Ruthin: Market town of the future

Project aims:

Market towns such as Ruthin have special significance in Wales. While a fifth of Europe’s population lives in towns of under 10,000, in rural Wales this figure is 44% (2001 Census). The concentration of cities to the coast has left an area of over 1.5 million hectares in central Wales with no towns larger than 20,000 people. Despite the importance of these towns, there has been limited work investigating their current state or future development. Wales’ market towns may be considered as rural capitals and are likely to be affected by many factors are coming to the fore, including climate change and changes in the agricultural industry. This project comes about at a critical time both environmentally and economically and aims to offer new and original ideas – it aims to inform and inspire. The orthodox top-down approach to strategic planning excludes many stakeholders as conventional consultation practices are often perfunctory. Elements of the project are provocative in that they propose change, but this is encouraging debate and encouraging the community to challenge policy-makers to be aware of and find means of dealing with the possible futures that they face.

Summary of activity:

This proposal involves the inhabitants of a typical market town in evaluation and then proposal for future scenarios for the town through the use of design workshops, design charettes, exhibition and public consultation.
In this study different methods of engagement that attempt to remedy are being employed and evaluated to provide data that will be used in a series of inclusive design workshops to envision the Market Town of the Future.
Predicting the future accurately is a difficult proposition. We can only imagine it intelligently based on the data available, and then take steps to achieve the most desirable and avoid the undesirable options.
These methods are often promoted as good practice but not often used effectively. The challenge has been to fully involve inhabitants at all levels in a process which is often exclusive. Young designers rarely get experience of how to listen and effectively communicate with the public and the inhabitants of rural towns feel that they are disenfranchised from designing their future
This visually rich project is designed to stimulate all those with an interest in the market towns of Wales to act to develop, using design as a mechanism, sustainable futures for them.
The project was launched in April 2010 with an event at Ruthin Craft Centre. DRU-w presented initial town studies to a community group drawn from the Town Council, Chamber of Commerce and Civic Society and outlined background to the project.
At the end of April, a group of nine first and second year architecture students from the Welsh School of Architecture visited the town for three days as part of a three week project. Starting with a three day visit to the town accompanied by the Mayor, Gavin Harris, and Denbighshire CC conservation architect Phil Ebrell, students analysed the town from first-hand experience. With the Town Council, students identified sites around the town that needed improvement. Returning to Cardiff, a large scale model of the town was prepared and students began urban design projects for the identified sites.
The projects were reviewed in Ruthin with a panel of residents and subsequently exhibited in the Craft Centre as part of the ‘Ruthin: Market Town of the Future’ exhibition, displayed for three weeks at the end of May 2010. This allowed residents to see the students’ work and to encourage them to think about Ruthin, perhaps in a new light, and to consider what was important to them about the town. Feedback from the exhibition was largely positive; visitors were encouraged to fill out feedback sheets and a visitors’ book collected comments from the public and visitors to the town.
Work in the town is continuing. While the student projects raised awareness of the project in the town and identified key sites for improvement, a phase of mapping the public realm and character of the town will commence in February 2011. This aims to accurately record the town as it is now and identify simple measures that could be taken on a small scale to improve the townscape. Results of this exercise will be presented to the townspeople and exhibited in the Spring.

Links to further information on the project are available at:
Ruthin: Market Town of the Future website:
Design Research Unit Wales:
Design Research Unit Wales: Ruthin project page:
BBC Wales: (including audio from Radio Wales)

Evaluation approach:

What went well:

While the project is on-going, it has been successful in generating ideas for the town and engaging the public in discussion about its future. A high profile student visit from the Welsh School of Architecture and an exhibition of the ideas produced early in the project has raised the its profile and brought it to public attention beyond the town council. The project will aim to develop this further through the next stages of work.

What was learned:

Working in a historic context that is widely loved by the community has offered challenges to the project, especially as the team is based in south Wales. Overcoming the challenge of proposals being seen as the outsider’s view of the town has been difficult. This has been overcome by frequent visits, forging personal relationships with townspeople, seeking the public’s views on the town through the ‘loved and loathed’ section of the Market Town of the Future website, and seeking feedback on ideas produced. Although the majority of feedback has been positive, it is clear that there will always be some resistance to a project like Market Town of the Future and it is important to engage with as wider section of the community as possible to ensure all views are heard. This is an area we will be exploring further in the next stage of the project.

Top tips and advice for others

Ensure that community groups are involved from the outset; for residents to ‘buy in’ to the project it is important to get different groups involved at early stages of the project.

Advertising the project in as wide and as varied a manner as possible has encouraged responses from all parts of the community. Using websites, an exhibition with several methods of feedback, public meetings and small group consultations has encouraged feedback from a cross section of the residents of the town. Support from BBC Wales, BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru has given the project a high profile and perhaps encouraged the community to become involved in the process. This is something we will continue to explore as the project progresses.

About this project



Project type:


Started (approximately):

Spring 2010

Ended: (approximately)


Tags for this project:

, ,

Science in Society in images

Contribute your science in society images to our Flickr pool. It's easy - here's some step-by-step instructions

How useful is this Memory to you?

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>