We've launched a weekly email to keep you updated on events happening in the Welsh Assembly.
Sign up now

Urgent Question: Yr Egin Centre

November 29, 2016

18 speeches by…

  • Elin Jones
  • Kenneth Skates
  • Simon Thomas
  • Eluned Morgan
  • Suzy Davies
  • Sian Gwenllian
  • Angela Burns
  • Adam Price
  • Julie Morgan

Kenneth Skates

Yes. Officials have been discussing various aspects of this project over the last two years and I’ve asked that discussions continue to determine whether a satisfactory business case can be submitted, demonstrating financial viability and the economic, cultural and linguistic benefits of the development, and explaining the need for public sector intervention.

Simon Thomas

I thank the Cabinet Secretary for his statement and I thank him for confirming that discussions and negotiations have been ongoing for two years and more on this proposal. There was some confusion over the weekend that this scheme relates to the relocation of S4C to Carmarthen. Will the Cabinet Secretary confirm that there is no mention at all of Welsh Government funding being provided for the relocation of S4C—that is a decision for the S4C corporation itself? But, of course, Yr Egin is an attempt by the university and partners to create a cluster for the creative industries in west Wales and in Carmarthen, and which will house S4C as well as a number of other creative industries bodies, creating up to 100 high-quality jobs in west Wales. In moving forward, will the Minister also confirm that the proposal—there have been no decisions of yet, of course, to invest or not in the proposal—is in keeping with the Government’s creative industries strategy and is also in keeping with strategies for building the Government’s language economy? Finally, when can we expect a decision from Government on the stability of this plan in order to actually put people’s minds at rest who may have believed that this related in some way to S4C?

Kenneth Skates

I’d like to thank the Member for his questions and say I do hope that a conclusion will be reached very soon on this matter. The Member is also right that we need to distinguish between S4C’s move and the entirety of Yr Egin project, which is an ambitious creative industries hub for Carmarthen. In terms of S4C funding for its share of the project, S4C has already indicated that it believes it is fully funding its share of the development. In terms of the additional resource as well, it was the original intention for Trinity Saint David to draw down structural funds to meet what is now the shortfall, but the allocation of significantly lower sums to the regional infrastructure priority for structural funds means that this money is no longer an option, so the Welsh Government has been approached to see and determine whether we would be able to grant aid to the development to meet the indicated shortfall. I do applaud the university for its ambition to drive social and cultural, and, indeed, economic development in the region, and I think it’s worth noting that both SA1 and phase 2 of Yr Egin have both secured the support of the city region board for development.

Eluned Morgan

S4C makes a contribution, not just culturally to Wales but economically through the injection of over £81 million, and much of this money goes towards paying small media companies to feed the channel, as happened in Cardiff over many years. What we’ve seen is a very prosperous industry developing. Will the Cabinet Secretary explain how Welsh Government is going to ensure that the local economic potential transferring from Cardiff to Carmarthen will be realised if Yr Egin centre is not developed and funded by the Welsh Government?

Kenneth Skates

I’d like to thank Eluned Morgan for her question. Just as Simon Thomas indicated, the creative industries are of enormous benefit to the Welsh economy. They are growing faster here in Wales than anywhere else in the UK, bar London, and it’s our intention to ensure that the creative industries go from strength to strength. The Government has a proud record, I believe, in supporting the creative industries, and, in particular, Welsh-language television and film. The project is indeed promising considerable economic benefits, above and beyond S4C’s move, and Trinity’s ambition is to build on S4C’s decision to move to Carmarthen. For example, there could be other anchor tenants in Yr Egin, including Boom, Gorilla and the BBC. It’s also worth reflecting on the fact that the SA1 partnership has already been able to turn £300,000 of Welsh Government revenue support into £5 million in capital investment, 50 new jobs and five business start-ups. So, as I’ve already said, officials have been in discussions with Trinity for some time. It’s my hope that a conclusion to those discussions can take place, but investment must be delivered on the basis of adding value, and that’s what we’re going to be determining through examining the business case.

Suzy Davies

I think the location in Carmarthen is likely to stimulate the use of the Welsh language within the economy, as it would wherever it’s situated in Wales. But, of course, this particular county has faced some fragility in the robustness of its growth of the Welsh language and has had some difficulties with its Welsh in education statutory plans in the past. So, the location of Yr Egin in this particular part of Wales, I think, perhaps does add that extra value that you were talking about in your closing comments just now. I also realise that you’ve mentioned the city deal, and while, perhaps, when we talk about Wylfa B, the role of the Welsh language in the north-east of Wales is much more to the forefront, I’m afraid to say, than it is with the city deal, despite the comments that you’ve made at the moment. So, would you agree with me that, actually, having this particular facility in this part of Wales brings extra value to the city deal, as it will be located in a part of Wales where growth in the Welsh language is something we should be looking for—new growth, as opposed to protecting existing use of the language in daily life? Thank you. I’d like to thank Suzy Davies for her questioning and say that I’d be keen to look at new growth of the Welsh language and businesses that support the Welsh language anywhere in Wales, whether it’s in north-west, south-west, south-east or mid and west Wales, anywhere across Wales. So, I’m keen to support any project that can deliver economic, cultural and social benefits to the communities in which it is based, but it must be viable and deliverable.

Sian Gwenllian

I’m sure you would agree with me that we need to be entirely clear and entirely transparent on this case. There is quite some interest in it. You mentioned that there was a financial deficit for this plan. When did that emerge, and is that different to the negotiations that have been taking place over a period of two years? Are we talking about a more recent development in terms of this deficit that you mentioned? Is the plan to relocate the S4C headquarters reliant on the funding that has been applied for from Welsh Government?

Kenneth Skates

Well, it is disappointing that a gap in funding was only discovered after the project was publicly announced, but the role of S4C is to add weight to Yr Egin and act as an anchor tenant that can attract more businesses to start up and to prosper from there. And, as I’ve already said, S4C have been able to demonstrate, through a £3 million up-front rental payment, that their investment in the project is secure, and it’s still their intention to move to Carmarthen.

Angela Burns

Minister, as far as I can see, Yr Egin will support the Welsh Labour goal and the Welsh Government’s goal of new technical hubs in rural areas, and so I’m 100 per cent behind this. The question I would like to ask you—. I’m very well aware that the funding has been in place. I’m very well aware, as I know you are, that S4C carried out due diligence, looked at a number of different locations around Wales, and in the end settled on Carmarthen. I’m very well aware that the intention is to build and create a services industry around it, and to support the work of the film industry in Swansea, and, of course, our own industry here in Cardiff as well, so that we have a long sweep down our southern coast of a creative services industry. Of course, being on the back of a university is absolutely excellent for this. So, Cabinet Secretary, I wonder if you would also perhaps give us a quick indication of the other support packages that Welsh Government might be looking at in order to help to promote a creative services hub based on Yr Egin, based on Carmarthenshire, based on the anchor companies of S4C, and perhaps some of the other companies that you’ve already mentioned that I know are currently looking at moving into that building, and particularly thinking about apprenticeships, and about retaining young graduates with a lot of talent in west Wales, to carry on developing our cultural and linguistic database, and that essence that is Wales.

Kenneth Skates

It’s a very interesting question, and I think it is worth reflecting, not just on this model, but also models that are emerging elsewhere in Wales. For example, we cut the ground recently at the Menai Science Park in north-west Wales, and I think that offers a similar approach where you could have vertically integrated systems that drive the growth of an anchor tenant, be it in north-west Wales, Wylfa Newydd, or in north-east Wales, where we announced a similar advanced manufacturing research institute—Airbus. You can have vertically integrated systems that replicate, to some degree, old models from the past, where you had within a single company, everything built, everything provided for, but then they were hollowed out. In the twenty-first century, the key is going to be in linking in university spaces, integrating university spaces, which can offer open, creative space, with businesses large and small, that are then based on not just feeding the requirements of the major companies, the anchor tenants, but also in driving innovation throughout that network. So, I do think that this model is a very interesting one that we could examine for elsewhere in Wales, but the other point that I would make is that I don’t think we can adopt a single model for everywhere in Wales. I think it’s essential that we take the unique skills and opportunities that exist in each community and then base this sort of hub growth model on those unique elements of Welsh communities.

Adam Price

Of course, I do urge the Cabinet Secretary to invest in the south-west, in the creative industries. We’ve seen industry here in Cardiff with Gloworks—maybe Gloworks 2 might be on the horizon—and Pontio in Bangor. We need investment in the creative industries in every part of Wales, and we wish to see that in the south-west too. May I ask him—? I want to see every part of Wales succeeding, so may I ask him, as he assesses the new economic strategy for Wales, to look at the positive role that relocations can play? He has expressed his intention to have the headquarters of the development bank in north Wales and I support that. Why can’t we have the new Welsh revenue authority in the north-west in order to compensate for those jobs that have been lost at HMRC there? Can we have a pan-Wales national scheme? There was some kind of basis for it in the spatial plan, but, unfortunately, that’s gone off the agenda. Can we have that back in the centre as a core part of our economic strategy, so that we can see investments in every part of Wales, and the public sector, where it can, playing its role in that?

Kenneth Skates

I’d like to thank Adam Price for his questions, and say that I do think he’s absolutely right. First of all, I think there’s a temptation for many—well, for all of us—to speak as backbenchers on behalf of our respective regions and constituencies. But it’s essential to recognise that there are opportunities to drive wealth creation all across Wales. Whilst today we are talking primarily about Carmarthen, I do think that the creative industries offer opportunities the length and breadth of the country, as do other key sectors. I would agree with Adam Price that decentralising and relocating, particularly public sector organisations, out to areas where economic growth can then be driven by their presence is absolutely essential. I think it will be an interesting element of the work of officials at the moment, concerning the economic strategy, in terms of how we use the public pound and the public sector to drive growth in the private sector, where there is potential, but there isn’t yet that spark that is required to get the sectoral growth actually driven.

Julie Morgan

S4C at the moment is based in my constituency, on the Llanishen trading estate in Cardiff North. I have to be absolutely honest, I regret that it’s leaving and I have said that in this Chamber before. I think it is a mistaken decision. One of the things I am concerned about is that any grant that does go to Trinity St David’s is not going to subsidise S4C, because broadcasting is not devolved. I think it would be a big mistake if this Government was to use grant money when it really should be a Westminster Government department that should be doing that. So, I wonder whether the Cabinet Secretary could clarify that. And could he clarify how dependent the development in Trinity St David’s is on S4C going there?

Kenneth Skates

I’d like to thank Julie Morgan for her questions. And it would perhaps be appropriate at this point to say that any questions concerning S4C’s decision, based on their competition to relocate, whether it be to Carmarthen or Caernarfon, are for S4C to answer. Likewise, the matter of relocating from Cardiff is an issue for S4C rather than Welsh Government to address, in terms of the questions about why the decision was taken. We would not be subsidising S4C’s move if we were to support this project. This project must demonstrate additionality. The vision of Yr Egin is for a creative hub—a major creative hub—and, in scrutinising the business plan, we need to be confident that the support that may be forthcoming would, indeed, lead to the creation of jobs that would not otherwise be generated solely by S4C’s move to Carmarthen.