Overview of results
Our survey collects the views of the people we surveyed. It is not fully representative of the town and clearly influenced by those who chose to participate. For example, older people are over represented in our sample. 36% were retired (compared to about 16.5% of the wider population being retired based on the 2011 census) and younger people are under-represented (people under 18 were not included in the survey). Home owners, people not in full time employment and female respondents are slightly over represented compared to the census data. And response rates in different parts of the town varied, with a higher response rate from residents in the Milford Road, Penygloddfa, Barn Fields, Canal Road and TreHafren parts of the town (between 15% and 22%) than those in TreOwen, Maesyrhandir, Vaynor (between 9% and 14% of houses visited). Our analysis and report should be read in that light – it reflects the views and opinions of those we interviewed but not necessarily those of the town as a whole.
What is it like to live in Newtown?
The survey revealed some very positive impressions of living in the town. The town is seen as ‘welcoming’ (95% of respondents agreed with this statement!) with most feeling it has a ‘strong sense of community’ and a ‘good standard of living’.
As the graph below shows, lots of residents appreciate Newtown’s location and green spaces, social connections and the relaxed, friendly character of the place. Local schools, shops and leisure facilities were all most frequently rated as good or fair.
The notion of a strong, cohesive community is also evidenced by the level of social and civic activity respondents are engaged in. In Newtown it would seem that people still talk to their neighbours with respondents reporting they talked to their neighbours daily (55%), or weekly (34%). Caring for neighbours or friends was widespread civic activity with 57% of the respondents reporting they had done this in the last 6 months. This is noticeably higher than in a larger, national scale survey of rural Welsh households in 2013 (Welsh Rural Observatory 2013), where 39% of residents reported they had provided care in the last 12 months. Again sample bias may have affected this outcome.
45% of respondents reported to have undertaken some form of voluntary work in the last 6 months. Again, this compares favourably to the national figures, in which 33% of those sampled reported to have taken part in voluntary work (Welsh Rural Observatory 2013) and within Powys where this is under 25% (One Powys Plan).
Despite these positive assets, Newtown is facing challenges, and not everyone agrees life is so rosy. Indeed there is some evidence of divisions within the town.
Although the majority of respondents rated medical services as fair, good or excellent, 30% rated them as poor. ‘Health services’ was also by far the most frequently selected option when respondents were asked to identify the three most important local issues to them - 178 out of 229 responses mentioned this. There are particular concerns over the lack of an A&E, a ‘proper hospital’ and GP waiting times.
Responses also suggest worries over the town’s economic position, only 20% of respondents felt the town had a ‘thriving economy’ and, as the graph above illustrates employment opportunities are an important issue, with many responding to open questions about the future of the town with worries about jobs, especially for younger people. Along with these worries comes concern over crime and anti-social behaviour.
The question of the town’s identity is also worth considering: residents do not strongly associate with it being a manufacturing, tourist or farming town. So what sort of town is it?
A number expressed concerns that when the bypass is finished the town will ‘die’ or ‘become a ghost town’ and others felt post-DBRW that the town has been ‘forgotten’. That said on balance the bypass is seen as a positive change for over half our respondents.
Much hope lies in developing the tourist offer and advertising this from the bypass. Current visitor numbers suggest that if this is to be a growth area for the town, more effort will be needed to support this in marketing and service provision. On average only 30% of overnight visitors to the town are on holiday (by comparison 72% of overnight stays in mid-Wales more broadly are for holidays), with nearly 47% visiting friends and family and 23% on business (compared to 21% and 5% respectively for mid Wales).
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