Friends of the Earth Pontypridd (FoE Ponty) is a group of local volunteers who work proactively in and around the Pontypridd area to campaign on environmental issues and act to improve the environment.
When RCT Council announced their Net Zero commitment, we worked with stakeholders in Pontypridd to bring together expertise and developed a collaborative paper with ideas and suggestions on what local people wanted to see happen. As a result of this submission, a representative from FoE Ponty sits on RCT Council’s Climate Steering Group. As a group, we have also worked closely with Pontypridd
Town Council both on the Bee Friendly Pontypridd initiative and on their climate emergency declaration and we are represented on the Climate Sub Group of their Environment Committee.
FoE Ponty work proactively with numerous organisations across Pontypridd including
Your Pontypridd, Friends of Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, Friends of Graigwen Woods, Repair Café Pontypridd, Grow Pontypridd, Ponty Nature Reserve, Pontypridd Green Week, Citrus Arts UK, Artis Community, Litter Pick Challenge and others.
As part of Pontypridd Green Week, together with partners and local residents, we collaborated on developing The Taff Rights which highlights how we need to better respect,
protect and restore the River Taff.
Young Friends of the Earth Pontypridd have been instrumental in raising awareness about climate change in the town through pop up events, Youth Strike for Climate, media work and taking part in a European Circular Economy Youth Forum to identify how the local area could
We appreciate the opportunity to provide additional feedback on the Draft Pontypridd Placemaking Plan following our initial submission by the deadline on 29th March. As we are all volunteers and work during the week, we were unable to attend face to face consultation events on the Plan. The timescale for the consultation was extremely tight and we strongly believe that more engagement with local people and community organisations is needed to ensure the Plan maximises every opportunity to develop a Pontypridd that is fit for the future.
This document provides additional information gathered from a wider group of our volunteers, supporters and community stakeholders following an engagement event we hosted, with the support of St Catherine’s Church, in Pontypridd on Wednesday 30th March. The event was open for anyone in the community to attend and our engagement focussed on how the Pontypridd Placemaking Plan can maximise benefits for people and the planet. We are grateful to RCT Council officers for agreeing to accept this more detailed response following our engagement event. We hope it shows the benefits of deeper engagement in generating ideas and solutions and that the information presented is welcomed and considered by RCT Council in developing the next iteration of the Plan.
A Pontypridd Place Plan that maximises benefits for people and the planet
At our community engagement event, we outlined RCT Council’s vision, ambitions and plans for the key sites as detailed in the draft Place Plan. We then used several tools to frame our conversation:
- Doughnut economics four lens approach (see appendix) – this asks participants to reflect on
a. How can a place [here Pontypridd] support the wellbeing of the people that live here so that we are all able to thrive? (local social foundation)
b. How can Pontypridd be as generous as the wildland around us in supporting nature to thrive? (local ecological ceiling)
c. How can Pontypridd respect the wellbeing of all people? (global social foundation)
d. How can Pontypridd respect the health of the whole planet? (global ecological ceiling)
- An imagining futures exercise – from what is to what if? (see appendix)
- A ‘walkshop’ to each of the key locations in the draft Plan (where possible) using the four-lens template to capture our vision for the Pontypridd of 2032.
The contributions resulting from this engagement, alongside submissions from individuals who were unable to attend the event due to illness is summarised in this document.
The settled view is that the Plan needs to be more transformative in its aspirations to ensure Pontypridd has the best chance of being fit for the future whilst supporting people and the planet. The Plan is intended to take Pontypridd into 2035 and so we need to be mindful that any developments will potentially ‘lock us in’ to a specific course for the next 13 years – and the new infrastructure far beyond. With the multiple global challenges we face, we must do everything we can to future proof this Plan.
Our stakeholders felt that RCT Council and other public sector organisations need to a more ‘can do approach’ to find solutions to specific problems. People also wanted more detail on how the Plan was cognizant of, and complemented, the wider Local Development Plan, the Social Enterprise Strategy and delivery of RCT Council’s Net Zero Plan – with explicit milestones/scheduling. The following key points were made about the draft Plan:
While the Plan states that it was drafted collaboratively, with expertise and knowledge of officers from RCT Council, Welsh Government, Valleys Taskforce and Transport for Wales, participants were disappointed that the expertise and knowledge of the people of Pontypridd is missing from the Plan. In addition, voluntary or community sector organisations and representatives from the faith community active in and around Pontypridd have not been properly engaged in the consultation process. This does not sit well with the Placemaking Charter or the ways of working required by law under the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, both of which require proper engagement and collaboration with people and communities. “The local community are involved in the development of proposals” It is important to involve people and communities in the development of plans from the outset to help build plans that are inclusive, holistic and transformative. Including people from the outset has the added benefit of fostering ownership of the plan so that we share in the collective vision and all want to contribute to its successful delivery.
We would like to see input in the Plan that represents the diversity within the community of Pontypridd. It is unfortunate that in developing the plan the opportunity has been missed, but this could be rectified through more widespread community engagement on the next iteration of the Plan. Public bodies need to start working with local people as citizens rather than as beneficiaries or consumers to empower active participation and involvement in democratic processes that go much deeper than voting at local elections once every 4 years. Without this deep engagement how can we properly understand who or what the Plan is for?
Sense of Place
We appreciate the effort that has gone in to preparing the Draft Plan, that it includes some exciting design ideas for a small market town and the aspiration to build a ‘unique’ sense of place. However, much of the content of the Plan could apply to any town across the area. It is not clear from the plan how Pontypridd will be different from Aberdare or Merthyr or how people’s lives will be different if the Plan is delivered. Will Pontypridd be an art-town, an eco-town, a university-town, a market-town or all of the above? Or are we focussed on a narrow role as a commuter town for Cardiff? Could Pontypridd be a town that trades in the ‘experiences’ that make it unique beyond simply aiming to be a shopping / leisure destination? This is particularly important as our consumption patterns and habits will need to change significantly over the coming decade and beyond.
“The vision feels like a slice of Cardiff. We’re not Cardiff, and neither do we want to be. I work in Cardiff, I come home to get away from the place”.
In order to better understand and build a sense of place for Pontypridd we need to ask people what they want from the town to get a clearer narrative of what the plan is for and direct Council resources to support the grassroots vision.
In addition, people had concerns that the Plan looks at the town in isolation, ignoring how the developments will impact on traffic around Pontypridd; e.g. the artist’s impression of the Broadway gives no impression of the weight of traffic that will continue to flow to the Rhondda, even in the ‘best’ Metro case. Where will this go?
Active travel cannot be solved in isolation either, for example if the Plan improves cycle routes and signage in the town itself, this will be of limited help if the cycle routes in the surrounding area are of poor quality.
Additionally, there is no comment on house prices. For example, if gentrification of surrounding communities such as the Graig result from the developments, then the less affluent and young people (who are already being pushed out of the housing market by rising prices) will be unfairly impacted. The social demographics of the town need to be considered to ensure that local housing remains affordable to people who call Pontypridd home.
Mixed use spaces
All stakeholders that contributed questioned the need for the significant additional commercial office space in Pontypridd in a post covid era citing the fact that Llys Cadwyn remains far from full as evidence of this. There could be potential for Pontypridd to thrive as a place where people work from home or supports smaller scale office space e.g. hot desking, with the town being more of a gathering and networking space for people who need to escape their desks. More clarity on what ‘mixed use
spaces’ could include would be helpful. The term is too generic a description, and if spaces are left to commercial agents to let, will offer no differentiation between North South gateways.
“Housing in mixed use space must remain affordable for the local population now and in the future”.
Stakeholders wanted existing buildings in the town to be repurposed through appropriate levers to include more flats and more opportunities for affordable living so that people live closer to each other and to where they work, ‘social enterprise’ zones of affordable workshops and creative studio spaces. Additionally, the under used commercial spaces should be made available for communities to utilise for activities like music practice, youth groups such as scouts and as places where people can come
together for discussion and community events. If this is not enforceable, then compulsory purchase of these properties should be considered as an option.
People felt that supporting the untapped artistic talent and creative skills (200+ people formally engaged in artistic activities) within and around Pontypridd could make a huge difference to the town and help create a sense of place. There is also a real opportunity to further connect with students at USW, building on initiatives e.g. pArt of Ponty Art Trail and to tap into design potential to develop new circular economy start up initiatives. A vibrant place could be created of makers workspaces visible through shop fronts. For initiatives like these to work overheads such as rates need to be kept low. Mixed use spaces could also include pubs that sell records or books or include micro-breweries.
People felt strongly that public assets should not be sold off or gifted to external investors effectively locking the community out of the asset for the long term. If RCT Council intends to sell off public assets then we would like the RCT Together asset transfer scheme to first work with the community to consider all available options for keeping the land or building resource/s within public or community ownership. We cannot know what the future will hold but what we do know is that it is likely that future
generations of people living in Pontypridd will need these resources for many different purposes.
There are excellent examples of communities that have been key to the regeneration of their local area through asset transfer and community purchase of land and buildings, for example 4CG in Cardigan. Selling, or gifting public assets to external investors, such as large corporations, siphons money out of the local economy, providing little long-term return. Whilst chains and large supermarkets provide convenience and the promise of jobs, the reality is that they displace local business and their profits (rather then being reinvested back into the local economy) go to distant shareholders. In addition, often the jobs provided are low skilled, low waged or low hours.
Climate and Biodiversity Emergency
We agree that the Plan should support Pontypridd to become more resilient to future change such as future flood incidents but feel the Plan does not go far enough. At the launch of the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in February 2022, the Chair, Hoesung Lee, said the evidence “emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”
The report goes on to show that safeguarding and strengthening nature is key to securing a liveable
future. The Draft Placemaking Plan lacks detail on what role Pontypridd will play in taking significant
action on the climate and biodiversity emergencies. While there are merits in an approach that works
towards a 20-minute neighbourhood model, this needs to be made more explicit in the Plan.
In addition, the Plan includes no detail on renewable energy infrastructure, grey water or rainwater harvesting, carbon capture, air quality improvements or consumption of natural resources or any information on how these will be measured. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Lessons could be learnt from Oberlin, a city which has a clear living purpose
‘to improve the resilience, prosperity and sustainability of our community’ with a live time environmental dashboard to measure performance against this.’
We agree that there is a role for nature- based solutions to build flood resilience but this could be more transformational, for example practical application of the ‘spongy cities’ approach might be useful in this regard.
People were pleased to see the draft Plan included some detail about bringing nature into the town itself through planting trees, soakaway gardens, green roofs and green walls. But were disappointed at the lack of conversations with the community about what this planting might include. Finally, any focus on the river needs to support and enhance the biodiversity in and around the its’ banks and abide by the Taff Rights.
A wellbeing economy delivers social justice on a healthy planet. It prioritises meeting our needs before our wants. And this includes human and planetary health, access to nature, true participation, connections within communities, fairness through our institutions and dignity for all people.
There is no information in the Draft Plan on the demographics of the population of Pontypridd or of the socio-economic status of the population. How will the Plan help to support all the people of Pontypridd to thrive within the environmental limits of our one planet? How can we ensure the Plan is ‘future proof’ in this respect with changing demographics and changing environmental conditions? How can circular economy principles be integrated in the Plan to benefit the environment and local residents?
How can we become more self-sufficient in terms of food supply for example, by growing some of that food within the town itself?
People were also interested in the potential for a local currency in Pontypridd, through supporting initiatives such as Timebanking and community run bloc-chain currencies such as Hour Coin. How can the town embrace hybrid working models and a shift to greater part time working such as the campaign for a 4-day working week?
Doughnut economics four lenses
Doughnut economics is a tool for helping deliver a wellbeing economy offering a vision of what it means for humanity to thrive in the 21st century and the mindset and ways of thinking needed to get us there. The Doughnut’s holistic scope and visual simplicity, coupled with its scientific grounding, has turned it into a convening space for big conversations about reimagining and remaking the future. It as a compass for human prosperity in the 21st century, with the aim of meeting the needs of all people within the means of the living planet.
The Doughnut consists of two concentric rings: a social foundation, to ensure that no
one is left falling short on life’s essentials, and an ecological ceiling, to ensure that
humanity does not collectively overshoot the planetary boundaries that protect Earth’s
life-supporting systems. Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped
space that is both ecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can
thrive. By unrolling the doughnut we can start to think about what this would mean in the
places we live by exploring each of the 4 lenses created.
Comments on Key Sites
• Rather than build a hotel where the old bingo hall has been demolished, stakeholders thought Sardis House (or the police station) could be refurbished into an affordable, family friendly hotel.
• People suggested that the bus station could be moved to Sardis Road car park to provide a direct link to the train station, to allow for alternative use of the current bus station & to remove the need for a station halt to be built near the bus station. Participants felt that any new halt should be at Glyncoch to improve connection with the town for communities there. An investigation into the best options in terms of new halts at the Goods Yard and Glyncoch to be led by Transport for Wales in collaboration with the local community.
• People also suggested an EV charging hub at Sardis Road car park with car sharing facilities & that the car park should stay open beyond 7pm to improve access for people who park & ride.
• People wanted to see more open space and trees in the town centre.
• People do not want another large building on the bingo hall site but would prefer a park or in the very least a single-story building with green roof. This would also support the vision for a more welcoming entrance to the town itself from the train station. People said that since the building was demolished there was a feeling of space, better views across the town and people felt more able to breathe.
• People suggested a green bridge from the train station into the park created on the ‘bingo hall space’ and others suggested a more radical transformation to put through traffic over a bridge to give much greater priority to cyclists and pedestrians.
• A Social Enterprise / Active Travel Gateway.
• Is this part of town the best place for a Bus Station? Green / Solar roof on bus station but move this to Sardis Road & put new rail halt with park and ride for Ynysybwl at Glyncoch instead.
• Green / EV car park at goods yard or space for food growing to increase access to seasonal, local produce and reduce freighted goods.
• EV vehicle hub/ car sharing scheme in Berw Road car park.
• Develop Muni Hall as a social hub with creative arts, music and studio spaces.
• Partially pedestrianize the area around the museum, Llys Cadwyn, bus station and Muni and Gelliwastad Road – routing the majority of through traffic around the town rather than through it. Creating an active travel thoroughfare & freeing Gelliwasted Rd up to become a people centred space.
• Pollinator friendly trees & planting along Gelliwastad Road – bring it back to an avenue.
• Replace/ refurbish & repurpose the police station, with the small number of police currently stationed there moved to 2-3 ‘Public Service Hubs’ across town, alongside RCT, Citizen’s Advice, Community Health staff.
• Need to involve Pontypridd Town Council in discussions around the Museum and area behind as they own the building and adjacent land.
• A new train halt to connect the main train station with the bus station would require passengers from Rhondda and Merthyr to change trains to get to the bus station. Moving the bus station to Sardis Rd car park would enable a direct connection with the bus station for both these routes.
Town Centre Core
• Divide Llys Cadwyn into smaller office lets or convert to housing.
• Clear and evidence-based approach to a complementary set of activities, reducing competition (e.g. between Muni & YMa; Llys Cadwyn & any new developments e.g. Market Quarter events space).
• High quality co-working space including open plan, meeting rooms, office pods.
• Dedicated town centre manager including responsibility for managing all Council letting activities – take back from commercial agents.
• Programme to improve aesthetics where landlords are failing – e.g. hiding eyesores like the 99p shop with art installations.
• People welcomed the turning of the town to face the river.
• Gas Station Car Park – the seating steps / amphitheatre would create an ideal vantage point for watching skateboard / BMX activity on the opposite riverbank.
• More covered areas in the Town Centre Core would increase footfall because people would still come into Town in the rain.
• Green infrastructure including vertical growing and trees.
• Secure town centre bike storage, routes into town centre defined for walkers and cyclists and measured so people can make easier decisions about getting their daily exercise.
• Green taxis for delivering goods and people which are charged at the EV site/s.
• Continuation of river walk where possible.
• Heritage interpretation to build connections with the industrial heritage and to build community pride.
• More traditional shop fronts (see for example Narbeth where even Greggs does not have its normal frontage).
• Bring artists into empty shops to change the feel and mood of the town (RCT has a large creative community including professional pianists, singers, painters, producers which would make the town more exciting).
• Places where people could sit and chat and enjoy the environment and feel welcomed so that they want to come into the town and stay.
• Indoor skate park for young people in one of the large shops with youth workers connecting them to the town centre.
• Riverbank restoration – more natural habitats to support ecosystems.
• Green roofs and rainwater/greywater harvesting on all new developments.
• Developing Pontypridd as a destination for residents and those from further afield to stay in with an attractive mix of amenities – a ‘critical mass’ of cultural attractions, hospitality venues, services and public spaces (applies to all key action areas arguably!).
• If the policy is to advocate for the ‘restoration of heritage buildings so that their architectural style is celebrated and prominent in the centre’s townscape’ then please stop knocking them down!!
• Amend vehicle access to Taff St and Market St to before 10am and after 4pm.
• Market itself functions well but this central part of town would be ideal for a public services hub.
• Engage with the owners of the car park to the rear of Alfred’s to develop it into a better organised parking area if necessary, or preferably a green space / a market garden for use by local businesses and the community.
Ynysangharad War Memorial Park
• Floods are likely to become far more common. The reimagining of the park needs to take account of this and embrace the River Taff’s right to flood. This can be achieved through intelligent landscaping allowing flood water to be carried through the park, rather than backing up and flooding housing on Berw Road or entering the town. A flood channel would help to protect low lying assets within the park during flood events but provide space for other activities, such as a skate park, at other times of the year. Examples of this kind of ingenious architecture can be seen in Denmark, for example.
• The park could be, or contain substantial areas of, forest gardens like those in Cuba, Detriot & New-York. A place where the community can come together collectively to grow food around a seasonal inundation of flood waters.
• Youth facilities needed including somewhere for a skate park.
• The Rhondda river upstream of Taff Street is highly visible but currently a mess. There are unattractive and uncared for buildings and lots of litter.
Landscaping and refacing of the buildings would make this a visual gem for the town. There also appears to be scope for a pedestrian route linking directly to the end of the footbridge into Ynysangharad Park.
• Park users have commented that there is a drainage issue from the football building to the Southern gateway which floods during heavy rain impacting on Ponty Park Run runners, for example. This seems to have got worse since the park has been repaved.
• There are issues with drainage on and around other paths, with some paths becoming unstable during periods of rain. For example, the path leading behind the tennis courts to the dog enclosure and the path from the bowls club to the sunken garden.
• Park users have commented on the felling of diseased trees but a lack of
transparency around this and a lack of information about what is being done to
replace them but also add to the numbers of trees in the Park.
• The Park becomes saturated to the point of flooding during heavy rain and
more trees would help alleviate this. Plant more trees everywhere!
• Introduce natural flood mitigation measures.
• Allocate more grassed areas to growing meadow plants/rewilding.
• Develop forest school facilities.
• Log stack play area to encourage play in nature (see Duffryn Gardens).
Doughnut economics four lenses
From What is to What if? Imagination exercise
In a moment we are going to take a walk in Pontypridd but before we do so we’d like to share something with you by Rob Hopkins (the co-founder of the Transition movement) who believes that by unleashing the power of our imaginations we can create the future we want.
We all know that the future looks deeply challenging for many reasons. But we do have the power & capability to effect dramatic and positive change. Reclaiming and unleashing the power of our collective imagination is key to creating the positive future we want. We need to help ignite the imaginations of those making decisions that will affect our futures.
I invite you to close your eyes if you would like to and get comfortable. I would like you to imagine that you have discovered a secret time portal & are travelling forward through time. The 10 years you are travelling forward through are a time of profound social change, in which old institutions fell away & were replaced by new ones. In which change previously thought unimaginable became unstoppable.
In 2032 you emerge into a world profoundly changed, profoundly transformed. One that is now more equal, more resilient, beautiful, diverse, delicious & delightful. It’s a world in which we have all, from institutions to businesses, individuals to governments worked together to create a Pontypridd that enables us all to thrive, a Pontypridd that is generous to our relatives in nature, a Pontypridd that treads gently on the earth and a Pontypridd that shows kindness & solidarity with our friends & neighbours in distant lands.
I’d love to invite you to take us on a walk through the future of your imagining, a future where that has come to be. What does it look like, smell like, sound like, feel like & taste like?’
You can now open your eyes and take a moment.
Let’s go on this walk together in groups to visit each of the key areas outlined in the Plan. We will take our 4 lens sheets to capture what we see in this future Pontypridd which has been deliberately redesigned so that no one falls short of life’s essentials but we also manage to stay within the life sustaining environmental limits of our one planet. Switch your attention from what is to what if? We’ll meet back here at 7.30pm to share what we found in this future Pontypridd.