Blaenau Gwent Council has made good progress with its regeneration work despite the challenges presented by dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. The details of the work was presented in a report to the Council’s Executive today.
Major regeneration schemes highlighted as a success include the £16.8 million housing development at Golwg Y Bryn (Ebbw Vale north) which is at the final stages of completion and the £29 million project by house builder Persimmon at Carn Y Cefn. Work has started during the summer on this 277 houses on the former Ebbw Vale Comprehensive School and College site. The developments have improved energy efficiency in homes to help tactical fuel poverty and increased availability of social housing.
Employment and skills showcases the Aspire Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Apprenticeship Programme that is breathing new life into the advanced manufacturing across the region. Aspire Blaenau Gwent, winners at the 2019 Apprenticeship Awards Cymru in the category of Large Employers of The Year, have won the award again at the June 2021 ceremony. This time it’s alongside Merthyr Tydfil who have recently joined them. Building upon this success is the former Monwell building that will be re-developed into a future skills centre with STEM delivery increasing through successful bids to Tech Valleys.
Business start-ups have increased 6.7% on this time last year while the Councils industrial portfolio has an 85% occupancy rate supporting 615 jobs. Newly developed units will shortly become available offering an additional 26,000 sq ft.
Looking towards the future and the Council’s goal to become a carbon neutral organisation by 2030 the council recently appointed external energy storage solution StoraTera and BankEnergi. This is part of the Whole System Business Research Innovation for Decarbonisation Challenge (WBRID) to develop Smart Industrial Commercial Energy Platform Solutions to achieve Net Zero Outcomes. The companies will be piloting their solutions in the boroughs business parks over the following year. Hydro power is also being investigated in detail.
To assist in the Council’s reduction of its carbon footprint work is ongoing to develop a transition plan for the existing vehicle fleet to low carbon emission option. Although at early stages of development this will include plans for employee charge points in key locations to link with the Councils future working model. The report also highlights that 73 electric vehicle charge points across 25 sites have been installed for the community and visitors to access, with plans in place of for taxi points.
Blaenau Gwent Town centres will also see future improvements as part of the Welsh Government ‘Transforming Towns’ programme. Placemaking plans are currently at the initial stages of stakeholder engagement across all towns in Blaenau Gwent. The project's overarching aim is to increase business occupancy and develop an environment that attracts people to spend more time in town centres. Statistics within the report already show that footfall is increasing as we emerge from the pandemic with a total of 864,612 people visiting towns, which is extremely positive for the future.
The 2020-25 collaborative Destination Management Plan has been completed which sets out a visitor-focussed vision to develop a way forward for tourism in the area. Ongoing work such as the Abertillery rail link and duelling of the Heads of The Valleys will all help to improve connectivity for visitors. Plans are under way that link these key transportation hubs with walking and cycling trails that provide scenic routes throughout the area.
Councillor Dai Davies, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development commented:
“This report is excellent news as the regeneration of Blaenau Gwent remains a top priority for Blaenau Gwent Council. By engaging with our communities to develop Town Centres is putting them at the heart of the Borough’s regenerations plans. Feeding their views and local knowledge into the action plan is critical for success.
"I am pleased that the development of our housing prospectus continues as it will create jobs and help attract people to the area, which is good for both our economy and communities. Additionally, we are providing training centres and apprentice opportunities for our young people to give them the skills to start businesses and obtain jobs.
It is very reassuring that we have already begun the journey to reduce our carbon footprint. Although at the initial stages it is imperative that we remain focused on our 2030 goal for carbon neutrality. “