and pubs have developed. Examples include the Raven Inn at Llanarmon yn Iâl, Siop Pwllglas, and the community shop at Llandegla. Interest in such initiatives, and in community participation more broadly came out strongly in the engagement exercises we have done thus far, across the whole county.
In the Ruthin area participants felt that recent trends towards centralisation of services was negative and harmed communities and individuals. Examples include court services and health services. It was felt that alternatives that maintained access to services within localities should be explored, even if this meant mobile provision, or utilising buildings for multiple purposes.
Improved engagement with the community, and better communication between organisations and residents was an issue of major importance. People emphasised that service providers should listen to and be influenced by local communities. It was felt that this would require earlier consultation and better feedback mechanisms, as well as support for developing community engagement further through the development of co-production approaches. These were felt necessary to rebuild trust between communities, politicians, and institutions.
It was felt that there was a need for more volunteers, particularly of working age. Greater co-operation between public agencies was also mentioned. Participants felt that education needed to change to include more emphasis on social awareness and communities and volunteering.
Resident have expressed concern about villages becoming ‘dormitories’ and lacking vibrant day-time economy and activities. Maintenance of village shops and other assets either commercially or as part of community endeavour is seen as part of the solution. Better broadband and more opportunities for small business based in communities are also seen as a potential part of the solution.
Another concern residents in the area have relates to property prices. Property prices are relatively high in the Ruthin area compared to other parts of the county. The mixed range of incomes and limited local employment opportunities mean that some people (particularly young people) may find it difficult to get a foot on the property ladder in their local area. This will be examined further in the local housing needs assessment to be undertaken by Denbighshire County Council during the summer and autumn of 2017.
Ruthin’s Craft Centre is a national centre for the applied arts, featuring 3 gallery spaces (with artists on rotation every 6 weeks); retail units, a licensed café, and education centres with resident artists. It receives a significant grant from the Arts Council for Wales, and it is from there that a Town Art Trail has its starting point – a route through the town that features 10 spy holes set into the town walls and 22 figures hidden amongst the facades and roofs around the town. The Trail was designed to better link the Craft Centre with the town (and vice versa), and was also grant funded.
Denbighshire Heritage Services manage both Ruthin Gaol and Nant Clwyd y Dre in Ruthin. Both these sites contribute to the wellbeing of residents and visitors and provide opportunities to improve the health, culture and community cohesion of the area. As well as investment in the physical infrastructure, there will be developments in the visitor experience.
Restoration and opening to the public of The Lord’s Garden at Nantclwyd Y Dre provides accessible green space with walks, period planting, scented areas, tactile planting, covered educational space, seating, views, and a bee-keepers corner. The garden is designed to encourage people to ‘take a breath’, enjoy the birdsong, contemplate and unwind. It will also generate additional income and encourages more visits to the site and area. There are also community engagement activities–a rapidly growing Friends group of 161 people who give their time for free to help sustain the site and share responsibility for its continued management and maintenance. Volunteer groups spend time working alongside others and develop gardening skills, feel a sense of purpose and achievement and enjoy social engagement. The vegetables grown through the volunteer activities are taken home by volunteers so they can enjoy their own-grown seasonal, fresh produce – they learn how to re-create and grow seasonal veg in their own gardens thus encouraging healthy eating. Effective and careful management of The Lord’s Garden will help develop a more bio-diverse, sustainable and healthy local ecosystem. It is hoped that all these activities will develop and grow over the next few years. Nant Clwyd y Dre is closed from September to April, and open part-way through the week for the rest of the year (days are not consistent month-to-month).
At Ruthin Gaol, there will be developments to increase a wider range of visitors. Activities for learning, though quizzes and tours for teenagers, grownups and under 5s will stimulate discussion, improve the visitor experience and hopefully increase visitor numbers. An outdoor tour of the gaol buildings and exercise yard, to encourage people out into the fresh air and to walk around the curtilage of the building, explains the site from a different viewpoint. Visual tours and information are available for people with impaired hearing / hearing loss, and a ‘touch’ tour was introduced at the end pf 2015 for people with impaired vision. Provision of tailored educational experiences for schools at all levels/ages and sections of the curriculum. Ruthin Gaol is open Wednesday to Monday through spring and summer, and is closed November to March (with the exception of October half term week).
The Ruthin area has a relatively high percentage of the population who are Welsh speakers overall but it is not a consistent picture. The percentage of Welsh speakers is greater in the western villages and smaller in those villages in the Clwydian Range and Yale.