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Funding approved to complete The British ironworks masterplan despite rising costs concerns

22 Jun 2021 3 minutes Read
Ruins of the former British Ironworks offices and foundry, Abersychan. Picture by Jaggery (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Emily Gill, local democracy reporter

More than £1.2 million in funding will be released by Torfaen council to complete the design phase of a masterplan on a former Talywain ironworks site, despite concerns over rising costs.

Torfaen County Borough Council was given approval to purchase The British site in 2016, and a masterplan followed in 2018. The masterplan included hiking trails, future residential developments, forest zones and a destination hub.

But progress on the plans has been slow, with soaring costs in Phase One of the plan. This includes putting in a permanent pond, connected to other water streams and remedying “urgent hazards” –  91 mining shafts and 70 passages.

In the full council meeting where councillors were asked to release £1.269 million, concerns were raised over rising costs.

Cllr Huw Bevan said he found it “alarming”. He said: “It’s cost an enormous amount of money.

“The potential being there for further cost increases would result for further requests for further capital expenditure’

“I find it alarming in this day and age of recovery, this expected cost is just shy of £8 million for a pond and a bit of land.”

Cllr Stuart Evans said they were stuck in a situation where “we can’t go forward and we can’t go back”.

He asked if the council had identified any alternative funding if the Welsh Government doesn’t provide its share – the answer was no.

‘Estimate’

The initial phase originally benefitted from £3.7 million of funding – £2 million from the council’s capital programme and £1.7 million from the Welsh Government’s vibrant and viable places fund.

But rising costs led to officers asking the Welsh Government’s enabling natural resources and wellbeing fund for a further £2.98 million to complete phase one – a decision on this is still pending due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

On top of funding issues, the council has the added problem that the Welsh Government funding that they are waiting for approval on, requires planning permission before it can be claimed.

However, planning permission cannot be sought until the phase one design and investigations have been completed.

A council report on the issue says: “It is currently estimated that should work commence in June 2021 with planning approval obtained in quarter one of 2022.”

In total the phase one element is expected to cost £7.9 million. So far £1 million has been spent with the estimated remaining costs being £6.9 million.

While there were calls for this to be deferred, the council heard that delays to the decision could cause further problems.

Cllr Fay Jones said the council needs to make the area safe.

Cllr David Daniels said: “The site isn’t safe, something needs to be done. That’s the option we’re faced today – do something or do nothing.”

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