In autumn 2015 the Shape My Town team publicised a call for community collaborators to help test and develop the toolkit and spread the word about Shape My Town and its resources. Learning about and using Shape My Town aimed to help pilot communities to:

  • Think about positive change for their place
  •  Provide a focus and structure for community input
  • Plan for their place and engage with decision makers
  • Learn from and share case studies

Two pilot studies were chosen from the expressions of interest received from communities: Abergavenny, put forward by Team Abergavenny and Ynysybwl, put forward by Ynysybwl Regeneration Partnership (YRP).


Shape My Town pilot study: Ynysybwl

Ynysybwl, a village located between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil, was selected as a pilot study following an application from Ynysybwl Regeneration Partnership (YRP). Mentored by the Shape My Town team, pilot study workshops were designed to guide participants through the Shape My Town process using material found in the toolkit. The pilot study comprised two workshop sessions, the first to gather evidence about the place as it is now and a second try to make sense of the evidence collected and to generate ideas for the future of Ynysybwl.

 Workshop 1: Gathering evidence

The aim of the first session was to gather evidence about the village as it is now. By developing a good understanding of the current context, a vision, next steps and framework of projects can be founded on a solid evidence base. Participants in the session were split into groups to work through the four themes of the toolkit: Landscape, Townscape, Streetscape and Community.


Workshop 2: SWOT analysis and project ideas

The aim of the second session was to try to make sense of the evidence collected on the first part of the day and to generate ideas for Ynysybwl. In this session the groups came together to combine their knowledge and to analyse the village as a whole. Participants were guided through the process of bringing together and making sense of the information they had collected through a SWOT analysis. Participants were asked to evaluate the place under four headings:

  • Strengths: The characteristics of your town that are successful and set it apart from others
  • Weaknesses: Things that are not successful or put your town at a disadvantage
  • Opportunities: Areas where there is chance for change or external factors that offer a chance to make improvements
  •  Threats: Conditions that are harmful to the success or character of your town or that could damage its chances to improve

Participants were further tasked with identifying a small number of projects that would have a big impact on the place if they were carried forward. The group was asked to consider both small-scale projects, that could be done with limited funding by local people and larger, transformational projects, requiring funding applications. It was acknowledged that there are many more projects of various scale that could be included on an action plan, but the following were identified as feasible projects that could take place over the short to medium term:

 Village centre improvements: Finding funding and help to improve key tall buildings that mark the centre of the village.

  • Croeso! A project to address the Croeso/Welcome sign at the main arrival point into the village.
  • Derelict shops: Finding ways to reuse, let or renovate derelict shops to improve the appearance of the village.
  • Community hub The need for a community hub was identified as a large but essential project. This could address many points raised in the workshop: need for community space, youth space, start up space, training, a focal point for local groups to access information and a focus for a record of local history.
  • Wind-fall! The democratic dispersal of community gain from wind turbine payments could be significant and help enable projects across the village.

What emerged?

The workshops highlighted the assets Ynysybwl has as well as a number of weaknesses that could be addressed. The projects suggested range in scale and complexity from working with youth groups to create a new and distinctive sign for the village, to a new building to be located on the Lady Windsor site with complexities of funding, business planning and access.

The workshop highlighted that the Lady Windsor colliery site is vitally important to the future of the village. The development of the site will have a major impact on the success of the settlement and should be carefully considered. Locating a proposed community hub on the Lady Windsor site has the potential to link the new development to the existing village. The location of and access to this hub will be important to ensure it is well used and integrated into the life of the community.

Next steps

Having carried out this workshop, a number of next steps were suggested:

  • To carry out further consultations with a wide cross section of the community. This could be in the form of drop in consultation sessions or exhibitions of ideas or householder surveys. Identifying difficult to reach groups, for example the elderly or very young, is vital to get a rounded view.
  • To develop the information held by YRP and others into a place plan for the village. The fourth step of Shape My Town can help you do this and will guide you through the process of writing a plan and who to involve.
  • To develop an outline proposal for the community hub, which can develop into a business plan and design brief. This will be needed to apply for funding further down the line. Creating an aspirational brief will ensure a high quality output and a building that is inspiring for the community. The community hub should involve different local groups and businesses in its design and construction to ensure it is ‘owned’ by the community and has a strong relationship to people and place.

To find out more about mentored workshops or to let us know if you and your community would like to be considered for future pilot studies, please contact us.

Alternatively, read the full report here.

AuthorMatthew Jones
Hay-On-Wye: The book town

Hay-On-Wye: The book town

What makes your town unique? Many places are distinctive, but not all have a characteristic that stands out above all other features to become the identity of the town. This can often be a product of an existing strong town character combined with a catalyst such as an entrepreneur with a big idea.

It is often not the intention to create a brand or theme for a town, but this can emerge over time. The most successful distinctiveness strategies are embedded in the physical environment of a town; examples such as Hay-on-Wye and Machynlleth have been successful because of their location and setting.

Distinctiveness can extend beyond the boundaries of a town to the national and international stage. This can create a driving force for a vision that unites the community and can provide economic benefits. However, to achieve this requires commitment, time and support.


Hay-on-Wye: The Book Town

Lying in the Wye Valley on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Hay was traditionally a sheep farming town and a stop-over for those travelling to Brecon. In 1963, Richard Booth opened the first second hand bookshop in Hay. The town was an ideal location for an international trade in books- close to Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff for local trade, far enough from London to escape the capital’s influence, and with easy links to Ireland. By the 1970’s over 30 bookshops had opened in the town and today there are over 40. The spin-off Hay Literary Festival has an international reputation and attracts speakers and visitors from around the world. The festival attracted over 200,000 attendees in 2010 and over the course of a year the town and festival attract half a million visitors.

Bookshops are found all over Hay on Wye

Bookshops are found all over Hay on Wye

Machynlleth: A centre for sustainability

In 1973 the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) was founded outside Machynlleth. Growing from a ‘green’ community to a centre for demonstration of eco-friendly research, sustainable development, environmental protection and social inclusion, the site now receives around 65,000 visitors per annum. A focus on Eco-technology has generated new opportunities for employment, enterprise and tourism in the town. CAT directly employs 150 permanent and seasonal staff. It has attracted funding and employment to the town in the green building sector and has sparked green community regeneration projects such as EcoDyfi, a community renewable energy programme and the Dyfi EcoPark.


Mold : Slow Towns & slow food


Mold Town Centre; c Heritage Initiatives

Mold Town Centre; c Heritage Initiatives

The Cittaslow or slow town movement aims to encourage town residents to live and enjoy life at a human pace through conviviality and sustainability. Cittaslow provides a series of 55 goals that aim to involve the local community in taking practical actions to enhance the environment, infrastructure, local products, hospitality, and profile of a town.

Mold is Wales' first Cittaslow town.  Cittaslow Mold was conceived in October 2006 as its focus on food aligned well with the reputation the town was trying to develop. Once the decision had been made to adopt Cittaslow, the Town Council created a steering group of 15 organisations and many influential individuals that represented the diversity of the town's life. The guiding goals and principles of the movement form the foundation of initiatives, actions and projects across the town. The town now has a regular market and specialist farmers market focussing on local produce, an annual food and drink festival and the Bailey Hill Festival.  The group has also been instrumental in other initiatives in the town including the Mold Spring Clean, the Mold Sense of Place study, More Trees for Mold and funding for many projects across the town.

The international Cittaslow movement fosters economic, social and environmental sustainability. Membership of Cittaslow has brought Mold a range of benefits, including reassuring potential visitors and investors that it is well run and progressive, and unlocking funds from local and central government to help finance local initiatives.

Find out more:


AuthorMatthew Jones

Fox lane in Adamsdown is typical of back lanes found behind many Victorian properties in Cardiff: abusued and misused, these alleys often end up gated to prevent anti social behaviour and fly tipping. Local residents and artists Zoe Gingell and Josh Leeson, with the support of Adamsdown  environmental action group, have reclaimed this derelict space for community use and in the process have reintroduced a neighbourhood of people to each other.


The Fox lane mural project began with a team of local residents aged between 5- 70yrs led by Zoe and Josh with the support of Adamsdown Communities First & funding from Tidy Towns. They removed rubbish, swept the streets and painted the walls. One weekend a month the painting team took on a section of the lane - painting bold colours, and stencilling images of wildlife and nature, butterflies and flowers. The team painted the green, safe space they would like to have access to, as an alternative to a no-go alley filled with needles and fly -tipping.

By improving the lanes, the project has not only The project is one of several undertaken by Adamsdown Community group in the area, that have also included a green map of the local area and a temporary green space created by students from the Welsh School of Architecture.


  • Artists- Zoe Gingell, Josh Leeson
  • Adamsdown Environmental Action Group
  • Funders: Tidy Towns
AuthorMatthew Jones

Mold’s Sense of Place study was commissioned to gather an understanding of and a better focus for a sense of place.  The project aimed to build on the local distinctiveness of the town and identify how the town could be developed for the benefit of residents, businesses and tourists, following Cittaslow principles.

Mold is Wales’ first Cittaslow town, an international movement to enhance quality of life in small towns, which grew out of the Slow Food movement.  Towns must undergo a strenuous assessment against 75 criteria to be recognised as a Cittaslow town, primarily examining the environment, enforcing identity and place, promotion of healthy living and local produce and active community involvement.  Mold gained Cittaslow status in 2006.

The Sense of Place study examined several aspects of the town: marketing and competitiveness, exploring what assets add to distinctiveness, how effective the retail draw is and what can be done to improve its competitive condition; A townscape character analysis, exploring architecture, character and identity; and a public realm appraisal looking at gateways, public spaces and streets. From this analysis a vision and proposed projects emerged around the themes of Visiting & Shopping, Streets & Places, Activities & Enjoying Mold, and the Heritage of Mold.

Sense of Place has given the town a framework to carry out improvements in Mold, as and when money has become available, such as projects for New Street car park and Daniel Owen Square. It also means that project partners, like Flintshire County Council, are aware of what scope there is for change in the town and its surroundings. The outcome has been a working document that is an integral part of the future of the town.


  • Client: Cadwyn Clwyd
  • Partners: Flintshire County Council, Cittaslow Mold, and Mold Town Council.
  • Consultants: Heritage Initiatives Ltd, Alan Brown Associates, Harrison Design, Cleaveley Associates
  • image credits: 01 - c Heritage Initiatives; 02 & 03 - c Heritage Initiatives & Harrison Design Development
AuthorMatthew Jones

The outcome of the Ruthin Market Town of the Future project consisted of a vision and three themes, each with a series of linked projects around the vision:

“Ruthin is a small town with big potential.  The town prides itself on its history, heritage and landscape.  It aims to become a sustainable, creative and connected market town with a high quality built and natural environment.”


To achieve this vision, three themes were highlighted:

Public Spaces for Public Life; Creating a Heart for Ruthin:

Outdoor spaces should be the social heart of the town.  These spaces need to be diverse enough to encourage a wide range of activities and be of high quality to reflect the heritage and aspirations of the town.


Centre, Periphery & Hinterland:

Creating an attractive and safe network of safe walking and cycling routes linking the historic core and the suburbs and linking the key locations in the town.


A Distinctive Ruthin:

Developing Ruthin’s distinctive assets to make it individual and identifiable from other towns and cities.  This is a combination of people, places, ideas, industries, climate, culture, history and a vision for the future. 

An approach of incremental regeneration was proposed- as and when funds become available and not requiring large pots of money to implement.  This offered the town the best chance of pushing forward.  Achieving early wins by incorporating ongoing projects and getting small projects underway was used as a way of gaining momentum for the project and making the community support the vision.



AuthorMatthew Jones

The former-mining community of Glyncoch had spent seven years trying to raise £792,000 to build a new community centre with limited success.  With grant applications expiring, residents used Spacehive to promote their fundraising within the community through sponsored events, street fundraising and individual pledges.


 New housing developments offer the potential for imaginative, sustainable and well designed neighbourhoods that can add to the sense of place and community in your town or city.

The Triangle, a back lot site in Swindon, is the first product of a joint venture between Kevin McCloud’s HAB development company and Oakus, a division of Greensquare RSL. Studio Engleback’s design for the landscape of the Triangle encourages residents to engage with their environment.  A central village green with swales and a wildlife garden is supplemented by kitchen vegetable gardens with poly tunnels watered using rainwater from roofs, allotments and planters for fruit trees.

Studio Engleback created a cookbook, “GROW 2 EAT – an edible landscape manual”, that was given to all residents to explain where edible planting can be found, how to grow their own food and simple recipes to encourage ‘one planet living’ .




A simple idea- using empty and unproductive spaces to grow food- has inspired people in Todmorden and beyond to reconsider where their food comes from and how simple moves can transform public space.

The idea driving Incredible a Edible is simple: if you eat, you're in! Incredible Edible was founded in 2008 by a group of individuals in Todmorden concerned by the changing economy and climate change.  The idea is to use unproductive spaces to grow edible plants- from window boxes to roundabouts to canal embankments.  Incredible Edible is a community-led project delivering action through strong leadership that aims to focus community, learning and business on the production and consumption of locally grown food. 

The first propaganda gardens, as the team call their beds, were made on 'in your face' sites around the town where they were obvious. Made without permission, the gardens became a part of their place and despite initial reservations the 'pick your own' concept has evolved and been accepted by the town. 

Derelict land, public spaces and leftover corners have become areas for cultivation: vegetables sit alongside ornamental plants in public planters and flower beds; 200 fruit trees have been planted in the town centre, along with 500 fruit trees in a community orchard; raised beds have been planted around the town; and schools have developed growing areas and access to bee hives and poly tunnels. Projects have been created on a shoestring; for example, timber for early raised beds was sourced for free from building sites.

Results have included a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour, improved relationships between the community and the police, food education in schools and new ways of looking at space. A simple idea has led to a variety of offshoot projects: new horticulture and agriculture based college courses, projects with housing associations, a new permaculture centre and even vegetable based tourist routes around the town! The aim by 2018 is to make Todmoden self sufficient in vegetables, eggs and orchard fruit and to enable the town to source as much else as possible from the local area. 

The idea has caught the public imagination and has extended from Todmorden, across Yorkshire to the rest of the UK and beyond; there are now 37 further Incredible Edible towns in the UK.

Cadw has been developing a method of assessing towns in Wales that aims to show what gives a place its unique identity and provide a baseline assessment of its value and character.  This work is intended to ensure future planning and regeneration strategies strengthen local distinctiveness by identifying what makes a town special.


The Plas Cybi Partnership, a community-owned regeneration organisation, approached owners of vacant shops to discuss rent-free periods for vacant shops.  The aim was to implement quick fixes in vacant units, both internally and externally, and working in collaboration with the County Council and Enterprise Agency to attract entrepreneurs into the town centre.