£15 million will soon reconnect & revitalize an ancient Welsh town’s castle & waterfront

Caernarfon is a community and port in Gwynedd, Wales, with a population of about 9,615.

Abundant natural resources in and around the Menai Straits have enabled human habitation in Caernarfon since the times of prehistoric Britain.

Caernarvon Castle in 1749.

In the 13th century, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, ruler of Gwynedd, refused to pay homage to Edward I of England, prompting the English conquest of Gwynedd.

This was followed by the construction of Caernarfon Castle, one of the largest and most imposing fortifications built by the English in Wales.

Now, a £15 million regeneration being planned for Caernarfon’s waterfront intends to transform it into a “must-see” tourist destination.

The Heritage Lottery has earmarked £3.5 million for the Cei Llechi (Slate Quay) project which will transform the area into a hub for craftsmen.

This project, when coupled with the building of a new Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway station (costing about £2.3 million), will hopefully draw thousands of additional tourists and local residents to this relatively undeveloped part of the town.

A second phase, Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic monument service, will restore and renovate parts of the castle, and upgrade linking roads.

The Caernarfon Waterfront and Town Centre Regeneration Initiative is an ambitious and innovative program of projects to develop a vibrant and distinctive town providing a wealth of opportunities to Caernarfon’s residents and visitors.

It’s achieving this by renewing and better-connecting its unique assets, with the goal of making the town—and especially its waterfront—the lead cultural destination in North Wales.

Here are the projects that comrpise their program:

  • Empty Shops Initiative: A comprehensive package linking individuals with suitable commercial properties to help develop their business idea.
  • Mentro Mlaen: Led by Gisda, and funded by the Big Lottery in Wales to empower vulnerable young people and provide them with the skills required to increase their confidence and assist them to progress from support to employment. Funding from the Caernarfon Programme has helped the renovation and improvement of two locations in the town centre to facilitate the project’s activity. Find out more about the Mentro Mlaen project here.
  • Ideas:People:Places: An innovative and exciting new project funded by the Arts Council of Wales to regenerate Caernarfon in an imaginative and ambitious ways by working with artists and communities. Find out more about the Ideas:People:Places project here.
  • Business Improvement District: The programme will provide capital support to pilot initiatives identified by the business sector to strengthen the attractiveness and vitality of the town centre.
  • Beics Menai: The recent acquisition of Beics Menai by Antur Waunfawr offers an opportunity to develop the offer and provide employment and training opportunities for people with learning disabilities.
  • Island Site, Slate Quay: The historic Slate Quay at the heart of Caernarfon Waterfront offers a significant regeneration opportunity with the ability to be a key catalyst – pivotal to the wider development of Caernarfon Waterfront. The development will be looking to bring the currently dilapidated buildings of the site back into a mixed-usage development. Find out more about the Slate Quay project here.
  • Welsh Highland Railway Caernarfon Terminus: The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland narrow gauge railways run through some of Snowdonia’s most outstanding landscapes, and are one of the longest in Europe. Work is underway to look at improvements to the current facilities to improve the visitor welcome to Caernarfon.
  • Caernarfon Castle: A World Heritage Site of international significance, it is a key attraction in Caernarfon. Building upon recent developments, a further round of improvements to the visitor facilities will be undertaken.
  • Galeri: The Creative Enterprise Centre at Galeri has established itself as an innovative blend of theatre, performance studios, art space, creative and artistic workspaces. Its success has led to an increased demand for space, where options are being considered to extend the current building.
  • Housing: Alongside the efforts to develop the demand and supply for labour are efforts to improve the housing supply within the town. A number of schemes are operational in bringing empty properties back into use to improve the housing supply, developing opportunities for new housing developments as well as raising the energy efficiency of targeted homes to tackle fuel poverty.

Building on recent investments, the vision aims to boost the town’s economic prospects by making the most of its unique strengths and assets to create sustainable jobs and economic growth.

The initiative is led by Gwynedd Council, and delivered through a multi-agency partnership that consists of Cadw, Arts Council for Wales, Antur Waunfawr, Gisda, Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways, Caernarfon Harbour Trust and Galeri Caernarfon.

Back in November of 2014, Gwynedd Council and the partnership were successful in securing £1 million from the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places Tackling Poverty Fund. This funding, in addition to further funding from partners has enabled the initial development of some of the program’s initiatives.

Cei Llechi Project Board chairman Bob Lowe says: “The regeneration of this part of the historic waterfront will provide space for local artisans to develop existing and new businesses, creating up to 30 new jobs; refurbishing the listed Harbour House and Office and offer three quality holiday units. With a fair wind we hope to make a start on-site soon after Christmas 2017 and be open for business by the summer of 2019.

All images courtesy of Caernarfon Waterfront and Town Centre Regeneration Initiative.

See Daily Post article by Hywel Trewyn.

See Caernarfon Waterfront and Town Centre Regeneration Initiative website.

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