The amount invested across the twenty years varies hugely. 1990/2000 was the year that saw the most investment (and, at £6,267,000, represented around half of the total investment over the 20-year period), largely due to the Big Pit redevelopment.
Pontypool’s population has remained stable in the 20 years since HLF was established. It has also remained fairly homogenous over that period. Pontypool has suffered economically in recent years; its levels of unemployment are high relative to the rest of the UK and have increased at a faster rate than elsewhere.
“Dad and Granddad both worked down the mines and it’s a big part of our family’s history and the area’s history.”
These economic issues were reflected in the findings of the qualitative and quantitative research. Whilst 83% of residents agree that Pontypool and the surrounding area is a good place to live, there are also some concerns about how it has changed, with 31% saying that it has deteriorated over the time they have lived there. This compares unfavourably with the average across the 12 research locations, in which 26% say their local area has deteriorated. This was reflected in the workshop, in which participants highlighted a lack of investment, weak employment market, and poor retail offer as important local issues.
Residents are more positive, however, about local heritage. Workshop participants were very proud of their heritage, which they often associated with the area’s industrial heyday and with natural or outdoor attractions.
This pride was reflected in the quantitative findings. Seventy-five per cent of residents are very or fairly satisfied with the local heritage offer, in line with the average across all 12 locations.
“You need to bring children into it, make them appreciate the area. Maybe if there was more promotion through schools or something like that.”
Seventy-one per cent of residents say heritage has improved over the time they have lived in the area, making them more positive on this measure than the average for this research (64%). In the workshop, when discussing how limited local investment has been, participants singled out improvements to Pontypool Park and the canal as exceptions to this.
Importantly, despite this positivity, workshop participants did have some concerns about local heritage, most notably that there is insufficient promotion and signposting.
Workshop participants identified a number of criteria that a successful local heritage project should meet: it should offer activities and entertainment opportunities for locals and visitors; it should be accessible; it must have a clear community benefit (for example, job creation); it should be sustainable; and work on the project should be good quality.
About the research
All strands of the research were conducted in Pontypool. Background data was collected to understand how the area has changed over the last 20 years. Five interviews were then conducted with local stakeholders from a range of categories (for example, a representative of local government and a figure working in academia). To understand the public perspective, 350 residents took part in a telephone survey, and 14 residents participated in a half-day workshop. The workshop covered a range of issues, including: views of Pontypool; attitudes towards, and engagement with, local heritage; the benefits of heritage; and the criteria that should be used to assess whether or not a local heritage project is successful.
Heritage projects in Pontypool
The research project focused on the following heritage sites and projects, which are also reflected in this map.
- Big Pit: National Mining Museum
- Pontypool Park
- Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
- Greenmeadow Community Farm, Cwmbran
- Blaenavon World Heritage Site
- Pontypool Museum
- St Cadoc's Church, Pontypool
- Historic building restoration work carried out in Pontypool town centre
- Llanyrafon Manor Rural Heritage Centre, Cwmbran
- Pontypool Townscape community archive project
*Grants awarded to projects in the Pontypool research area up to September 2013.