AN £18 million chunk of central Government money is finally being released to boost two city deal projects in Swansea and Carmarthenshire.
The Welsh Government and UK Government have approved the project business cases and will hand over the money once terms and conditions have been agreed.
The funding is the first part of a £240 million central Government investment in the £1.3 billion city deal, which comprises 11 public-private sector projects.
The first two to benefit from central Government money are the £168 million Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District Project, which features a 3,500-capacity indoor arena, high-tech office space in The Kingsway, and a larger development for business start-ups at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (UWTSD) new campus in SA1.
The other is Yr Egin – a creative and digital cluster in Carmarthen, the first phase of which is home to S4C and other tenants.
Politicians including Wales’ Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, gathered at the indoor arena site at the LC car park to mark the funding commitment.
Mr Skates said: “The business cases are satisfactory, and subject to terms and conditions which will be signed off within the next month.”
He said he was determined to ensure that the city deal delivered “genuine economic growth”, provided high-quality jobs and signalled “a culture shift for the region”.
It has been a lengthy and at times difficult process since the city deal’s heads of terms were signed in March, 2017.
Mr Skates said working with the UK Government and eight councils, universities and health boards with a stake in the city deal was a new process. “There is no precendent for this sort of work,” he said.
A second chunk of £18 million central Government funding will be provided this year for the city deal, if further terms and conditons are met.
Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said the release of the money was “extremely welcome”.
He said: “The Swansea and Yr Egin projects will give people in South West Wales a world-class entertainment venue, while providing our creative, tech and entrepreneurial business talent with the spaces and facilities they need to thrive.”
The Swansea Labour leader, who also chairs the city deal’s ruling joint committee, said he wanted to bring forward other projects for sign-off as quickly as possible.
Carmarthenshire Council leader Emlyn Dole said the first phase of the £24 million Yr Egin scheme at UWTSD’s Carmarthen campus had been an “outstanding success story”. He said: “Once final terms and conditions have been approved, city deal funding for this development will be a significant boost as plans for a second phase of the development gather pace.”
Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, said: “By empowering the region to make decisions which support their own economic growth, both Governments are working together to make the Swansea Bay area a powerhouse of innovation, creating employment and attracting investment which will transform the region for years to come.”
Around half the funding for the entire city deal is expected to come from the private sector.
Mr Cairns said the sign-off of the terms and conditions required for the projects would help ensure private sector investment. He said: “Private sector funding is what makes these projects sustainable over the long term.”
The city deal public sector partners are Swansea University, UWTSD, Swansea Bay and Hywel Dda health boards, Swansea Council, Carmarthenshire Council, Pembrokeshire Council and Neath Port Talbot Council.
The aim is to provide more than 9,000 high-quality jobs over the next 15 years, attract further investment, and increase the region’s below-par productivity.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, and changes are being made to a joint working agreement between the participating bodies.
And Neath Port Talbot Council is reviewing three projects it is leading on, with leader Rob Jones saying last week that it might opt to have two larger ones instead.