Three weeks ago, the Government announced the awards under the latest round of the Levelling Up Fund (LUF). Three North Wales bids were successful, including the one for Ruthin and its surrounding area in my own constituency of Clwyd West, which received almost £11 million.
The LUF, as its title implies, is designed to support infrastructure investment in areas where it can make the biggest positive impact on everyday life, both economically and in terms of increasing pride in local communities. The nature of such improvements will vary, depending on the circumstances of the individual community.
In the case of Ruthin, tourism is of crucial importance to the local economy. The award will pay for improvements to two of the town’s principal visitor attractions: Nantclwyd y Dre – reputedly the only house left standing after Glyndŵr set fire to the town – and the Victorian Gaol, which is the only Pentonville-type prison open to the public.
In addition, St Peter’s Square will benefit from the removal of the unsightly 1960s roundabout that currently spoils the symmetry of the impressive open space, leaving it unobstructed and available for use for concerts and other public events. The area around St Peter’s church will benefit from refurbishments. The town clock will be restored. Cae Ddol park, on the banks of the River Clwyd, will be improved.
Outside the town itself, a new, much-needed visitor centre will be provided on Moel Famau, a significant outdoor attraction for holidaymakers and day trippers. Loggerheads Country Park will benefit from river defence works. Finally, the villages of Bryneglwys and Gwyddelwern will receive upgraded community facilities.
All the improvements paid for by the LUF will undoubtedly benefit the visitor economy of Ruthin and its surrounding area, and as such will be welcomed by local businesses. However, they will also make what is already one of the most attractive parts of North Wales an even pleasanter place for its residents; and that, too, is a key component of LUF: delivering improvements that are immediately tangible for local people.
LUF is a highly significant initiative that will, I believe, prove successful because it is sensitive to the views of local people. Its interventions are designed not by central Government, but by county councils, working closely with the local community and the local MP. In the case of the Ruthin bid, I had several meetings with county and town councillors and spent one entire day walking the town of Ruthin and visiting all the sites that were being put forward for consideration for the scheme.
In other words, the bid was a bottom-up, not a top-down, exercise. Local people worked together, decided what they wanted and came up with a strong bid that ultimately proved successful. I have no doubt that, when the improvements are finished, there will be a great sense of ownership felt by the community.
LUF is an excellent initiative. I look forward to seeing it delivered and hope that other North Wales communities will benefit in future rounds.