Multi-million pound plans for a new Piazza in Neath Town Centre, a major upgrading of Port Talbot’s Civic Square with improvements to the town’s Riverside area and a scheme to bring new life to commercial premises across Neath Port Talbot are contained in Neath Port Talbot Council’s proposed bids to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.
Neath Port Talbot Council cabinet members will be recommended, when they meet on June 9th, to approve the proposed bids to the £4bn, UK-wide funding programme announced in this year’s budget to invest in regeneration, culture and transport schemes across local authorities in the UK.
The proposed bids reflect the council’s “recover, reset and renew” commitment to helping its town centres and communities recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The scheme to bring new life to commercial premises in Neath Port Talbot including cash to help buy and renovate properties, boosting jobs and business expansion, under a proposed Commercial Property Grant project, will cover the whole of the county borough.
The grant would fund a maximum amount of 45% of eligible costs, which could include , internal and external building refurbishments of a high quality and would offer £3m worth of grants in the Aberavon constituency area and another £3m in Neath.
Wales is set to receive around £240m from the programme over four years of funding rounds. Each Parliamentary constituency area can submit bids which can either be individual or ‘parcel’ projects made up of up to three elements. The two bids for the Neath and Aberavon constituencies (both parcel bids) being proposed are:
In addition to the Commercial Property Grant (£3m) the council is proposing A new Piazza – Adding to the under-construction town centre leisure centre and library development, it will provide community and green space and improved access to public transport. It could be used for a wide range of events including farmers /craft / continental markets, performances, Christmas fayres, temporary food and beverage kiosks, children’s fairground rides and temporary ‘beaches’ to name a few examples.
In addition to the Commercial Property Grant (£3m) the council is proposing A Port Talbot Civic Square Upgrade – The proposal includes replacing existing surface materials with new, more modern, durable and attractive materials. There would also be electric power supply units in the repaved area that could be used for markets and special events that would otherwise rely on generators which could result in Christmas parades, Summer carnivals, seasonal markets and even ice rinks and an outdoor cinema. New street furniture including seating and bins would also be provided to provide a focal point for the town centre.
Riverside Improvements – The proposed redevelopment of the area along the banks of the River Afan near Port Talbot’s town centre includes a combination of hard and soft landscaping along with a new children’s play area. Opening the space up and providing additional street furniture will create a welcoming place for residents and visitors to enjoy, helping to improve footfall in the nearby town centre.
Under the Levelling Up Fund, Local Authority areas have been categorised according to need, with funding targeted towards those in highest need. Category 1 areas are those with highest need and therefore given priority. Neath Port Talbot is designated as a Category 1 area.
The total Levelling Up Fund ask for Neath Port Talbot is almost £10m.
Cabinet members will be told in a report the original parcel bid for Neath included proposals to develop the public space outside the Pontardawe Arts Centre where the council has already approved plans to develop a cinema extension. Unfortunately, the proposal does not meet the Levelling Up Fund criteria and therefore further work will now be done to bring forward proposals in future funding rounds for the Pontardawe area which is already included in the proposed county borough wide Commercial Property Grant programme.
Neath Port Talbot Council consulted with a number of stakeholders as part of the Levelling Up Fund bidding process. These were Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock and Neath MP Christina Rees, the Swansea Bay City Deal Economic Strategy Board, Port Talbot Business Improvement District (BID) Viva Port Talbot and the Public Services Board.
(Lead Image: Neath Port Talbot Council / Holder Mathias Architects
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