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.
As at November 2020, 11% (19) of Ruthin’s town centre outlets were vacant.
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.
Education and skills are a crucial enabler of prosperity. In recent years, schools provision in and around Ruthin have 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 (secondary) – a bilingual co-educational comprehensive school for pupils between 11 and 18 years of age maintained by Denbighshire Education Authority. The average take up of Free School Meals (FSM) is among the lowest in the county (6.4%), and pupil performance for the Capped 9 points score was amongst the highest (400.1).
Ruthin School (independent, secondary) – A mixture of day and boarding pupils, with a high proportion of boarding pupils coming from overseas. Pupils perform very well academically, and has in recent years undergone a phase of expansion, including new accommodation, sports facilities and 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: Dual stream medium Church in Wales primary school
- Ysgol Pen Barras: Welsh medium non-denominational primary school
- Ysgol Pentrecelyn: Welsh medium non-denominational 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 undertaken (particularly in affected areas). Advantage has been taken of these flood mitigation schemes, which have provided the opportunity to develop more sustainable environmental improvements. The Glasdir Mitigation Area is managed for biodiversity and priority species e.g. water vole.
Much of the Clwydian Range area of outstanding natural beauty (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 have been 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 but is also available elsewhere in the county. 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.
There are a great many assets in Ruthin and the surrounding area that support community resilience. The Town Council recently took ownership of The Old Courthouse on St Peter’s Square and transformed it into a multi-purpose community hub. The Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council has its offices in Ruthin at the Naylor Leyland Centre, and the Youth Centre engages partners and local young people to deliver programmes that support community resilience. Further afield, villages such as Clawddnewydd and Llanarmon-yn-Ial have taken community ownership of their pubs and offer civic spaces for the benefit of their community. Within the AONB, St Tegla’s Church in Llandegla has developed a visitor area, including a display that provides information about the village and near-by places of interest.
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. There is also a strong farming community culture in and around Ruthin, which also itself contributes to cultural and economic well-being.
Community health and social care assets in the Ruthin area include Ruthin Community Hospital, and Extra-care housing at Llys Awelon. Ruthin Community Hospital has GP medical inpatient beds, and hosts consultant outpatient and community clinics there.
Other services provided include:
- Outpatient and inpatient Physiotherapy
- Occupational Therapy
- District Nursing
- Therapies Department
- Phlebotomy service
The Welsh Government has approved £3million to build a health and well-being centre at the hospital, which will relocate services from three community hubs in Ruthin, as well as a new on-site premises for Mount Street Clinic surgery, which was deemed ‘not fit for purpose’ in an estates review in 2016. As well as GP appointments, the new health and well-being centre will provide: health visitor services, mental health services for older people, improved therapy facilities, expanded physiotherapy and podiatry, on-site space for third sector services such as mother and toddler groups, improved facilities for families of inpatients, and on-site training for GPs.
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, 2,891 patients), and Plas Meddyg (nine GP’s, 10,380 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 local authority provision. A fitness suite and all weather pitch has been added to Ruthin Leisure Centre (which also features a swimming pool). 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.
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 parts of Denbighshire and Conwy, rates of crime and anti-social behaviour are low. Ruthin ranks in the least 50% deprived across all Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation indicators.
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 and 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.
Ruthin’s Craft Centre is a national centre for the applied arts, featuring three gallery spaces (with artists on rotation); 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 medieval and Georgian facades and roofs of 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 well-being of residents and visitors and provide opportunities to improve the health, culture and community cohesion of the area.
The restoration 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 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 that 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.
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 for people with impaired vision.
Beyond the town there is a wealth of history to explore, not least the Offa’s Dyke and its iron-age hillforts, but also the distinctive double-nave churches that are a particular feature of the Vale of Clwyd.
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.
The range of heritage, cultural and environmental assets and developments provides Ruthin’s contribution to a Globally Responsible Wales. Sustainability principles will be implemented through the Well-being 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 from Ruthin started off the discussion by expressing how refreshing it is to see new homes being built in the surrounding areas e.g. Llandyrnog, Llanfair, Rhewl, Llanbedr and Glasdir.
Independent businesses adapted well during the pandemic allowing the community to build resilience. Residents outlined how the area thrived much better than those communities served by larger supermarkets as the local newsagents, paper deliveries and milk men worked well to serve the local community and neighbouring villages.
The participants also felt that Denbighshire County Council is the best in Wales in terms of recycling and reducing plastics. They would like to build upon this success even more especially in terms of separating recycling.
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.
As part of the County Conversation, focus groups were held with all mainstream secondary school councils and the youth council. Young people said 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.
Residents envisioned a number of housing improvements for future generations. Although participants were happy to see new homes being built, concerns were raised about the boundaries between towns and villages becoming smaller. They wanted to see a cautioned approach to future developments being built on land which results in outlying villages becoming a part of Ruthin. A suggestion is to give more consideration to building upon current sites rather than reduce green spaces. In addition, participants emphasised the need for housing support for young people as concerns that even rental accommodation is becoming unaffordable and there is a lack of availability of housing in the area.
It was the residents’ ambition to see that the community can be encouraged to appreciate the local natural environment by taking part in litter picking and other activities to maintain their local areas.
Volunteering and charity project support was seen to be important to enable community independence and resilience.
Other aspirations included increased collaboration between the council, communities, and partners.
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 felt that travel routes interlinking communities is ‘beyond poor’. They were keen to build on the successes of the current active travel routes to improve travel routes throughout the county.
Many economic improvements were mentioned such tourism, attracting green industries and supporting sustainable practices, and personal debt support.
Young people’s mental health was a particular concern.
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
The keys risks and barriers that participants felt needed to be overcome were as follows:
- There is a lack of support for the local economy. This is required to support towns and businesses to become more sustainable.
- Tourism is under performing at present due to Covid-19 and it is felt there is a lack of support to address this.
- Under appreciation for the environment that we live in.
- The importance of understanding what a council does before advising on what can be done or done better was stressed by participants.