Creating talented town teams in Pembrokeshire

This case study reviews the creation and contrasting evolution of town teams using the experiences of Pembrokeshire County Council’s innovative support programme in six towns. 


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Local authority: Pembrokeshire County Council

Submitted by: The People & Places Partnership

Case study synopsis: 

This case study reviews the creation and contrasting evolution of town teams using the experiences of Pembrokeshire County Council’s innovative support programme in six towns.  It is based on the the F-Factors Framework for assessing town team development adopted in LGA’s revitalising town centres handbook. It provides transferable lessons about the evolving function and organisational form in different towns and how the future foundations, ‘folk’ and finances need to be tailored to local needs. ‘Forward frameworks’ are advocated as the way for individual town teams to direct their future development through a delivery-focused action plan and an organisational business plan.

The challenge

The ‘foundations’ for town team development in Pembrokeshire came from a county, local and national impetus to address emerging town centre issues. 

In 2012 Pembrokeshire County Council conducted a review of its town centres, focusing on: issues and challenges; impacts of council services; opportunities for regeneration and potential for improvement.  Moving away from conventional approaches to retail and property-led intervention was seen as key with the need to work towards a mixture of uses through local partnerships, multi-sector working and the development of strategic plans.

Parallel discussions with Pembrokeshire’s six main towns identified a number of common issues where a coordinated local focus was considered key:  the role and function of the town; out-of-town/internet retailing; streetscape and maintenance; parking issues; branding or place-shaping activities; vacant and boarded up retail premises. 

These county-based discussions were set against the background of the Portas Review and Welsh Assembly report on the Regeneration of Town Centres that advocated local partnership working. 

The solution:

Town teams were established in each of the six towns in the summer of 2013, comprising of members including the town council, chamber of commerce and County Council, in addition to community representation. A capital fund of £750,000 was made available for the towns to bid into alongside county-led projects such as town centre WIFI and branding.

The County Council initially identified three key ways for the newly established town team partnerships to work in contributing to successful town centre regeneration with support from the local authority.  These ways of working bridged the gap between ‘what’ the town team is seeking to achieve (function) and how it is organised to achieve this (form).  These were: 

  • Developing a vision and a deliverable action plan
  • Developing a balance of projects
  • Complementarity between role of neighbouring towns

More recently in Pembrokeshire, the County Council has supported town masterplanning to complement the work of the town teams.  This impetus for this comes in-part from a desire expressed by some of the town teams for a strategic approach.  It is important to understand town teams’ local roles in developing and delivering the masterplans as part of the wider regeneration process and structures. 

In terms of organisational ‘form’, the early focus in Pembrokeshire was to support council-coordinated town teams able to initially serve as ‘umbrella’ organisations capable of assisting with the local coordination necessary to develop and deliver an action plan and mix of appropriate projects.   

The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable):

The County Council financial contribution of £750,000 towards the six town centres levered in £913,855 through match funding. The funding has enabled a wide range of projects which wouldn’t have happened without this focus and targeted allocation.  Analysis of funding also shows where town centres have a long-term vision and plan, there is a greater likelihood of external funding being levered in.

Some town teams have established a platform for future investment through enhanced identities, marketing and promotion and physical capital works. Some of these have been integrated, others piecemeal. The masterplans will also provide the opportunity to build on the people-based foundations of the town teams and find ways of partnering and unlocking assets.

How is the new approach being sustained?:

This case study shares lessons on future sustainability gleaned from a 2017 mid-programme review carried by Atkins Ltd. with Chris Jones Regeneration and the People & Places Partnership.  It used the the F-Factors Framework created by the People & Places Partnership that has been adopted in the LGA’s revitalising town centres handbook and accompanying on-line toolkit on.  This approach focuses as much on the ‘how’ as the ‘what’ is involved in locally-led regeneration of towns. 

Four years on, it had become timely to review the ways individual town teams had evolved as well as the County Council’s changing priorities.  This involved revisiting their foundations, function, organisational form, the ‘folk’ involved and finances based on an understanding of achievements to-date, lessons learnt and the relationship to the emerging masterplans.

Town centre regeneration usually involves various disciplines or functions that need to come together over a five to ten-year period. Typically, these will not all get underway at the same time or even be led by the same organisations. The range of functions includes:

  • parking, travel and access;
  • planning and property
  • streetscape and public realm
  • business support
  • place branding and marketing
  • digital technology and data

As the town teams developed their own partnerships, priorities and ways of working, it became opportune to consider how they are working towards the broad range of potential functions.   This considers the individual towns’ priorities for economic (business and retail enhancement), environmental (place-shaping) and social (community and culture) objectives in the town action plans alongside masterplanning.

Up-dated action plans can provide an agreed vision; enable cohesiveness and coherence between partners; help to communicate direction and outcomes; enable the town teams to maximise impact and support by building membership, partnerships and participation; assist in securing funds and guiding spend. 

With the existing track record and established capacity of town teams, it was also considered a good time to remedy the lack of baseline data and introduce the monitoring of impacts on a regular basis. This could be easily achieved by adopting biennial survey of key performance indicators and routine monitoring of event footfall, for example.

The capacity, good will and connections achieved through the town team development was considered a major advantage that can help contribute to successful delivery of the newly-launched Pembrokeshire towns masterplanning process.

Alongside reviewing the town teams’ functions, it was equally appropriate for the Pembrokeshire groups to review their terms of reference for how they are structured, governed, their membership and relationships with partner organisations. Such a review could be aided by peer-to-peer learning and sharing between town teams facilitated by the County Council.  This review can include redefining the relationship with the County Council as its future policy, funding and staffing support is determined and the masterplanning process evolves.

Individual town teams should capture such a review prepare of function and form by preparing ‘forward frameworks’ comprising of a delivery-focused action plan and an organisational business plan.  Such forward frameworks cover how the Town Team operates alongside the detailed delivery proposals in the accompanying action plan. Key elements of the forward frameworks will be:  baseline evidence and monitoring report; restated vision, aim and objectives as the basis for new town centre action plans; revised terms of reference covering structure, governance, membership and relations with partners. 

Lessons learned:

Having evolved in different ways during their early years of operation, it became opportune for the Pembrokeshire town teams to reflect on whether they have the right skill sets to perform their function. They can also learn from each other.  For example, one of the town teams has knowledge and a set of skills that is transferable to other towns from lessons learnt from pop-up shops, digital and app developments, event support and branding.  Elsewhere it is key for the town team to focus on working with local stakeholders and delegating responsibility for events, buy local campaigns, arts and cultural activity, digital marketing and use of town Wi-Fi. 

Mature town teams may in time require the combination of having an effective Chair as a “go to” figure; a suitably skilled and representative Board; employment of necessary staff adding value not replacing volunteer involvement; managing trained volunteers; and having established linkages for joint working with other stakeholder groups.

As they mature, it is appropriate for town teams to periodically undertake a skills audit to see how they need to augment their skills amongst board members; volunteers, potential new staff and partners to see how they can deliver revised action plans. It will, for example, be important to enhance communications skills by recruiting suitable local talent and preparing communication plans covering traditional and digital media.

Now is a good time to consider how the form of each of the town team reflects its function and particularly the balance between strategic influence and project delivery.

In Haverfordwest, for example, the Town Team is a loose association with no defined, legal form and serves principally as a local coordinating body for key town-wide groups with strategic links to the County Council and masterplan delivery.

The Pembroke Dock Town Team, in contrast, is currently considering a move towards charitable status to assisting in accessing funding, as well as establishing key events as self-sustaining, independent community businesses.

In Pembroke Dock it was considered important to review the town team’s current status as the Town Council’s Regeneration Committee.  This could involve strengthening its coordinating role with key partners having equal decision-making status whilst the Town Council retains control of how it allocates its own resources and serves as a key local and strategic point of contact.

Key determinants of a town team’s organisational form will be:

  • balance sought between strategic influence and local action
  • level and nature of local authority involvement
  • need for financial accountability and independence
  • ability to involve and engage with local community including businesses

The County Council needs to assist in defining the role and relationship to planning and other council services, destination management partnerships and third-party support organisations.

Contact:

Sinéad Henehan
Community Safety, Poverty and Regeneration Manager
Pembrokeshire County Council
Telephone: 01437 775540
Email: Sinead.Henehan@pembrokeshire.gcsx.gov.uk

Links to relevant documents:

A copy of the summary report creating talented town teams; reviewing progress in Pembrokeshire is available here.