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New innovation-focused business forum launched for Neath Port Talbot

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A new business forum has been launched for Neath Port Talbot. The NPT Innovation Exchange will bring together construction, digital, technology, engineering and manufacturing firms for purposeful collaboration and economic benefit.

Launched at an online event on the afternoon of March 23, the NPT Innovation Exchange is hosted by Neath Port Talbot Council in partnership with 4theRegion.

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Supported by the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund, the exchange aims to deliver tangible benefits for local businesses and for the wider region, by encouraging local firms to innovate, collaborate and grow.

The launch event attracted around 40 local businesspeople and included talks from 16 key business leaders from across the county, including Phillip Wallace, regional manager for TWI Wales; Phil Williams, owner of SWS Certification Services; Ian Ferris, director of Paragon Engineered Timber; Simon Wright, founder of Intuety; and Lee Bridgeman, CEO of Hybrisan Port Talbot.

The discussions covered the recent successes and challenges experienced by businesses in the area, what’s required to give local businesses a boost, and how to ensure the NPT Innovation Exchange addresses local businesses’ most urgent and important priorities.

Simon Brennan, Head of Property and Regeneration for Neath Port Talbot Council, said: “As a council we were excited to launch the first in a series of events of the Innovation Exchange project. It was good to see so many businesses within the construction, digital, technology, engineering and manufacturing sectors in attendance.

“The project aims to bring together large and small businesses in a spirit of collaboration and partnership, with the goal of strengthening local companies, maximising economic opportunities and growing a sustainable innovation sector in Neath Port Talbot.

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“In the next few months, we look forward to taking part in the discussions and helping address key issues for businesses, whilst encouraging more collaborative working for economic growth.”

Associated British Ports’ Future Vision for Port Talbot shared at NPT Innovation Exchange

Dawn Lyle, founder of 4theRegion, said: “We’re proud to launch this important new initiative and it’s clearly something that businesses in Neath Port Talbot have been asking for. Neath Port Talbot Council is committed to supporting local firms to grow, and the purpose of the forum is to connect businesses to each other and to the exciting opportunities that are now emerging across the county and wider region.

“These include the decarbonisation agenda, and major growth sectors such as floating offshore wind, modular construction, automation and artificial intelligence. We had great attendance, lively discussion, and valuable insights from so many key business figures from across Neath Port Talbot.

“People are genuinely excited about the NPT Innovation Exchange. We are lining up a mix of online and in person events over the next few months and we warmly encourage local businesses to get involved.”

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Sport

New Townhill all weather-pitch is ready for kick-off

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A new all-weather pitch that will benefit thousands of players in the years to come has been fitted at the Phoenix Centre in Townhill.

Swansea Council provided the funding that also included an upgrade to the floodlights at the popular venue.

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The council is also improving the nearby multi-use-games-area as part of the project that represents an investment of up to £300,000.

The centre’s former pitch was laid around 20 years ago and was well used by the community including local sporting clubs.

Council Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, Robert Francis-Davies, visited the site this week to check on progress that has also seen new netting and fencing installed.

He said: “Sport is such an important part of so many peoples’ lives so I’m really pleased we’ve able to use part of the council’s Economic Recovery Fund to make these improvements.

“The council recognises sport has huge physical, mental health and general wellbeing benefits and that is why we do all we can to provide modern and accessible facilities for all.

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“This pitch will benefit thousands of players of all ages and is just the latest all-weather pitch we have funded or provided support towards in recent years following on from investments at Penyrheol, Morriston, Pentrehafod, Gowerton, Bishopston, the Elba Sports Complex and at Dylan Thomas Community School.”

The work at the Phoenix Centre was carried out by Blakedown Sport and Play and old pitch has been recycled by a company working in the golf industry.

The Phoenix Centre is a flagship community enterprise centre run and managed by Hill Community Development Trust.

Manager Leanne Dower said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming our existing and new users to this great new facility.

“The pitch will create opportunities for local children to try a variety of sports and have a safe space to play. We are very grateful to all involved for supporting us.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Pembrey & Burry Port

Pembrey Country Park most awarded Blue Flags in Wales

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Pembrey Country Park has won more Blue Flags than anywhere else in Wales.

Cefn Sidan has secured the prestigious Blue Flag status once again making it the most awarded Blue Flag site in Wales since 1988.

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It has won on consecutive years since 2009, apart from 2020 when the awards were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cefn Sidan was also the first Welsh beach to win the international accolade.

The Blue Flag award is only given to beaches, marinas and harbours that have the highest quality of water, environmental education and management, safety and services. It is an is an indication of a world class visiting experience and attraction site for local people and visitors to Carmarthenshire.

The popular tourist attraction has also won the Green Flag award for the last four years for its inspiring green space, having the highest possible standards, being beautifully maintained and boasting excellent visitor facilities.

Carmarthenshire County Council Cabinet Member Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Cllr Gareth John said: “I am delighted and proud that we continue to achieve these standards year on year. Pembrey Country Park and Cefn Sidan Beach is one of Wales’ top tourist attractions and has something to offer everyone. This award symbolises quality and provides assurances to visitors and tourists when looking for a place to visit.”

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(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Construction

Construction work soon to start on Swansea’s ‘living building’ at former Oxford Street Woolworths site

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With main construction work due to start in the coming weeks, city leaders have visited the Swansea site where a major new ‘living building’ project will soon be taking shape.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, and Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, were talked through details and timescales for the development, which will be located at the former Woolworths unit on Oxford Street.

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Earmarked for completion by the end of 2023, Swansea-based Hacer Developments is behind the scheme, which is one of the first of its kind in the UK.

Made up of the former Woolworths unit and a new adjoining 13-storey structure, the ‘living building’ will include green walls and green roofs, an educational facility, retail, offices, a landscaped courtyard, rooftop solar panels, battery storage and gardens. Pobl Group will manage 50 affordable apartments forming part of the scheme.

Other scheme features include an urban farm-style greenhouse set over four floors. Plants and vegetables will be grown in water and fed by waste pumped from fish tanks at the bottom of the building.

A green walkway including seating through the building will link Oxford Street to a new public space leading to the 71/72 Kingsway scheme being developed by Swansea Council.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, and Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, were talked through details and timescales for the development, which will be located at the former Woolworths unit on Oxford Street. (Image: Swansea Council)

Stripping-out and demolition works have now been completed at the ‘living building’ site, paving the way for main construction to begin.

The visit also included a tour of the new 33-apartment building at the city’s Copr Bay district developed by Swansea Council, which is set for completion this summer.

To be run by Pobl Group and located close to the new bridge over Oystermouth Road, the affordable apartments will cater for local people working in the city centre, with a particular focus on key workers. 

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Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “What we have seen through this work is an excellent example of the affordable homes we need to build in Wales.

“These new homes in the heart of Swansea city centre will make a huge difference to the quality of living for so many people.

“We need to see more projects like this delivered across the country as we strive to become a stronger, greener, fairer Wales.”

Cllr Stewart said: “Led by Hacer Developments, the exciting ‘living building’ scheme follows on from our work to transform the look and feel of The Kingsway.

“It will create jobs for local people while helping Swansea in its drive to become a net zero city, complementing the nearby office development at the former Oceana nightclub site that will be carbon zero in operation.

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“The residential element of the scheme will also meet the city’s accommodation needs by creating more affordable living opportunities in the city centre. This is also the case for the apartment building at the Copr Bay district developed by the council, which will benefit from excellent links with the new coastal park adjacent to Swansea Arena.”

Carwyn Davies, Managing Director of Hacer Developments, said: “We’re delighted that main construction work will soon start on the highly innovative ‘living building’ project, but it wouldn’t be possible without the support of the many partners involved, including Swansea Council, the Welsh Government, Pobl, the Development Bank of Wales, Swansea University and Cardiff University  – as well as our fantastic design and site team.”

The visit also included a tour of the new 33-apartment building at the city’s Copr Bay district developed by Swansea Council, which is set for completion this summer. (Image: Swansea Council)

Claire Tristham, Director of Developments at Pobl Group, said: “Pobl has a growing reputation for delivering forward-thinking housing solutions that push the boundaries.

“We are excited to be working with Hacer on this innovative project that will deliver much-needed, high-quality, affordable homes for Swansea and support the council’s wider regeneration plans for the city centre.

“Support from the council and Welsh Government has been critically important to this development, so we were delighted to able to welcome the Minister on site to officially launch the start of work on this truly unique project.”

The ‘living building’ is being funded by a mixture of private sector funding and funding from the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme, Pobl and the Development Bank of Wales.

Set to accommodate 600 workers, the nearby office development at the former Oceana nightclub site – due for completion in the summer of 2023 – is being funded by Swansea Council and the Swansea Bay City Deal. It is also being supported by the European Regional Development Site through the Welsh Government.

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The Copr Bay phase one district has been developed by Swansea Council, supported by development managers RivingtonHark. Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd is leading on its construction.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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