CONSULTANTS will help ten rural Carmarthenshire towns develop plans to create jobs and develop services.
It follows a wide-ranging county council report which aimed to protect and revitalise the rural economy, provide more housing, nurture the Welsh language and attract young people back to the area.
Carmarthenshire Council said individual growth plans would be written over the next 12 months by teams based in the towns, with support from external consultants and the authority.
The public will be invited to give feedback, various bits of data will be analysed, and performance and viability reports written.
The growth plans will focus on supporting existing businesses, maximising job creation, developing the distinctiveness of the area, new ways of delivering services, and sustainable energy production, among others.
The first eight towns on the list are Llandovery, Llandeilo, Cwmamman, Newcastle Emlyn, Llanybydder, St Clears, Laugharne and Whitland, with Kidwelly and Cross Hands to be addressed afterwards.
Llanybydder councillor Ieuan Davies said he fully supported the growth plan concept.
He said Llanybydder was quite a busy place but still a deprived town in the north of the county with limited public transport.
“We would want to do anything to invigorate the area – especially to keep Welsh-speaking people,” said Cllr Davies.
Good housing was needed, he said, along with some light industrial units to encourage young people to set up in business.
“We are desperate for it,” said Cllr Davies. “Young people go away, and they don’t come back. We need to try to keep them in the locality.”
The 10 towns initiative will be part-funded through a Wales-wide rural development plan.
Llanelli-based consultants, The Means, and Owen Davies Consulting, of Abergavenny, have been appointed to help develop the growth plans.
Around 60% of Carmarthenshire’s population lives in rural areas, which have been hit hard by the closure of banks, shops and post offices.
House prices in some of these areas remain out of reach for young families – and calls have been made to make the planning process more flexible.
But rural communities also have a self-reliant streak, and agriculture remains a backbone.
The authority’s rural affairs report was discussed by full council in September.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Gareth John said: “The challenges are immense but the opportunities are even bigger.”