Plans to make Merthyr Tydfil a world class visitor destination as part of its prominent place within the Cardiff City Region have been discussed at a day-long brainstorming event.
Cyfarthfa Castle was the venue for a meeting bringing together over 60 ‘creative minds’ – architects, landscape architects, urban designers, engineers, planners, heritage specialists, museum and tourism experts and artists – with the aim of helping Merthyr ‘carve out a place for itself’ on a Europe-wide industrial heritage tourism trail.
The ‘Design Charrette’ was organised by the Design Commission for Wales and the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University, who described it as ‘a bold visioning exercise that will seek ways of making of Merthyr’s heritage assets something greater than the sum of its parts’.
Chief Executive of the Design Commission Carole-Anne Davies said:
“Merthyr’s place in the history of Wales and the industrial revolution is clear and its story unmatched, yet despite the real progress that is now underway at Cyfarthfa, the town’s rich store of heritage assets has yet to achieve the coherence and national impact that it deserves.
“The development of the City Region presents Merthyr with a golden opportunity to use those heritage assets to carve out a place for itself as a destination comparable with similar places in Europe – an anchor site on the European Routes of Industrial Heritage – as well as a major contribution to a city region better balanced between its coast and hinterland.”
Advisor Geraint Talfan Davies, Co-founder of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, described the charrette as a ‘brainstorming process about unlocking ideas from the community and from professionals to shape and exploit Merthyr’s historic assets.
“We all want to see its contemporary projection brought up to the same level as its true national and international significance in the industrial revolution,” he added. “In that sense this is a national project.”
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Public Protection Cllr Geraint Thomas said:
“The charrette set the challenge of considering how Cyfarthfa Castle and its extended landscape and built heritage, as well as Merthyr’s other heritage assets, might become a world class visitor destination and experience.
“The ideas emerging from the charrette will help promote the strong sense of place that is already palpable here, and help shape new ways in which these central assets could be connected to others throughout the town and beyond,” he added.
The European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH) is the tourism industry information initiative that provides a network of the most important industrial heritage sites across Europe. The aim of the project is to promote regions, towns and sites showing the industrial history and to market them as visitor attractions.
“Merthyr Tydfil should take its place in this and other networks, much like Blaenavon’s World Heritage site has done, to help redefine perceptions and realise its great potential,” said Geraint Thomas.
The charrette was supported by the County Borough Council, Merthyr Leisure Trust and Merthyr Heritage Trust, with funding from the Council and support from Design Circle RSAW South.