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

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.


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.

Established in 2007, the Llanmadoc community shop was the response of a small community on the Gower peninsula to the closure of its last shop ten years ago.  The community founded a not-for-profit cooperative to run a local shop, providing a wide range of fresh goods, groceries, frozen and chilled goods, an off license, a post office and a bakery.