Once at the heart of the world’s most advanced iron and coal industry, Merthyr Tydfil had become – by the late twentieth century – a byword for post-industrial decline and deprivation. In 2018, the Design Commission for Wales convened a multidisciplinary team of experts, stakeholders and community representatives to consider possibilities for turning the town’s key assets – a unique industrial heritage and easy access to nature – to its economic advantage. The resulting ideas were distilled in The Crucible report. This set the stage for an international competition to appoint a masterplanner to develop these ideas into a design and delivery framework. Fourth Street was a key member of the world-class team assembled and led by Ritchie Studio, which won the competition.
We took responsibility for devising and articulating an economic vision and strategy for the masterplan. This centred on three key ‘themes’: history and heritage; natural environment; and contemporary creativity. The plan takes inspiration from an industrial landscape, repurposed to focus on environmental leadership, educational development, real social value, community wealth building and the celebration of local creativity and talent.
We participated in extensive community consultation and stakeholder engagement, conducted in-depth economic analysis, and produced the visitor projections and financial forecasts to underpin the detailed recommendations.
It is significant that our work began in late-2019, but continued through the height of Covid19. The Plan was heavily influenced by the challenges and opportunities created by seismic changes in consumer behaviour, working habits and public sentiment created by the pandemic and its aftermath.
The centrepiece of the resulting Plan is the creation of a ‘100 hectare park’ that essentially brings the surrounding countryside – the start of the Brecon Beacons – straight into the centre of town. It
aims to create a better and more sustainable balance between town and country, city and nature, built and natural environment.
The Cyfarthfa Plan was enthusiastically received by all stakeholders, including the local authority, community stakeholders, and the media. It was universally approved and adopted by Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council in January 2021.
The Cyfarthfa Foundation was established to take the project forward and, with Fourth Street support, some £1.3 million of development funding was secured through Welsh Government to initiate its implementation.
"This outstanding vision will both celebrate and heal the natural and post-industrial environment to provide a beautiful setting for recreation, harnessing the potential for tourism to improve the wider economic wellbeing of Merthyr and the wider Valleys region."
"One of the greatest lessons from this project comes from Dan Anderson, Fourth Street’s destination business analyst … It is said quietly. It is born of wise experience of the last few decades of overselling the tourist economy card. Beware making it too great a keystone of any plan. The future has to be rebuilt by the future generations of Merthyr’s current youth aided by all the community wisdom and pride of this remarkable town."