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Neath

£9.8m could be spent on major town centre and commercial building improvement projects

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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.

Major developments for Neath Town Centre are planned (Image: Neath Port Talbot Council / Holder Mathias Architects)

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:

Neath

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.

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Port Talbot

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.

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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.

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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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Education

Plans for Neath Port Talbot’s first Welsh medium primary ‘starter school’ to be discussed by new council cabinet

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Plans for Neath Port Talbot’s first ever Welsh medium primary “starter school” at Neath Abbey are to be discussed by the Council’s new Rainbow Coalition Cabinet, who will meet for the first time this week.

The new school is part of the council’s strategy to increase Welsh medium education across the county borough.

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At the meeting on Wednesday (29 June) the Cabinet will be asked to approve moving to the next stage in the council’s plans to establish the new Welsh Medium Starter School in premises previously occupied by Abbey Primary School at St John’s Terrace, Neath Abbey.

If fully approved, the first pupils could move in next year.

The starter school model is used when establishing a new school, gradually allowing the facilities and staff to be used efficiently while the school grows to its full potential.

A consultation exercise regarding the school has already taken place with most people broadly in favour but with some concerns aired over traffic and the age of the school building.

Under the plans, £200,000 would be set aside for refurbishments and improvements including the provision of learning walls and digital equipment ensuring the school can deliver the new curriculum.

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Traffic would be monitored around the site and the school will not be fully occupied on opening but will grow year on year. Full occupancy is not expected until 2029.

Neath Port Talbot’s new rainbow coalition cabinet (Image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

This will be the first cabinet meeting of Neath Port Talbot’s new Plaid-Independent led Council, after the Independent, Plaid Cymru and Dyffryn Independent groups made an agreement to share power.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats and Green Party members will support the coalition via a confidence and supply agreement.

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Neath

New Neath community comes together to celebrate Summer at Coed Darcy

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Communities across St Modwen’s developments in Wales came together last weekend to mark the start of the Summer and to celebrate the Jubilee.

Over 300 residents gathered across Glan Llyn in Newport and Coed Darcy in Neath Port Talbot for the events, which were organised by developer, St. Modwen.

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The Mayor of Newport, Councillor Martyn Kellaway, opened the event at Glan Llyn, where residents enjoyed a community picnic in the Western Park, bringing snacks such as finger sandwiches and summer cakes.

The community took part in fun activities throughout the day, trying their hands at classic British games such as Jenga, Connect 4 and giant snakes and ladders and enjoyed a performance by a live DJ, while children were entertained by a balloon artist and a Butterfly stilt-walker.

Many residents wore fancy dress and enjoyed having their faces painted as part of the festivities.

Residents across both events also took part in pudding competitions, where bakers from across the communities presented their best sweet creations and competed to win a top prize of a £75 Lakeland voucher – donated by St. Modwen.

At Coed Darcy, the community came together for a picnic-style party in the park, and took part in activities including giant games and colouring in the Queen’s crown on the activity table.

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Local rock’n’roll band, the Rockerleles, provided entertainment throughout, including sing-alongs to many rock’n’roll favourites to the delight of the guests, along with balloon shows from local balloon-artist Gizmo.

St. Modwen is the master developer behind Glan Llyn, which is transforming the former Llanwern Steelworks into a high quality and sustainable community development set within a landscape brimming with nature. The development will deliver three new lakes, as well as extensive parkland across more than 80 acres, providing vital habitats for species native to the nearby Wentlooge Levels, including waterfowl, reed-bed nesters and woodland animals.

Over 850 homes have been delivered to date at Glan Llyn, alongside community facilities including a primary school, pub, and a park. There are also footpaths and cycle routes throughout the development, enabling schoolchildren and residents to enjoy the nature on their doorstep.

Previously the Llandarcy Oil Refinery, Coed Darcy is another former industrial site being transformed by St. Modwen into a thriving new community, with 300 homes delivered to date. This year, St. Modwen has brought forward a new masterplan for Coed Darcy, which would deliver up to 2,000 new sustainable and low-carbon homes, extensive green spaces, a school, community facilities and active travel networks across the development.

Lucinda Clason-Thomas, resident portfolio manager at St. Modwen, said: “It has been wonderful to see residents across our developments come together to celebrate this momentous national event and see in the start of summer together. Following the success of our spring events earlier this year, where 26 trees were planted across both sites, it was great to see the communities at Glan Llyn and Coed Darcy enjoy the spaces they’ve helped us to enhance.”

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Neath

Neath sprinting siblings to compete for Wales in Commonwealth Games

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Neath brother and sister sprinting duo Hannah and Joe Brier have received a call up by Team Wales and Welsh Athletics to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.

It will be Hannah’s second Commonwealth Games after competing in Glasgow 2014. She will be racing the 200m and she can’t wait.

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“It feels amazing. I was so young last time. I was 16 and that was eight years ago so this time I’m around, I’m 24 and everything I’ve been through the last couple of years, this is really, really special.”

She will of course be joined by younger brother Joe who will represent Wales in the 400m.

Hannah adds: “The family are so, so happy at the moment, My Mum cried when she found out and then went straight on to buy an absolute fortune of tickets when she realised we might be on different days. It’ll be amazing to share that experience with Joe.”

They will also be joined by Ospreys rugby player turned Paralympic discus thrower Harrison Walsh who said: “I absolutely can’t wait to get out there and represent my country, my family and myself., Paralympic athletes don’t often get to represent Wales so this is a real privilege. Diolch!”

Meanwhile, marathon man Dewi Griffiths – who helps out on the family farm in Llanfynydd – will be aiming to put injury woes behind him. Having been selected for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a stress fracture forced him to pull out just days before boarding the plane to Australia

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Swansea Harrier Jonny Hopkins is in the line up for the 3000m steeplechase while Heather Lewis will be aiming for a podium position in the 10k racewalk. And, for once, her family – who run a farm and adventure park – will be able to cheer her on:

“I’m really excited for my family. Normally, they’re so busy on the farm they can’t come and watch but it will be much easier for them to get to Birmingham!”

Welsh Athletics National Coach, Chris Jones said: “Welsh athletes faced the toughest ever selection criteria for Birmingham 2022, so I am delighted to confirm 22 athletes will be joining Team Wales from athletics.

“I am proud that the work and dedication of the whole team has been recognised by this selection and I am excited to see how the athletes perform.

“Within the team we have a great mix of experienced athletes who will be returning for their second and third Commonwealth Games combined with 11 athletes who will be making their debuts at Birmingham. “

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