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Plans submitted to turn Ebbw Vale’s Festival Park into a business centre

09 Aug 2022 3 minute read
Festival Park – Ebbw Vale.Photo via Google

Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter

Plans to “recycle and repurpose” the now-empty Festival Park in Ebbw Vale have been formally lodged with Blaenau Gwent planners.

Birmingham based property developer, Mercia Real Estate (MRE) Ltd, which bought the site last year, wants to convert the park into a “mixed use business centre.”

The company held a public consultation on their proposals which ended on June 16.

Savills, MRE’s agents, explain the proposal in a planning statement.

It said: “MRE’s vision for the mall is to recycle and repurpose the existing land and buildings to create a mixed-use business centre.

“The previously developed site is now completely vacant, but with limited remodelling to the buildings and the hard areas around them it can provide space for a range of employment generating uses.”

Savills explain that the main parts of the scheme would be to dismantle a number of the units and use that floor area for more yard space, parking, roads and paths.

Some of the units would be modified and the canopies would be removed.

The central mall walkway would be resurfaced to become a service or access road.

Change of use permission would also be needed for the shop units so that class A, B as well as D uses are accommodated at the site.

These cover retail, professional services, food and drink, offices and research, training and education, gyms and creche facilities.

Savills add: “MRE also want attract users that may include a mixture of activities – like trade counters, tool hire companies and builder’s merchants.”

According to the plans, access to the remodelled mall will come from two existing points along Queen Street and an additional exit which will be formed by reconfiguring the pedestrian walkway at the southern end.

“The walkway between the two terraces will be converted into an internal access road and existing yards will be supplemented by new areas on the footprints of the cleared units,” the statement reads.

“Parking is provided next to the retained units, with any other requirements (parking levels will depend on the mix of activities) accommodated on the existing car parks to the west.”

Savills added: “For clear reasons, MRE’s proposals perform very well against planning policy.

“Fundamentally they seek to recycle land and buildings in a sustainable location to generate new economic activity which will create space for jobs, facilities and investment.”

Final festival

The final UK Garden Festival was held at the 75-acre site in 1992 and attracted over two million visitors to Ebbw Vale.

Garden festivals were the idea of Michael Heseltine during his time as environment minister in the 1980s Conservative government.

They were a supposed to be seen as a symbol of “re-birth” of derelict land in parts of the country which had seen the decline of heavy industry

The Festival Park site had once been home to steel and ironworks which had been demolished in the early 1980s.

The site later became a shopping park that featured over 30 shops and restaurants, with a children’s play park and an owl sanctuary.

Ideas to regenerate the site have included, turning it into a leisure and tourist destination, with mountain biking, zip wires, a cinema and hotel.

In 2020 the council had investigated buying the site outright themselves, but later abandoned the plan.

The deadline for a decision on the plans is August 23.

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