Building back a new, greener, stronger and fairer Cardiff after COVID


A series of proposals designed to boost Cardiff's economy and improve the lives of residents as Wales comes out of lockdown have been revealed by Cardiff Council.

The strategy for a post COVID-19 recovery and renewal draws on a report prepared for the council by a world-leading expert on cities and urban management policies.

Report author, Dr Tim Williams, has worked across the globe for 20 years helping cities like London and Sydney develop urban strategies. His report - Taking Cardiff Forward After COVID-19 - was commissioned by the council to challenge its own thinking, and to act as an independent, critical friend.

Following submission of Dr Williams' report the council has prepared four reports of its own, published today, which outline how Cardiff Council will work towards delivering recovery and renewal strategy for Cardiff which will:

  • Reimagine the city centre, creating a vibrant and welcoming place for everyone who visits and works there;
  • Help deliver new jobs and apprenticeships, boosting employment opportunities;
  • Deliver a ‘One Planet' recovery which responds to the climate emergency; and will
  • Work towards delivering better outcomes for children - especially the most deprived - as part of a ‘child-friendly' recovery.

Cardiff Council's Cabinet will consider the reports at its next meeting on Thursday, May 20th. If agreed the council will begin a conversation with residents and city stakeholders across the summer to gather their views on the proposals.

Leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has presented the biggest challenge to public  services and to the life of the city in a generation. Over the course of the crisis this Council has played a key role delivering vital  services, particularly to the city's most vulnerable residents.

"At the outset of the crisis we brought our public and private sector partners together in order to lead a successful, whole-city response to the pandemic.  Now it's important we carry on the good work, shaping the future of Cardiff alongside those partners and the city's residents as we look to safely re-open for business.  We all hope this lockdown will be the last, but as the city emerges from the pandemic it is essential we do everything we can to ensure a speedy recovery which safeguards people's jobs and livelihoods.

"Covid has and will continue to present challenges. There will likely be long-term economic and social impacts, but there will also be opportunities to rethink the way we want our city to grow and about the lives we want to lead in a post-Covid world.

"Already we have seen an acceleration of trends that were emerging before Covid - changes to the way we want to live, work, shop and spend our leisure time. Moving forward there will be opportunities to change the way we work, to make life more local, to reduce congestion, to take steps to clean the air we breathe and to improve the environment.

"This council is determined to deliver the best possible outcomes for all its residents. We have worked up plans which we believe will help Cardiff recover from the pandemic, plans which can benefit everyone who lives and works here. We want to start a new Capital Ambition conversation with citizens and city stakeholders on how we can shape and lead the recovery and renewal of Wales' capital city. We want to build a new Cardiff, a city which works for everyone who lives in it, and which works for Wales. A city which will continue to grow and to flourish as it has over the past 20 years. A great city to live in and one that can continue to power Wales's economic success."

Dr Williams, said: "Cardiff entered this global crisis in good shape and it can emerge, with the right spirit, strategy, collaborations and innovation, even stronger. In so doing it can provide even more benefits for both its own community and that of the City Region.

"There's an opportunity, galvanised by Covid-19, for Cardiff to become an exemplar for a city of its size. Building on its established and continuing strengths, the ambition it has to succeed, the skills and imagination of its people and the leadership it has already shown, Cardiff will not just ‘bounce-back' - of that there is no doubt - it will ‘bounce-forward' as the council restarts what it can do but also rethinks what it needs to."

Cardiff Council has already begun to address the recovery and has initiated a series of steps to open up the city safely as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Those immediate recovery plans to reopen the city safely while protecting lives, jobs and businesses include:

  • Working in partnership with the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board on the ongoing rollout of the vaccination programmes;
  • Continuing to deliver the Test Trace Protect service to reduce the transmission and spread of Covid-19;
  • Monitoring and responding to any Covid ‘variants of concern';
  • Facilitating the rollout of test events in the city;
  • Providing permissions to use additional street space for the hospitality sector to serve outdoors;
  • Keeping the castle grounds open as a public square;
  • Developing plans for the ‘Summer of Smiles", a festival for all children which will run in the city throughout the summer, alongside catch-up education opportunities for those children most disadvantaged during lockdown;
  • Developing a commuting plan with city centre businesses to encourage the return of workers in a safe and controlled way;
  • Using city centre marshals to help visitors and businesses understand and follow social distancing guidelines.


Looking towards the longer term recovery the council has created 6 mission statements and priorities which it wants to consult on.

These are:

  • Reimagining the city centre
  • A city for everyone
  • A City of Villages
  • A culture and sport led renewal
  • A Tech City
  • A One Planet recovery


Mission 1: Reimagine the city centre.

City centres face new challenges in a post-Covid world and the changes we have seen in the way we work, shop and pursue leisure activities could all have a major impact on our cities. It is essential we work to protect jobs in our hospitality, retail and office sectors by attracting people back to the city centre. While construction developments and improving the city's infrastructure will play an important role in delivering jobs and job opportunities, measures will need to be taken to reactivate the night time economy, improve the cultural offer, animate public spaces and improve public transport and active travel options to create a uniquely identifiable Cardiff which people want to visit and be a part of.


Accelerate the completion of central business district to support continued jobs growth.

Support existing businesses to grow and become more productive.

Improve existing - and establish new - public squares, green spaces and enable the opening up the riverfront and the Canal Quarter.

Put culture and arts at the centre of the recovery.

Take a more direct role in managing the future of the city centre to reflect the needs of residents, workers, businesses and visitors.

Make a city centre that is safe, clean welcoming and attractive for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Create a city centre that is fully accessible to all ages and people of disabilities.


Mission 2:A city for everyone

The pandemic has widened inequalities, unemployment has doubled and the young, the old, women and those from a BAME background have all been more adversely affected. Life experiences of young people have been limited throughout lockdown and there is a need for specific support. Cities will need to address the long term drivers of health inequalities, including access to good jobs, housing and education which residents face in our more deprived communities.


Use the council's role as an economic anchor institution to drive a local economic recovery.

Ensure all communities benefit from regeneration and development programmes.

Place young people and children at the heart of any response ensuring a child-friendly recovery.

Ensure new models of support in place for the city's most vulnerable residents are maintained post pandemic.

Address long-term drivers of health inequalities by investing in housing, education and local communities.

Ensure Cardiff is a city where everyone feels safe and welcome.


Mission 3: A city of villages 

The pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of our local communities, neighbourhood centres and green spaces. With the majority working from home during lockdown we saw big changes to the way we travelled, shopped and used the spaces around us. With home working likely to remain in some shape or form, opportunities have appeared which can strengthen our local centres over the long term. The ‘City of Villages' concept is based on the idea of the '15-minute city' where services you might need, from parks to shops, are within 15 minutes of your home. There is an opportunity to make the existing network of successful local district centres even more vibrant, busy and relevant to local communities, and to a new type of agile worker who may split their working days between home and an office in the city. The possible benefits, from reduced congestion to community regeneration, are clear to see.


Creating safe and accessible local communities for everyone, particularly younger and older people

Deliver a step change in the provision of public transport and active travel options.

Invest in estate renewal, enhancing existing housing estates and neighbouring areas.

Manage and curate local business centres, creating vibrant, distinct local neighbourhoods

Deliver a ‘locality' approach to public services with the co-location of public service teams in a network of Community and Wellbeing Hubs alongside a strengthened role for local schools in community life.

Showcase and celebrate the diversity and culture of different parts of our city.

Deliver a co-ordinated programme of regeneration activity.


Mission 4: Culture and sport led renewal

The pandemic has raised the importance of the arts, culture and sport to Cardiff, all of which have played a huge part in attracting business and visitors to Cardiff in the past as well as making our city a great place to live. Culture, creativity and sport, shape cities as places to live and to visit. Maximising the impact of our creative and cultural assets is one of the key ways in which we can differentiate Cardiff from other cities.  Distinct, authentic, local experiences will become more important in attracting domestic and international tourism in the future and culture is increasingly recognised as a key wellbeing asset for any city's residents. Moving forward the city needs to allow for and provide space for creative, cultural and sporting activities.


Put culture at the heart of redevelopment, creating places and spaces people want to be in and around.

Invest in our creative infrastructure, from digital communications, to low cost artist workshops, to makers' spaces and grassroots venues.

Deliver the Cardiff Music City festival as part of a new cultural events strategy which will support a home-grown events sector.

Deliver a new 15,000 seat arena in Cardiff Bay and associated grassroots music support programme.

Support investment to unlock participation in sport at all levels.

Deliver a new velodrome and outdoor cycling and running facility at the International Sports Village.


Mission 5: Tech City 

Today's successful cities are driven by the skills, knowledge and expertise of the people and businesses that live and operate there. The pandemic has shown the impact investment in technology can have improving our lives and supporting business growth. The fact technology enabled so many people to continue working from home during lockdown had huge economic benefit, saving jobs and livelihoods. As Cardiff emerges from the pandemic we need to grow our knowledge economy creating more and better jobs. We need to retain talented people and provide them with a base and a network which can help unleash their potential. There are now opportunities for smaller cities, with a higher quality of life, to woo business away from ‘mega' cities with their poorer quality of life and environment.


Establish Cardiff city centre and Cardiff Bay as ‘Tech Central' for Wales, attracting, retaining and developing the knowledge-based businesses of the future.

Support a ‘start-up to IPO' tech eco-system, creating a network of spaces for all stages of business development, and a programmes of business and financial support for businesses with private sector partners.

Strengthen relationships between Cardiff and Universities that focusses on public money and economic development research for the city.

Invest in the infrastructure to support tech businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Embed technology in the future delivery of public services.


Mission 6: One Planet recovery

Since the pandemic more and more cities around the world are embracing zero carbon, greener, cleaner more sustainable and more liveable communities. Covid brought to the fore the importance of our parks and green spaces and the drop in traffic emissions and congestion encouraged many to try cycling in the city for the first time. As Cardiff emerges from the crisis the lessons learned, and the speed and ability to change the way we did things because of Covid, now needs to be brought to bear on tackling the climate emergency, which remains the greatest risk to us all. Forward looking cities are taking the opportunity to decarbonise, develop clean air plans, transforming the way people move around cities while reducing reliance on the private car. They are also establishing investment programmes in green economy schemes. The One Planet Cardiff strategy sets out how Cardiff will strive to become a Carbon Neutral City by 2030 - creating new ‘green' jobs and economic opportunities while promoting better health and wellbeing, as we seek to play our part in tackling the Climate Emergency.


Deliver the One Planet strategy - with the aim of becoming a zero carbon city by 2030.

Use the market potential of the Green Recovery to create local jobs.

Invest in sustainable homes and neighbourhoods driving down both carbon footprint and energy costs for our communities.

Develop infrastructure to make Cardiff the most electric-vehicle-friendly city in the UK.

Ensure the city is best prepared and protected from flooding events.

Develop planning policy and guidance to facilitate and maximise low energy, resource efficient and resilient development across the city. Lead by example in our own developments and projects (eg: Circa 2000 new council homes; 15,000 seater arena; expanding NextBike service to 2000 bikes across the city; Deliver local heat network; establish a city tree farm to increase tree cover; aim to make all council fleet cars and LGVs zero emission by 2025; deliver mass, energy efficient retrofit of homes; work with Cardiff Bus and other bus companies to green the city's fleet; invest in a new 9MW solar Farm; promote healthy, local, low carbon food through the Cardiff Food strategy.)

A programme of engagement with the public, city stakeholders and public  service partners, will be conducted over the  summer, with the results reported back to Cardiff Council's Cabinet to consider in the autumn.

Dr Williams has more than 20 years' experience working at the highest level in both the private and public sectors on housing and urban development. He was CEO of the Thames Gateway project in East London and is considered to be a leading planning expert in housing in Australia and the UK, where he advised five UK housing ministers.

To read the full Cardiff Council report on creating a Greener, Fairer and Stronger Cardiff, and Dr Tim Williams' report Taking Cardiff Forward After COVID-19  click here.