Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a report by the Head of Planning, Public Protection and Countryside Services (copy attached) examining the work of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, during the financial year 2021/22.


10.15- 11.00 a.m.


Lead Member for Health and Social Care, Councillor Elen Heaton introduced the report (previously circulated) on behalf of the Leader, Councillor Jason McLellan Lead Member for Economic Growth and Tackling Deprivation.  Members heard the purpose of the report was to provide members with the annual and quarterly performance summary of the work conducted by the North Wales Economic Ambition Board (NWEAB). She introduced officers from the NWEAB who were in attendance to present to members a presentation and answer the Committee’s questions.


The Head of Planning and Public Protection thanked Councillor Heaton for introducing the report. Members were provided with some background to the growth deal and the highlight headlines of the annual report by NWEAB officers. The report provided information on the projects within each of the growth deal programmes. The report also provided guidance on the governance of the growth deal. Confirmation of Denbighshire County Council officers’ involvement in the projects was stressed. Officers attended project board meetings to input Denbighshire’s perspective on the given project.  


Hedd Vaughan Evans, Head of Operations for the Portfolio Management Office of Ambition North Wales, presented members with a PowerPoint presentation. He introduced to the Committee Stuart Whitfield the Digital Programme Manager and David Matthews, Land and Property Programme Manager.


Members were provided with background information on the Board and advised that the Programme Office reported directly to the Board which set the direction of the work and took any decisions required.  The NWEAB had been in existence since 2016, setting a vision for North Wales.   The Heads of Terms Agreement for the Growth Deal had been signed in 2019 following a lot of work and discussions between officers across the board. The Portfolio Office was subsequently created in January 2020. By the end of 2020 members heard the Board had signed and secured the final deal with both Governments, securing £240m investment into North Wales. Confirmation was provided that the growth deal had clear objectives built into the deal with the government.


The North Wales growth deal had been agreed on the basis of a portfolio of 5 programmes; Agri-food and Tourism, High Value Manufacturing Programme, Low Carbon Energy, Land and Property and Digital Connectivity.  Members were presented with an extract that summarised the progress of each of the projects. The representatives guided members through each project and provided further detail of the work completed and work ongoing.


Included in the papers had been the annual report which highlighted some of the highlights from the activities of Ambition North Wales. Members heard over £1million of additional revenue had been secured to fund specific activities that complimented the growth deal. This included an innovation grant of £500k in partnership with Coleg Cambria Llysfasi to look at pilot projects to help the agricultural sector to decarbonise. An energy strategy had also been adopted for North Wales, working closely with Welsh Government.  Highlighted to members was the successful delivery of the full fibre network project which was a UK Government funded project. The project delivered full fibre connectivity across public services across North Wales. Over 300 sites had been reached, significantly improving the quality of connectivity and the resilience of connectivity. Denbighshire had 65 sites connected. Members heard an element of the project had been to support rural areas with connectivity. It was hoped with the aid of Welsh Government funding the scope of the project could be extended to expand to a further 28 sites in the region. 


The Chair thanked the officers for the presentation and for attending the meeting remotely to present the report. The following elements were discussed in more detail:

·         The key strategic site of Bodelwyddan - substantial work was on going with the project. Planning policy may create substantial changes to the originally approved. Discussions with Denbighshire officers to assess the changes would take place and the project would be reassessed in the growth deal. It was hoped a decision on the project would be reached by the board by early winter. A horizon scanning questionnaire exercise was taking place to assess any potential alternative projects to be considered by the Board. The NWEAB would make the decision on any changes to the growth deal projects including removal or replacement projects.

·         The Low Carbon Energy Centre of Excellence project with Bangor University had been scored as behind delivery due to a request from the University to delay of four months to confirm the scope of the project. The delay had not been accepted by the board as yet.

·         Clarity on the Llysfasi Net Zero Farm project was also anticipated in the coming months. The delegated authority lay with the NWEAB to determine if a project would be removed from the programme.

·         The funding received for Growth Deal projects was from a completely separate funding source to the Levelling Up funding.

·         Inflation was a risk that would be considered by the Board. No further funding from either government would be received. Each project would be evaluated and inflation cost factored into the costing and any savings that could be made.

·         Members heard all growth deals were required to have growth value added (GVA) as a target. It had been included on each project set on an individual project basis looking at the GVA uplift from jobs created. It had to be recorded as part of the growth deal. The Board viewed a range of benefits particularly the impact the projects had on communities and the area. 

·         The scope of the Digital Connectivity programme did not include schools. Welsh Government had historically invested in fibre connectivity to schools. Information provided to the board in 2019/20 indicated there being no additional need for connectivity to schools in the region. Confirmation was provided that the company Open Reach had been used for the scheme. Members heard Open Reach had published its exchange area plans for the UK including North Wales setting out its plans of investment.

·         Confirmation that the video on Communication and Engagement project be circulated to members.


The Head of Planning and Public Protection provided reassurance that Denbighshire officers were working closely with the NWEAB colleagues. It was hoped that a potential Council briefing session on the Growth Deal and programmes could be arranged to brief all Councillors.


The Chair thanked all officers for the detailed presentation and response to members’ comments and questions.


The Committee:


Resolved:  subject to the above observations along with the answers and assurances received during the course of the discussion, to receive the North Wales Economic Ambition Board’s Quarter 4 Performance Report 2021/22 and its Annual Report for 2021/22. 


Supporting documents: