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From making cans to creating jobs and cleaning the air – the latest tenants at Metal Box

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The transformation of Neath’s iconic former Metal Box container factory into a job creating business zone has been a big success with much of the work being carried out during the Covid pandemic.

Now it will play a major role in helping the area’s recovery from the economic effects of coronavirus with Neath Port Talbot Council’s Leader and Deputy Leader, Cllr Ted Latham and Cllr Leanne Jones, and Chief Executive Karen Jones, visiting the site on Friday (November 12th).

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They were invited by the latest business to move into the Milland Road business zone, Vortex IoT (Internet of Things) – a dynamic company at the forefront of smart city technologies and experts in air quality monitoring.

Vortex has pedigree in helping councils reduce air pollution through unprecedented, street-level measurement of air quality. By 2050, air pollution is set to be the number one cause of environment-related deaths worldwide and Vortex is passionate about stopping this by contributing towards clean air for all. 

With large air quality monitoring networks across the UK, Vortex’s partners benefit with the detailed air quality intelligence needed to take targeted environmental action. 

Neath Port Talbot Council is now benefitting from Vortex’s pioneering air quality monitoring networks. The deployment of 70 sensors, attached to lamposts, is the first of its kind in Wales and is harnessing the power of technology to get a much better understanding of air quality on a local level. Better air quality intelligence will uncover previously hidden pollution hotspots and discover the sources of pollution, allowing the council to take targeted action to demonstrably cut air pollution. 

The cutting edge deployment goes far beyond DEFRA legislated air pollution guidelines and is an indicator of the clear intent that Neath Port Talbot Council and Vortex have to protect residents’ health and mitigate the harm of air pollution. It’s supported by the Swansea Bay City Deal Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth programme, and is being delivered as part of the council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy (DARE) Strategy. 

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Vortex IoT plans to create up to 50 highly skilled engineering and advanced manufacturing jobs in the next 18 months at its new home in the former Metal Box site. The company has recently been awarded Tech Company of the Year at the 2021 Swansea Bay Business Awards, as well as being awarded for its entrepreneurship via company Chief Executive, Adrian Sutton. 

The former Metal Box site was occupied for more than 70 years by the Metal Box container factory but since its most recent occupier, the Crown Packaging company, closed in 2016, the future of the historic building seemed doubtful and it remained vacant for some years. However, with support from the Welsh Government’s targeted regeneration investment programme, Neath Port Talbot Council bought the site with the aim of creating around 400 jobs. 

Sevenoaks Modular purchased approximately 50% of the production area of the building, giving the project a major early boost. Refurbishment work on the modernisation of the site continued throughout the pandemic with the work being done by Port Talbot-based contractor Andrew Scott Ltd. 

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Leader and Deputy Leader, Cllr Ted Latham and Cllr Leanne Jones, and Chief Executive Karen Jones, visited the site on Friday (Image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

Council Leader Cllr Latham said: “The idea of establishing the business zone was to work with local businesses to provide offices and other facilities to create expansion and growth opportunities and it’s a real achievement that so much progress was made on the site despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’re delighted Vortex IoT has now made the site its home and we look forward to working with the company to thoroughly investigate air pollution issues to help make our communities cleaner and greener.”

Adrian Sutton, Vortex CEO, said: “Vortex is passionate about decarbonisation, and our complete in-house manufacturing of this cleantech relies on a robust base of operations. Metal Box is an office we are proud of, and it is invigorating to work with a council so focused on providing clean air for its residents.”

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(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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