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Neath Port Talbot ‘City of Culture’ bid ruled out

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Neath Port Talbot Council have said that because of other current priorities and an extremely challenging deadline, the council is not currently in a position to submit a bid to become a UK City of Culture.

A bid has not been ruled out for future years however.

The move comes after rules were relaxed to allow areas other than cities to enter submissions.

Local community activist, Andrew Jenkins had called for Neath Port Talbot Council to submit an expression of interest for the UK City of Culture initiative by the July deadline.

The move was supported by the Plaid Cymru group on Neath Port Talbot Council who have since expressed their disappointment at the news that the council has not submitted an expression of interest with regard to seeking “City of Culture” status for the borough.

A Plaid Neath spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed to hear this lack of action. Local people expressed an interest in the issue but the council clearly hadn’t given the matter any thought and they were caught out unprepared.

“Sadly, elected members of the council haven’t been involved in this decision and it looks like a missed opportunity to showcase the very best of Neath Port Talbot.

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“This is a clear example of how badly our heritage and cultural sector is being managed by the authority at present. Neath Port Talbot is the home of so many great poets, actors, athletes, comedians, artists and has a wealth of cultural and built heritage, yet our authority is not able to even submit an expression of interest. This lack of appreciation of our rich cultural heritage at the top level really needs to stop.”

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Neath Port Talbot Council is instead considering a new culture and heritage strategy which could be used to attract funding for projects celebrating the county borough’s sporting, cultural and industrial history.

In a report to Neath Port Talbot Council’s Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Board on July 22nd, Council Chief Executive Karen Jones said: “Recent debates at cabinet have demonstrated the heritage of our place is something that is very important to elected members and residents.

“However, to move this important area of work forward, it’s timely to consider developing a clearer sense of where heritage and culture is positioned in the council’s overall priorities and then, subject to that debate, to agree a strategic direction for this area of work.”

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The Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Board backed a proposal that officers now undertake work to scope out what would be involved in developing a culture and heritage strategy for the county borough.

The way in which funding is being distributed by the UK Government is changing and money under the Government’s Levelling Up fund can be used to celebrate an area’s culture and heritage.

In submitting Levelling Up fund proposals for the Neath and Aberavon constituencies, the council say they have already included features that will celebrate the heritage of the county borough.

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The council say they hope to be able to access some capacity funding to help develop project ideas and if the bids are successful there will be other resources that can be used to implement future project ideas.

Plaid councillor Anthony John Richards, Pontardawe said: “We support the creation of a culture and heritage strategy, which has now been proposed by the council. We hope to see it co-produced with both those within the heritage and cultural sector and the wider public of Neath Port Talbot.

“There’s a lot of interest and positive energy in our communities regarding local heritage and culture and we need to tap into that. This should not be a process carried out behind closed doors”.

Lead image: Margam Castle (Image: NPT Council)

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