The Minister established the Group last autumn under the Chairmanship of Dr Elizabeth Haywood to determine whether a city region approach looked more likely to deliver more jobs and greater prosperity than current approaches to economic development.
The City Regions report contains 22 key recommendations that include city regions are recognised in South East Wales and Swansea Bay and that the existing Mersey Dee Alliance is strengthened in North East Wales.
Thanking the group for producing such a thorough report, Mrs Hart said she was confident it will have significant influence on the future policy of the Welsh Government. She said:
"In the report, the evidence tells us that the world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in its history. In 2008 the world’s urban population exceeded 50% of the total population for the first time and this trend is accelerating.
"Welsh cities are not big when compared to other cities in the UK and beyond, and this has usually been considered a disadvantage. But this report refers to emerging international evidence showing that a focus on medium-sized cities and their hinterlands may be better for equity, growth and efficiency than the growth strategy emphasised over the last few decades focussing on the big capitals of commerce.
"A City Region approach is not the only approach towards spatial economic development that I am exploring. Tailoring how we support jobs and growth to the different economic circumstances of Wales is a priority for me. I am looking forward to informing members about the work of the Powys Local Growth Zone Task and Finish Group next week.
"However, we cannot deny the importance of our cities - global trends show increasing urbanisation and Wales is very much a part of that. If there is an opportunity to take advantage of this to promote jobs and growth in Wales – then I will do so."
Dr Elizabeth Haywood said:
"Using the city region focus for economic policy, while not a panacea, does, I believe, offer a way out of recession.
"It can help deliver a step-change by creating a better planning system, better transport connections, a better match of skills to work, and a more attractive investment proposition.
"The report makes a number of recommendations. Principally we recommend that two city regions be designated in South Wales to support greater economic prosperity and sustainable development.
"There is insufficient evidence for a city region covering North East Wales. Despite cross border economic ties, the critical mass isn’t there, and size matters. However, we do make some specific and practical recommendations covering cross-border co-operation in North East Wales.
"If we fail to take advantage of the critical mass offered by our city regions, or to unleash their innovative and productive capacity, our home-grown prospects will shrivel and external investors will lose interest."
Dr Haywood added that adopting a city region approach will only succeed with willing partners who can agree a long term regional vision and objectives, and are prepared to pool funding on projects which will benefit the whole city region.
Members of the City Regions Task and Finish Group are:
- Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities
- Jon House, Cardiff County Council
- Professor Kevin Morgan, Cardiff University
- Steve Penny, JCP Solicitors
- Jonathan Price, Welsh Government
- Dr Martin Rhisiart, University of Glamorgan
- Professor Michael Scott, Glyndwr University