Plans advance for major regeneration project on 19th century ironworks site
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
Plans to regenerate a wild and neglected former industrial site could take a significant step forward with legal advice being sought on the joint venture.
The British, at Talywain, in Pontypool has been described as the largest remaining site of industrial dereliction in South East Wales.
The ironworks at the site, which has mostly been taken over by nature, date back to the 1820s, while there was also small-scale mining in the area, which was bought by Torfaen County Borough Council in 2016.
In February this year the council confirmed it has already spent £1.2 million related to the site on surveys as well as staff costs, community engagement events and newsletters, while it has granted Welsh development firm Idris the rights to explore the potential of the site for energy generation.
The agreement is intended as a way of the council realising its masterplan for the area which, as well as energy generation and employment opportunities, is intended to restore the site’s heritage, including buildings, and develop it as an outdoor leisure and recreation space.
As part of the arrangement, which granted Idris exclusive access to the site for exploring its potential for energy generation, the council was offered the opportunity of forming a joint Community Interest Company to manage and develop the site.
Idris has said it would fund feasibility studies, which it has had to pay for, from investors in green energy bonds and a report by Torfaen council strategic director Dave Leech said officers met with the company’s financial backers this June who confirmed funds will be available for feasibility work subject to the creation of the joint venture arrangement.
Cllr Sue Morgan, who has responsibility for finance, has now authorised the council to spend £31,000 on specialist legal advice on how a joint venture could be established, how the council’s interests can be protected and that the proposed venture could meet its ambitions for The British and for drawing up the necessary paperwork and agreements.
A tender was issued by the council, for a qualified firm, to carry out the legal work and only one bid was received and Cllr Morgan has approved spending the money from the council’s general reserve.
A further report will be presented to the council once the legal agreements have been drafted.
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