Posted: Sat 15th Oct 2016

Councillors Asked To Strike While Iron Is Hot /
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Oct 15th, 2016

Torfaen councillors will be asked to buy the former iron works site known as The British at a council meeting on October 18. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

After a succession of failed private sector schemes over a 30 year period, Torfaen council is seeking approval from councilors to buy The British site in Abersychan. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

At 1300 acres, The British is the largest remaining site of industrial dereliction in South East Wales. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Following months of negotiations the council has reached an agreement with the current owners HSBC Bank to buy the site for £300,000 which would see the site return to public ownership before the end of 2016. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Councillors will be asked to consider a £3.7 million scheme which includes a £1.7 million grant from Welsh Government for the purpose of acquiring the site, addressing the health and safety risks, and re-greening the site. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

They will also be asked to approve a contribution of up to £2 million from the council’s capital funding budget to match fund the Welsh Government grant. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Chief Officer for Neighbourhoods, Planning and Public Protection, Duncan Smith said: ‘ This proposal to councilors is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the council to buy the site and end a 30 year cycle of speculative schemes which have only hindered the regeneration of the site and wider area. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

‘Council officers have put together a business plan which will restore the site and address the mine workings and tips created by iron production which ended in the 1880s and has been in decline ever since.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The leader of Torfaen council, Cllr Bob Wellington CBE, said: ‘The British has been a millstone around the neck of this community for generations. The council has sought a solution for many years to secure to The British and explore redevelopment opportunities on this brownfield site. Finally, this proposal could put an end to the cycle of despair and lift the threat that has hung over the community following numerous speculative land banking or coal extraction schemes that have failed to come to fruition. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

‘This could be a catalyst for investment in the north of the borough and, if approved, the council can explore the longer-term opportunities on the site, including restoring the historic buildings, affordable housing, commercial and green energy opportunities. We will also seek to enter a formal partnership with Gwent Wildlife Trust who have expressed an interest in managing the green spaces and ponds which will attract visitors, encourage healthy outdoor pursuits and make the area attractive to live, visit and work.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

‘With light at the end of the tunnel, I must praise the The British Liaison Group for their passion over a 20 year period and should this scheme progress the council and partners will continue to work closely with them.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Deputy leader of Torfaen council, Cllr Anthony Hunt, said: ‘The council has worked quickly and decisively to negotiate the purchase of the site and a£3.7 millionfunding package with Welsh Government. If approved, the money will help acquire the site, address risks and future liability and restore the site for the community and the long term benefit for the whole of north Torfaen. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

‘Council officers have worked with Welsh Government throughout September to identify a preferred option and develop a feasible proposition for financing the project. I must commend officers who have worked on this project and Lynne Neagle for all her support. I must also commend the Welsh Government Minister Carl Sargeant for his vision in approving this scheme which, if approved, will help the council achieve a priority to make the borough greener and return this site to public use.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Lynne Neagle AM said: ‘I am really pleased that following representations from Torfaen Council and myself, the Welsh Government has provided funding for the council to acquire and reclaim the land at The British. It is also a testament to the Council’s commitment to dealing with the British that they have managed to identify match funding when I know their budgets are under immense pressure. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

‘For too long the site has been passed from one private owner to the next. The community has waited a long time for thisproposal and if it is approved I will continue to work with all those involved to ensure that the land is regenerated to its full potential.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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