Blaenau Ffestiniog is the “town that roofed the world” but the long decline of the slate industry had placed economic and social strains on the town. The Regeneration Project commenced in 2007 as a partnership between Gwynedd Council, the local community group Blaenau Ymlaen (Blaenau Forward), and the Welsh Government. Community engagement was paramount: an innovative approach included Blaenau Ymlaen being on the project delivery team.
Major physical interventions were considered essential. Retail offer was to be improved and broadened, maximising tourism potential whilst celebrating the unique aspects of the town: its heritage, culture and setting. The aim was to proclaim that Blaenau was open for business, show-casing its remarkable heritage but looking to the future with confidence.
Leading the Miller Research team, Chris Jones worked with the community led client group and Gwynedd Council to deliver an integrated design package for the heart of the town centre.
Embracing a multi-disciplinary approach to place making, urban designers, a lead artist, engineers, cost consultants and lighting specialists worked from an initial baseline assessment through to the planning package stage. Engagement with the community was crucial in terms of managing change in a very proud community, with a number of opportunities including a visioning train journey on the Ffestiniog Railway line, town walkabouts, stakeholder workshops, community exhibitions and place-branding work. The finalised designs demonstrate an integrated approach to celebration of a rich place with its story told through artwork that is contemporary and functional.
The team secured planning consent and funding for the £4m project with the scheme being completed in 2013. It has since played a role in building Blaenau Ffestiniog as a destination with Antur Stiniog’s mountain bike trails up in Llechwedd and zip wire activity and indoor cave trampolining at Llechwedd slate quarries. The town has seen a re-energised business offer sat within an enhanced environment. The project has been recognised for a number of awards including the Institute of Civil Engineering Chairman’s Award for Sustainability 2013, Construction Skills Excellence Award and has been shortlisted for Towns Alive Awards and UK Royal Town Planning Awards in 2013, amongst others.