During my first week at Westminster, just days after the General Election, I bumped into the Prime Minister. I told him that one of my main priorities as the new MP for the Vale of Clwyd was to try to assist in turning around the fortunes of Rhyl. He recounted his memories of holidaying in the town as a child and gave his commitment to support me in my efforts. Later that week he appeared on the regional BBC TV news programme, citing the regeneration of Rhyl as one of his key ambitions in Wales.
In my last column, I referred to the town centre and the urgent need to reduce business rates. The other area of Rhyl needing particular attention is the seafront. With a shut down Sun Centre, burnt out Grange Hotel, largely empty “Children’s Village”, non-functional sky tower and empty funfair site, it’s no wonder that many of those who are proud to call Rhyl their town are in such despair at the moment.
Before I was elected, I felt it was important to make contact with Neptune Developments, the County Council’s recently appointed development partner for the seafront. Since May, I have met with them twice. I am impressed by their past record elsewhere and their plans for Rhyl, which extend from the Pavilion Theatre site, westwards to the Vue Cinema area. Some of their proposals have already been announced while others are to follow soon. Existing tourism operators on the prom have also given me their thoughts and I have been pleased to help put them in touch with Neptune to ensure future plans are developed in conjunction with existing success stories.
Last week I met with Scarborough Developments for the second time. They are hoping to develop the former funfair or ‘Ocean Plaza’ site, rebranded by them as ‘Marina Quay’. There is no doubt that this area of land has been a blight on the area for too long. There is a desperate need for progress but also a need to secure a development which can truly provide a boost to West Rhyl and the town as a whole.
This week I have asked to meet Chesham Estates, who are the company behind the delayed Premier Inn proposals for the former Honey Club site. I will be seeking assurances that work on the new hotel will start within the next few months.
Of concern to all of us is also the future of the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Its impressive Victorian facade is a landmark on East Parade, and recent comments from Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board cast doubt on the promised on-site community hospital development. This was sadly all too predictable in view of the slow progress of other NHS projects locally, such as the delivery at Glan Clwyd of a sub regional Neonatal Intensive Care Centre and vascular specialist centre for emergency and major surgery. The seafront needs the Royal Alex just as much as it needs leisure developments and we must all exert the strongest pressure to ensure the community hospital plans see the light of day.
Rhyl’s leisure provision needs to be able to compete with that found elsewhere but the town also needs to be able to offer something above and beyond that, so that it is once again seen as an exciting destination. Last week I wrote to the Prime Minister to update him on Neptune’s latest proposals and although economic development and tourism are devolved to the Welsh Assembly, I know he remains keen to help me ensure Rhyl starts to change for the better.