Cardiff in the line for hundreds of new job investment projects says Russell Goodway

Cardiff has a pipeline of major investments promising to create hundreds of new jobs from creative to pharma while a revived Severn Barrage tidal energy project would create a win-win scenario of economic development and climate change flood mitigation, said council cabinet member Russell Goodway.

Mr Goodway, whose cabinet remit for Cardiff Council covers investment and development, said that while challenges remain with Covid and its new Omicron strain, the capital had rebounded stronger than its competitor core cities in the UK.

There is currently a number of inward investment inquiries for the city, collectively requiring more than 100,000 sq ft of space, with one for around 70,000 sq ft.

Addressing Cardiff Business Club, Mr Goodway said while the pandemic had created huge disruption for the commercial heart of the city, like for the UK as a whole, predictions by some commentators that it signalled the end of cities as the economic drivers of their respective regions and nations were wide of the mark.

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He added: “Whilst we haven’t yet seen the back of Covid all the indicators suggest that those predictions were gravely exaggerated. There are more opportunities for smaller cities like Cardiff and there are encouraging trends to suggest that the city centre will return to being an engine for growth. The good news is that Cardiff is continuing to recover faster than other core cities and the latest recorded footfall figures show that the city is back to pre-Covid levels while other core cities continue to see 80% of pre-Covid levels.

“Developer and investor interest is still extremely high with around £6.5bn in our current investment cycle. Major projects have progressed despite Covid including the Atlantic Wharf masterplan with around £600m of investment with the indoor arena, a hotel, and a replacement for the Red Dragon centre acting as an anchor for wider investment around Cardiff Bay.

“There is also the £1bn investment in Dumballs Road from our development partner Vastint covering 40 -acres of brownfield land linking the city to the Bay and a further £1bn investment at Central Quay where Rightacres are regenerating the old brewery site of six-and-a-half acres of prime land in the heart of the city. We also have identified 800,000 sq ft of development on Churchill Way as part of the Canal Quarter project that will create a new waterfront destination in the heart of the city.”

Councillor Russell Goodway (Image: Rob Browne/Walesonline)

On the job creation front Mr Goodway said: “Levels of occupier interest remain high and we are currently negotiating with employers in cyber, creative and the pharma sectors to create hundreds of new jobs in Cardiff. So, we are punching above our weight as an investment location with investors recognising the quality of the Cardiff.

” In addition the quality of the city’s workforce, particularly in relation to the leading tech sectors, is often cited as a magnet for inward investment. Some space in the city centre is being repurposed away from retail, but we hope to attract more businesses as and when it is safe to do so.”

Last month the Welsh Government announced it was delaying plans to introduce a new version of its technical advice note (TAN) 15 alongside a new flood map for planning. It has been pushed backed to June 2023. If introduced, as originally planned from this month, it would have ruled out new developments in parts of Cardiff, but particularly in Swansea and Newport. The Welsh Government, following strong lobbying from local authorities and developers, said the delay will give time to develop mitigation plans to allow development within the new map.

Asked who should pay for the required flood mitigation, Mr Goodway said: “It won’t be the council and government will have to find the money for it. I must be honest and say I was disappointed that the Welsh Government would allow that sort of technical advice to be published without an indication of what the mitigation measures were going to be alongside. I am encouraged that Cardiff is better placed (flood threat) than Swansea and Newport and that has to be the benefit of the barrage (Cardiff).

“However, we have to be creative around that (mitigation). So, can we think differently around projects that have previously been dismissed but may now have a dual purpose in rising sea level defence and economic generation?

Specifically on a new Severn barrage project, previous versions of which suggested could generate 5% of the UK’s electricity needs by harnessing one of the world’s highest tidal ranges, Mr Goodway: “I am encouraged that the Western Gateway partnership are looking at this and there are conversations going on at that level as to whether or not that is something we could approach the UK Government to do using the Shared Prosperity Fund. When you get new challenges like climate change you have to find new solutions.”

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Backed by local authorities across South Wales and west of England, alongside universities and the private sector, the board of the Western Gateway has confirmed it is considering setting up a independent commission to look at the potential for an array of green energy projects in the Severn estuary – including a barrage.

Established to encourage cross-border economic collaboration, the Western Gateway’s reach stretches from Swansea in the west to Swindon in the east – covering a population of 4.4 million. While respecting the devolved settlement in Wales and emerging mayoral powers in the west of England, the initiative is seen as creating an economic powerhouse on a footing with the more established Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine in England.

Mr Goodway said major projects in the city, from the development of Cardiff Bay to the redevelopment of the city centre couldn’t have happened without a strong partnership approach with the private sector.

He added: “For the last 30 years this city has benefited from a successful and thriving public-private partnership. No major project has been delivered during that period other than through that partnership, so projects like Cardiff Bay and the barrage, the Principality Stadium, the Cardiff City Stadium, the redevelopment of the city centre, Central Square, the Sports Village. They all happened because the private and public sectors worked together to deliver a clear agenda to make Cardiff the city that can compete with other cities in Europe and around the world.

“And I want to thank businesses for working in partnership with the council during the nightmare of this pandemic. It may prove to be the most important yet, because for the future of Cardiff we need that relationship to work for the city like never before.”

Speaker at the next meeting of Cardiff Business Club on January 26th will be Port Talbot-born biotech entrepreneurial and serial investor Sir Chris Evans.

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