Challenges for Barry


By Ian James Johnson, our candidate in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Lying only a few miles outside Cardiff, Barry is a major Welsh town known at various times for its port, once one of the world’s largest coal ports; its beaches and Butlins holiday camp; its successful football team, winning the Welsh League seven years in eight, and now better known as the home of tv series Gavin and Stacey and Being Human.
But Barry suffers an unknown future. The proximity to Cardiff is both a blessing and a curse.
As part of the Cardiff city-region, Barry has benefited from its excellent transport links with the capital, becoming a major commuter town. Alongside the beautiful seaside views, that has made the town an attractive – a recent survey by Halifax showed that Barry was amongst the top 20 towns and cities UK wide in terms of house price growth in the last decade.
Economic growth in Cardiff has meant that the Vale of Glamorgan is the local authority in Wales with the highest number of commuters coming and going each day.
However, Cardiff’s economic success has not yet produced a trickledown effect into towns like Barry, whose town centre was strongly affected by the economic downturn and where the closure of high street chain stores saw their replacement not by niche independent traders but by poundshops.
Economic growth in Barry, like in much of Wales, is currently weak as a result of the mismanagement of the UK-wide economy by Labour and the cuts being made by the Tories.
It was a problem recognised by Plaid’s Jocelyn Davies AM when she took on her role as Deputy Minister for Housing and Regeneration at the end of 2009.
Despite a decade of protests by pressure groups such as Pride in Barry, and campaigns from Plaid Cymru in Barry, Labour in government had steadfastly refused to provide economic support for Barry. This in spite of the town being located only miles outside the European funded Objective One areas and capital receipts of millions to the Welsh Government from the sale of land at the town’s Waterfront.
Where Labour acted slowly, Jocelyn acted swiftly. Where Labour took ten years to go nowhere, Jocelyn took ten weeks to announce Barry as Wales’ seventh strategic regeneration area, with £9m of investment into economic regeneration in the town, and that money now being spent.
If Barry is to maintain its identity, though, then it must become a vibrant economically prosperous town as part of a wider city-region, rather than just a peripheral dormitory suburb of Cardiff.
It has the advantages – large swathes of land for development at the Waterfront, the fantastic beaches and tourism opportunities and a public transport infrastructure which can be turned on its head and easily reached from around south Wales, especially the large population base in Cardiff.
But Barry also faces major difficulties because of the cuts in the public sector, in part as a result of its proximity to Cardiff.
In recent times we have seen policing facilities moved from Barry to Cardiff, the driving test centre moved and now the Barry magistrates’ court closing.
Barry, the main town of the Vale of Glamorgan and located between Cardiff and Bridgend, is seeing the public sector come to the conclusion that Barry residents can get their services equally well in Cardiff while rural Vale residents can go to Bridgend. As a result the Barry office and service is withdrawn.
These jobs and services are now being lost in Barry because of Conservative cuts from Westminster and following years of neglect from Labour.
Barry has been failed by both parties – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Plaid Cymru in Barry have always followed strong community-based policies which prioritise the needs of local people above global profits, fighting for services, facilities and jobs on behalf of those people.
Returning the town to its former glory as a jewel on the Severn is something that only Plaid Cymru are pushing for – developing tourism on the Island, industry and services around the Waterfront and revitalising the town centre, alongside improving the quality of life for local residents.
Only a Plaid Cymru AM, from Barry, with decades of experience of how the town has been let down by both Tory and Labour administrations, will ensure that Barry is a priority of the next Welsh government.