Preferred Strategy

Ended on the 8 February 2019
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5. Carmarthenshire - Strategic Context


5.1 Carmarthenshire is positioned at the heart of south west Wales. It enjoys strong links to wider economies both to the east and across into England, but also west to Pembrokeshire and Ireland as well mid and north Wales. Carmarthenshire boasts a dynamic economic base, reflecting its strong employment centres as well as a having an important rural economy. The County has been successful in attracting investment, and places regeneration as its number one corporate priority.

5.2 The County is characterised by its diverse towns and villages, large employment parks, regional retail centres, prominent rural economy, and attractive upland, estuarine and coastal landscapes. The Welsh language and culture are also important aspects of Carmarthenshire's identity and character with the County prominent as a heartland for Welsh speakers.

5.3 Within the County there are key economic drivers including the investments at Cross Hands in relation to the food park and the Cross Hands East employment site. The signing of the £1.3billion city deal in 2017 and the progress in delivering the associated projects - Yr Egin Creative Cluster in Carmarthen and the Llanelli Well-being and Life Sciences project - reinforces Carmarthenshire's strategic and regional importance. Carmarthenshire is a County with a diverse character with the agricultural economy and landscape of the rural areas juxtaposed with the urban and post-industrial south-eastern area.

5.4 As a primarily rural County, the population density is low at 78 persons per sq. kilometre, compared with 140 persons per sq. kilometre for Wales as a whole. This sparsity of population is reflective of the largely rural communities as opposed to the south and east of the County where 65% of the population reside on 35% of the land.

5.5 The main urban centres of the County include Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford / Cross Hands. Carmarthen due to its central geographic location typically serves the needs of the County's rural hinterland as well as the wider region in aspects such as retailing. Both Llanelli and Ammanford / Cross Hands have a rich industrial heritage but remain important contributors to their wider communities acting a focal points for employment and homes.

5.6 The County has a large number of settlements reflecting the size and diversity of the County. These vary in size and role with many often making notable contributions to the needs and requirements of their community and the surrounding area. A number of settlements and villages are self-sufficient in terms of facilities and services, often fulfilling a wider service role. However, other smaller settlements lack services and facilities. The needs of residents in these latter areas are typically met by main centres and in some instances the other serviced smaller settlements.

5.7 The richness of Carmarthenshire's natural and cultural environment is an important spatial consideration in planning for the future of the County, particularly in terms of the potential for growth and the siting of development. The plan area includes sites designated at the international level to protect and enhance important nature conservation value, as well as striking landscapes and distinctive historic towns and villages. The importance of the County's built heritage is borne out by the 27 conservation areas, 366 Scheduled Ancient Monuments (ranging from Prehistoric to post- Medieval/Modern features of cultural historic interest) and the large number of listed buildings. There are also a number of designated sites for nature conservation and biodiversity importance, including 8 Special Areas of Conservation, 3 Special Protection Areas, 1 Ramsar site, 90 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 5 National Nature Reserves, 5 Local Nature Reserves and 7 registered landscapes.

5.8 Agriculture in Carmarthenshire dominates the rural landscape with the agricultural industry and in particular dairy and sheep farming establishing the County as one of the most important agricultural areas in Wales. Some 203,700 ha of land within Carmarthenshire is classified as agricultural land with the majority classified as grade 3a and 4 with a small tranche of grade 2 land in the south-east of the County.


5.9 Carmarthenshire is home to around 6% of Wales' total population with 186,452 people. Since 2001, the County has seen its population grow by 12,800 people, a 7.4% increase in 16 years. The highest level of population growth was recorded before 2008, with the years since showing a lower level of growth.

5.10 The main factor influencing population change in Carmarthenshire since 2001/2002 has been through inward migration, where more people have come into the County than have left. The population growth is also considered against the County's natural change which has seen the number of deaths exceeding births each year since 2001/2002.

5.11 Migration patterns out of Carmarthenshire has seen a large number of the 15-19 age group leave the County. This largely reflects students leaving the County for higher education opportunities. There is an increase of people moving into the County within the 30-44 young family age group and the 0-14 year age group. There is also an increase in the over 65 age group which has contributed to Carmarthenshire's ageing population profile.

5.12 Since the inception of the Local Development Plan process in Wales, the Welsh Government has published four population and household projections. The 2006 and 2008 WG based projections have been influenced by high net migration statistics (internal and international) which identified significant growth for Carmarthenshire (as reflected in the Adopted LDP). However the WG 2011 and 2014-based projections reflected a post-recession phase which indicated a lower in-migration trend which has translated into a much lower anticipated household growth requirement for Carmarthenshire.

5.13 Looking ahead to the Revised LDP 2018-2033, the latest Welsh Government 2014-based household projections estimates that average household sizes are not decreasing as quickly as previous projections suggested. This higher estimate of household sizes coupled with the changes in population growth within the County has resulted in a much lower anticipated household requirement from that identified in the existing adopted LDP.


5.14 Carmarthenshire is well located on the strategic highway network with connections to the west provide links to the Irish ferry ports, which with the M4 forms part of the Trans-European Network. This east-west link is further emphasised by the West Wales railway line which extends from Swansea (and the wider rail network) through to Pembrokeshire via Carmarthen and Llanelli. The West Wales line also forms part of the Trans-European Network linking to and from the Irish Ferry Ports in Pembrokeshire. The Heart of Wales railway line extending from Swansea through eastern parts of the County through to Shrewsbury offers additional transport benefits albeit based on a limited service.

5.15 The County is also served by a number of A-roads as well as numerous B-classified roads each representing important components of the highway network. Our principal highway network includes the A48 trunk road leading to and from the M4 motorway with its connections through South East Wales and beyond. Whilst the A40 and A483 trunk roads connect to Mid and North Wales as well as to the Midlands and the North of England. Access into Central and onwards into North Wales is provided via the A484 and the A485.

5.16 The following illustrates the nature of the road network including the level of provision which is met through B and lower classification roads. This in part reflects of the rural extent of the County and emphasises the challenges to delivering a sustainable integrated strategy for the area.

Carmarthenshire Road Network – Road Length (Km)

Motorway (M4)


Class A (Trunk)


Class A (County)


Class B and C


Minor Surfaced


Table 1

5.17 The area is generally well served by public transport through the bus network, albeit with the level and frequency of service subject to variation dependent upon location and destination. In addition, a number of services operate on a 'Hail-&-Ride' basis in rural areas and 'Bwcabus' in the Teifi Valley, such services offer additional accessibility benefits to such areas.

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