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Center Parcs style resort heading to Afan Valley as new delivery team takes forward plans

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A new delivery team has been given conditional planning approval to take forward the transformational Afan Valley leisure resort project which the council say could create hundreds of jobs and provide significant social and environmental benefits for communities in the area.

Development plans for the 325 acre site at Pen-y-bryn near Croeserw have been in the pipeline for a number of years, but have been beset by financial problems.

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Now a new delivery team is in place following Neath Port Talbot Council’s request earlier in the year that “necessary assurances” of funding arrangements were place to be able to deliver the scheme.

The new team led by the Salamanca Group, a privately-held merchant banking business and home to experienced investors with a proven track record in delivery, were granted permission to progress the project to its next stages by members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday (October 12th).

Now named the Wildfox Resort Afan Valley, the adventure resort will encompass a hotel, hundreds of lodges, cafes, bars and facilities for skiing, hiking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

Martin Bellamy, Chairman and CEO of the Salamanca Group confirmed: “We are creating a new team with the expertise, finance and capability to deliver the Wildfox Resort to achieve positive social and environmental benefits for local communities. We appreciate the complexities of this project, the frustrations and disappointments of the past and understand what is required to turn it around.” 

Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, Cllr Ted Latham, said: “This is an exciting proposal with potentially huge benefits for our residents in the Afan Valley and for the County Borough as a whole.”

Peter Moore, who developed Center Parcs in the UK, said: “I am delighted to be working with the new team to bring this project forward and remain passionate about the potential of the resort.” 

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Karen Jones Chief Executive of Neath Port Talbot Council, added: “The council has been working with the applicant and their agents for some time to ensure sufficient information was submitted to enable the council’s Planning Committee to thoroughly assess the proposed development. As part of this process, officers have been providing advice and guidance and I now look forward to working with the new delivery team to ensure benefits associated with the proposed development are maximised and potential impacts minimised.”

The planning committee’s resolution follows a period of uncertainty after the original decision to grant planning permission in March 2019, including significant matters of concern raised in the national press and on television concerning a director of Afan Valley Ltd. 

The company subsequently went into administration, but with the support of Council Members and Officers, positive discussions with Peter Moore and Duff and Phelps (who were appointed administrators and interim managers of the leisure resort project) led to the submission of the new business plan, and at its Tuesday meeting, the council’s planning committee passed a further, final resolution confirming it was content the Wildfox Resort Afan Valley development is deliverable.

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Fitness

Welsh rugby stars’ ambitions to ensure everyone in Wales has access to fitness and wellbeing activities

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The Wales rugby stars behind an app which aims to give people of all ages and abilities straightforward access to workouts, fitness activities and exclusive offers are seeking funding of £300,000 as part of ambitious plans to ensure their market disrupting platform is downloaded and used across the whole of Wales, before turning their attention to the rest of the UK.

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Ospreys and Wales Rugby International, Alex Cuthbert (Image: Fitap)

Fitap, which launched in the midst of lockdown in 2020, brings the world of fitness and wellbeing into one easily accessible app in order to create and reward a community of people who enjoy staying physically and mentally active. 

The team behind the already popular app, which includes Wales rugby stars Alex Cuthbert and Gareth Anscombe, now hope to extend its features, as well as build a sales team and increase marketing through crowdfunding.

“Our aim is to leverage technology to make staying fit easier, cheaper and more enjoyable,” says Wales rugby international Alex Cuthbert, “Sometimes people get intimidated about physically going to a gym or exploring activities to help their mental health and wellbeing, but this makes access easier.”

In a survey of current users, 71% said that Fitap helped them find either facilities or online sessions, with 92% saying they’d recommend it. 

Alex adds, “I’ve played rugby for most of my life, and it really makes you feel like you’re part of a family. We want to help customers find their passion, and in doing so, help them meet new people with similar interests. What’s better than getting physically and mentally healthier, whilst also feeling part of a community?”

Wales and Ospreys rugby star, Gareth Anscombe (Image: Fitap)

For business partner and fellow Wales and Ospreys teammate, Gareth Anscombe, Fitap is the passion project that kept him busy when struggling psychologically after being ruled out of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan with knee ligament damage.

He says that for people starting their fitness journey, it can be a minefield; “The gym isn’t for everybody and, when it comes to wellbeing, it’s important to provide support for those who’ve had a few setbacks in life. 

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“For me, in rugby, there’s been great times, but it’s not always smooth sailing. I feel it’s important to provide support and make talking about fitness and mental health more accessible.”

The app, which is free for users, charges businesses a fee to be listed in return for promotion to members of the public who want to find new ways to get active.

“Because advertising costs tend to be high and therefore too risky for individual fitness providers to try, nobody currently owns consumers’ minds in this space. We aim to!” says business partner, Dean Jones, who has a background in marketing and advertising. 

Those with enquiries can find out more on the Fitap website and invest using the Crowdcube platform.

(Lead image: Fitap)

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Charity

Tesco brings £300k New Year cheer for South Wales community groups

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Tesco is bringing a positive start to the year for communities in South Wales by launching a campaign to give good causes part of a £300,000 boost.

From 17 January to 6 February, listeners to Heart and Smooth radio stations in South Wales who work with charities or not-for-profit organisations will be encouraged to apply for a £5,000 cash grant.

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Presenters including Jamie Theakston and Jenni Falconer will be telling listeners how to nominate their favourite groups on air, and priority will be given to projects that provide food and support to young people, such as school breakfast clubs, food banks, or charities supporting young people to manage mental health.

The campaign is running in addition to Tesco Community Grants, the in-store scheme where customers vote with blue tokens for community projects and groups, which has been helping local people since 2016.

Among the groups in South Wales to receive funding for recent projects was Twyn Community Hub in Twynyrodyn, Merthyr Tydfil, which was given £1,000 towards its Yum Yum This Is Scrum campaign which sought to aid food exploration and educate on making healthy choices.

Another was Theatr Iolo in Cardiff, which received £1,000 towards the creation of free creative play packs for families in need in order to spread a little kindness and joy.

Claire de Silva, Head of Community at Tesco, said: “We know the start of the year can be tough for many families financially, so we wanted to find a way to give something extra to the communities our stores support across the nation.

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“We hope that Heart and Smooth listeners will help us celebrate all the community groups who make such a difference to young people and families, not just in January but year round too. We’re really proud to be launching this new campaign, which is an extra boost to our Tesco Community Grants scheme that already helps thousands of people every year.”

Graham Duxbury, Chief Executive at Groundwork, the charity that works with Tesco on community initiatives, said: “For many people the combination of money worries and the ongoing impact of the pandemic is making the start of 2022 a challenging time.  

“That’s why it’s so important that we continue to support the local charities and community groups who work tirelessly to provide essential services and bring people together in neighbourhoods across the nation. Money is tight for many of these groups too, so we’re delighted to be working with Tesco to make extra funds available so that they can expand their activities and help more people.”

To nominate your chosen charity or community group and to find out more about Tesco Community Grants go to www.tescocommunitygrants.org.uk 

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Lifestyle

Bouldering wall and yoga studio open at Wild Lakes Wales in Pembrokeshire

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Wild Lakes Wales, which recently rebranded from Pembrokeshire Wake Park, has opened a new bouldering wall, boosting local employment and further expanding the range of activities available at the centre.

The addition of the wall and a new yoga studio in the same building is enabling the centre to stay open through the winter for the first time since it launched.

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A family business, Wild Lakes Wales is run by siblings Sarah Harris, Mark Harris and Stephanie Harris. The trio grew up in Pembrokeshire and decided to create their own Wake park after moving back to the area and always wanting to run a family business. The park now provides up to 30 local part time and full time jobs.

All three siblings are sports enthusiasts, and they have channelled this into Wild Lakes Wales. The new bouldering wall is a bespoke creation made by Mark Harris (one of the Harris siblings), with the help of Walltopia. It offers an array of different routes, holds and angled sections and a cave area. The plan is to have route sections reset every two weeks to keep the wall current and interesting for locals. To provide further interest, a guest route setter will also create a new route each month. 

The bouldering wall at Wild Lakes Wales

The bouldering wall is located in a new 12m x 20m building, which includes a reception area and an area to relax and catch up with friends, coffee and cakes. The bouldering wall is open for anyone aged seven and years and up. Membership and bulk buys are available, and the wall will also host social events and competitions. Children’s and adults’ lessons led by qualified coaches will be offered on a group basis and casual ‘open’ bouldering is on offer for competent climbers. 

The addition of the bouldering wall will benefit the local community in more ways than one: as well as providing a new attraction, it has created several full-time positions at the centre.

“We always enjoy challenges and want to expand our venture year on year, so with the recent lockdowns we were provided the time to crack on with building works at the park,” says Stephanie Harris.

“We wanted to extend our seasonal business and make it more viable with the offer of full-time jobs. A bouldering wall made the perfect winter alternative to wakeboarding and already we’ve seen lots of our wakeboarding members make the transition. Bouldering is a great sport and having an indoor centre provides opportunity during the winter for local climbers to continue working on their skills and keep fit.”

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The new yoga studio, located on a mezzanine floor in the same building as the bouldering wall, will further expand the centre’s offering.

“We decided to capitalise on the height of the new building and use the loft space,” explains Stephanie.

“As we have a yoga instructor already in the team, we thought the space would be perfect to create a studio. Yoga is a great crossover for those utilising the water sports and bouldering facility – it’s an opportunity to create more well-rounded athletes. Classes in the mezzanine will begin from February and have numerous instructors offering a flow for everyone. We plan to utilise the mezzanine for workshops too, whether that’s a yoga workshop, first aid training or crafty bits. It’s another space onsite that provides opportunity.”

The Harris siblings are delighted to be boosting job opportunities in Pembrokeshire.

“We always had plans to expand the business, but the main reason was to offer some of our great and loyal staff full time positions, to keep the talent in Pembrokeshire,” says Stephanie.

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“Often, Pembrokeshire is seen as such a seasonal destination but there are visitors and especially locals in the winter looking for places to go and new things to try. Adding an indoor bouldering facility and yoga studio allowed us to open through the winter as the water becomes too cold, it also goes hand in hand with our new chef and restaurant that will also run from February to December each year.”

Over the winter Wild Lakes will be offering bouldering for competent climbers as well as lessons, different flows of yoga and a restaurant with food cooked by an award-winning chef.

“This will be our first winter we stay open; we previously closed from November to the end of March,” says Stephanie.

“We had a soft opening of the bouldering wall in the last two weeks leading up to Christmas and now we’ve reopened with yoga coming soon. The restaurant will follow in February and our watersports reopen at end of March. We’re really enjoying our first winter still in operation. We also plan to have live music events as they went down so well over the autumn, and we hope to hold a spring fair.”

Wild Lakes is at Cott Ln, Martletwy, Narberth in Pembrokeshire.

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