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

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