IHBC Yearbook 2010

32 Y e a r b o o k 2 0 1 0 Bridgend Townscape Heritage Initiative The Glamorgan town of Bridgend (in Welsh, Pen-y-Bont ar Ogwr) takes its name from the 15th-century bridge on the River Ogmore (Afon Ogwr) around which the town grew up. Bridgend was a thriving market town by the 19th century, when many of its historic buildings were constructed. The town and its infrastructure developed rapidly during the Industrial Revolution, its fortunes closely allied to those of the coalfield communities in the valleys to the north. The social and economic damage inflicted on the region by the mass pit closures of the 1980s were mitigated in Bridgend by the creation of new manufacturing jobs, notably at the Ford engine plant at Waterton. Nevertheless, pockets of deprivation persist in urban Bridgend and the surrounding settlements, and unemployment remains higher than national and UK averages. Since the late 1990s Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) has been intensifying its efforts to enhance the townscape and increase economic activity. The initiatives of the council and its partner organisations demonstrate the crucial role historic building conservation can play in local economic regeneration. Regenerating the historic town centre As in many other British towns, the town centre shops in Bridgend have increasingly had to compete with new, out-of-town retail complexes and some have inevitably fallen by the wayside. Unsympathetic or poorly coordinated shop and streetscape design also took their toll as the town quickly expanded in the 1970s and 80s. The western area of the town centre abutting the River Ogmore contains a solid core of buildings of architectural and historic importance, and many are listed. Dunraven Place includes a terrace of early 19th-century houses listed for their group value. Unfortunately, here and on many other historic buildings in the town, architectural features of particular interest such as balustrades and ornamental urns, had been lost over the years, perhaps as they had proved challenging to maintain. The main shopping street showed the classic signs of shopkeepers competing with each other at the expense of the quality of the street as a whole. Fascias were invariably large and garish, and the traditional details had been stripped out. In 1997 BCBC began working with the Welsh Development Agency and local organisations to regenerate the town centre. After a feasibility study and extensive public consultation, Bridgend Town Centre Conservation Area was designated by the council in 1999. The Bridgend Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) was launched in 2005 and the THI officer, Sue Tomlinson, was appointed shortly after its launch. The THI is a partnership of the Heritage Lottery Fund, BCBC, Cadw and the Welsh Assembly Government. Its principal objectives have been to improve the physical condition of the town’s built heritage and to increase public awareness of its value, focussing on the town’s historic core around Dunraven Place. By targeting grant aid at vacant buildings in the THI area, the initiative has also stimulated private sector investment in the town centre, laying the foundations for continued economic growth. The regeneration initiative was primed by repaving Dunraven Place, introducing a new lighting scheme, stripping out the clutter of street furniture, and by pedestrianising a short section which formed a cul-desac. The 15th century bridge over the river, which is now a scheduled monument, was repaired, and a The restored footbridge over the Ogmore River (Afon Ogwr), leading to Dunraven Place The Davies Building, on the corner of Caroline Street and Dunraven Place, is a typical example of fine but neglected Victorian architecture, disfigured by an ugly shopfront and fascia.