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Expansion that is vital if Cardiff is to thrive as a developing city.

Byline: By SION BARRY Western Mail

The gathering economic storm clouds hovering above our capital city were the backdrop to this year's Cardiff Commercial Property Forum held at the City Hall last week. Hosted by BBC Wales' Sarah Dickins the guest speaker was the Tory's Assembly economic development and transport spokesman Alun Cairns.

Mr Cairns was charged with the task of indulging in an objective capital health check exercise.

Mostly run of the mill stuff and the usual exhortations to the city authorities/Assembly. Plus a need for an Eastern Bay link road.

Concern over excessive residential development within Cardiff Bay was also aired, as well as improved access to Cardiff International Airport.

However, size matters and Cardiff really needs is lebensraum (living space). And it needs it fast.

Just about large enough to accommodate the 315,000 population, it cannot play the tin soldiers in the shop window game any longer. Young vibrant capital city it maybe, but Barcelona and Baltimore it is not. And yet it could be if it were not in a geo-spatial straight jacket. Unless we adopt Dutch sea reclamation expansion policies into the Bay and beyond, then Cardiff will have to break out of its current administrative boundaries on land.

Clearly the need for reorganisation and rationalisation of the 23 unitary authorities down to a maximum of nine is pressing. That need in the Cardiff context is critical.

Cardiff and the Glamorgan Valleys perhaps or the Cardiff Valleys could offer the capital that much-needed expansion route.

Immediately the capital city and the immediate hinterland would have a critical mass of 500,000 plus population to rival Avonmouth and other competitor regions.

Overnight the capital would have a degree of clout and financial muscle. And all of a sudden the well founded clamour of the 'Anywhere But Cardiff' protagonists would be assuaged and, crucially, structural fund lines in the sand removed.

But who will be brave enough to put their head above the parapet? And run with the project that will bring with it massive political, economic and cultural dividends analogous to German reunification. Big ideas bring big dividends. Cardiff and Wales expects.

Owain Llywelyn is a director of Fletcher Morgan, Cardiff
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 28, 2005
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