The Welsh and UK Governments have today signed a new Swansea Bay City Region deal worth £1.2bn, which covers the Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire council areas and aims to improve local health, business, energy and broadband services.
Apparently the investment reflects a commitment of £115.6 million from the UK Government, £396 million of other public sector money (we assume this includes £125.4 million from the Welsh Government) and £637 million of private sector funding over the next 15 years. The deal is also expected to create 10,000 new jobs.
Various developments will be supported under this investment programme, such as a new Institute of Life Sciences with laboratory and clinic space in Carmarthenshire, as well as new office space in Swansea, Marina upgrades in Pembrokeshire and a new hub for innovation and development in Neath Port Talbot, among other things.
On the broadband connectivity front, Pembrokeshire will lead a new Digital Infrastructure Project that aims to “improve broadband and mobile continuity underpinning all projects within the Deal” (i.e. it covers the whole region, not just Pembrokeshire).
Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales, said:
“This is a package which will deliver jobs and economic growth for all of South West Wales, with clear benefits for all the areas involved.
Today’s announcement is a transformative deal that will drive the regional economy in a new direction, supported by high-quality jobs and a digital infrastructure.
I want to thank our partners – particularly the leaders of all the local authorities and Sir Terry Matthews – for their leadership and vision in bringing this historic deal to fruition.
This again shows the viability of city deals for different parts of Wales and we want to see this replicated in North Wales. We welcome the UK Government’s commitment in the recent budget to the North Wales Growth Deal and will be pressing ahead with discussions on proposals.”
It’s worth pointing out that Swansea itself is almost totally covered by both BT and Virgin Media’s respective hybrid-fibre broadband networks, so it’s already a lot better off than other parts of the UK and we’ve seen a fair few trials of new technology (e.g. G.fast) taking place in the area too.
Otherwise the new digital infrastructure project aims to “make the most of the underwater transatlantic fibre-optic cable which will run from New York to Oxwich Bay“. We recall mentions of a cable that was originally laid in 1990 between the USA and UK, which apparently landed at Oxwich Bay and then went on to Cambridge University, although it doesn’t show up on the usual cable maps and so may have been deactivated (there’s also SOLAS that lands nearby, from Ireland, at Port Eynon).
A new Cloud-based Data Centre at the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone will also be developed. The project is said to include targeted improvements to expand the provision of fixed ultrafast broadband, 4G and WiFi capabilities to “benefit both rural and urban areas of the region,” as well as establishing “Internet Theme Testbeds” to support future 5G mobile connectivity. Sadly no specific details are shared.