Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
A council leader has defended of the £1.1bn North Wales Growth Deal amid claims that relatively few benefits will reach areas such as the south of Gwynedd.
The deal, a collaboration between all six north Wales authorities, is seeking to inject up to £1.1bn to the region’s economy, creating between 3,400 and 4,200 jobs.
Having attracted £240m from the UK and Welsh Governments and expecting significant private sector investment, 14 projects will be spread across the region.
Those specifically earmarked for Gwynedd include:
- A distinctive and “world-class hub” at Glynllifon, offering a range of facilities and services to strengthen and enhance the growing the food and drink sector
- Funding towards enabling the infrastructure for the development of a nuclear reactor at Trawsfynydd
- Providing industrial floor space to meet known demand for units at Bangor’s Parc Bryn Cegin, with scope to generate 250 jobs.
But raising concern over the lack of projects based in the south of the county, Cllr Dewi Wyn Roberts sought assurances over the benefits for such areas.
Addressing Thursday’s full council meeting, he said that “communication had been made” with a company wishing to invest up to £15m in a proposed hotel “of real quality” in Abersoch.
Cllr Roberts added: “Were a project to come forward with a company wishing to invest in the county, are they able to take part or only already earmarked projects?
“We need to be flexible and brave when it comes to such projects, and there’s talk that something like this could bring around 120 jobs to the Dwyfor area and its vital that we do everything we can, while being careful in regards to balance.”
In response, Cllr Siencyn said that hailing from Meirionnydd himself he was keen to see more investment in the area and lauded digital projects as well as low carbon community projects as well as those earmarked for agriculture, with programme director Alwen Williams added that a key aim was to make the area more attractive in general to prospective outside investment.
Cllr Gareth Thomas, the economic development portfolio holder, said that the deal would be a “game changer” and provide much needed and well-paid jobs after a period of economic uncertainty.
But Cllr John Pughe Roberts, who represents Corris/Mawddwy, was keen for the authority to work with the Powys and Ceredigion-led Mid Wales Growth Deal.
“For us what happens in Machynlleth has much more of an impact than Bangor or Caernarfon, they’re very far,” said Cllr Roberts.
“Its vital that you work with them to try and get something for south Gwynedd, which is one of the poorest regions in Britain and Europe.”
In response, Cllr Siencyn said he had been “frustrated” thus far that Gwynedd was not a “full partner” of the mid Wales deal, but was “pushing to changing that.”
After further question marks were raised by members from the south of the county, however, the leader refuted suggestions Wrexham and Flintshire would benefit disproportionately at the expense of Gwynedd, going on to launch a staunch defence of the partnership working between all six councils.
“We have fostered a close relationship across political lines and consider this work to have pulled the north east counties closer to us than ever before,” concluded Cllr Siencyn.
“I was told early on that they consciously decided (Flintshire) to turn their attention to north Wales rather than Cheshire and Liverpool as they were a part of Wales.
“I felt from then on that it was imperative that we join hands and walk forward together.
“What are the alternatives, to sit back and do nothing? As a council the investment of tens of thousands of pounds means that we benefit to the tune of hundreds of millions.
“If we don’t do this we might as well give up now and forget about providing work and skills for our young people going forward, I want to see our families flourish in all parts of Gwynedd.”
The proposal to approve the overarching business plan, draft final deal and governance agreement was passed by 44 votes to four, with seven abstentions.