UK: The taming of Tiger Bay. (2 of 2)

UK: The taming of Tiger Bay. (2 of 2) - In the meantime, Lane is unperturbed by reports of the recession threatening the future of British UDCs. "There is undoubtedly a recession," he concedes, "but South Wales is equally undoubtedly faring rather better

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In the meantime, Lane is unperturbed by reports of the recession threatening the future of British UDCs. "There is undoubtedly a recession," he concedes, "but South Wales is equally undoubtedly faring rather better than the South-east (of England). Our attitude is that while the economic climate is as it is, we'll market hard and concentrate on infrastructure, so that when the market turns we'll be able to say 'Here it is'."

If the CBDC's propaganda is to be believed, offers from a London firm to develop a 100-acre site have actually been refused, the corporation preferring to concentrate on 5 to 6-acre lots from the 600 acres compulsorily purchased at "no scheme" prices since 1987. "We're not here to show a profit," says the CBDC's chief executive. "We're here to attract £350 million of private investment by pump-priming at a gearing of 4:1, to create 30,000 new jobs, and to improve the quality of life in the area. We think this will probably take 15 to 20 years. I don't think we can be accused of rushing into things."

Cardiff can cater for everyone.

"South Wales' biggest asset is Cardiff," announces Geoffrey Inkin, chairman of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. "As a capital city it's got a cachet - and how many places can boast a new opera house and two first-rate symphony orchestras?"

As Inkin points out, Cardiff has undergone a rebirth recently, and the 30-odd managers who turned up at the joint Management Today/Wales Development International (WDI) lunch were keen ambassadors for the country.

"We've done the hard work," announces Mike Perry, chief executive of Gwent County Council. "Now we've got to build up the pride - to make the bankers come here rather than scuttling to London."

Everyone wants to stress the improvements to transport and infrastructure. Michael Pryor, a partner at Morgan Brice, believed that the Port Road Relief Scheme and improvements to the M4, as well as the construction of a second bridge across the Severn, would revolutionise road travel in the region. But even as it is, Cardiff is less than two hours from London by rail.

The issue of transport concerns no one as much as Graham Greaves, managing director of Cardiff Wales Airport. He is rapidly developing links with Manchester, Dublin and Belfast, but admits that his scope is limited by the Civil Aviation Authority, which continues to obstruct attempts to develop air links with Heathrow and Gatwick. It is clearly a source of some irritation to most of the audience, indicative of the myopic tendency of London-based planners towards the regions.

Mark Wibberley, director of a new Robert Bosch plant in the area, is enthusiastic about the future. Regardless of recession, he claims that demand for the company's automotive parts is assured, with order books full for months ahead. The workforce has performed well, he maintains - a point echoed by many. Chris Thomas of the WDI cites the case of Lloyds Bank. Successful recruits in Wales invariably have three A levels, he points out, making them easily better qualified than their Bath equivalents.

As is evident at all of Management Today's regional lunches, these businessmen showed a genuine love of the area, coupled with a frustration at "desk-bound" Londoners. "All we've got to do is get them here," says Inkin. "With the opera, orchestras and the rugby team, that shouldn't be too difficult."

(Charles Darwent is a freelance writer.)

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