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Plans to transform industrial wasteland using ‘green energy’ outlined to residents

26 Nov 2022 4 minute read
Torfaen Council officer Dave Leech at the meeting with The British liaison committee, Photo: Cllr Giles Davies

Twm Owen, local democracy reporter

Plans to transform an industrial wasteland using “green energy” to create “hundreds” of new jobs have been outlined to local residents.

Wales-based development firm Idris plans to use The British site, at Abersychan, to generate clean energy from solar and hydro power using watercourses including two reservoirs, to power new industries such as salmon farms on site.

The land, which stretches across 9 kilometers, would also be used for recreation while other uses could include “vertical farming” where plants are grown indoors on an industrial scale.

It is estimated the development would require £100 million in financial backing but its claimed the site could be generating renewable energy by 2024 or 2025.

Idris director, Steve Morgan, told a public meeting at Talywain Senior Citizens’ Hall, the plans will bring new jobs to the area.

“We are going to produce local, green sustainable energy off the British and create hundreds of jobs in this valley.”

He added: “Unemployment in this valley is terrible and not getting any better. This gives a future for an awful lot of young people in this valley, it gives this valley a future in a high-tech world that is leaving you all behind.”

Feasibility studies

Described as the largest remaining post-industrial site in South Wales plans for open cast mining and housing had previously been proposed for the former Victorian ironworks but were opposed by residents who, after a long campaign, persuaded Torfaen Borough Council to buy the land in 2018.

It has granted Idris permission to undertake feasibility studies on site, which will cost around £2m, and the authority is considering a potential joint venture to develop it, with Idris having proposed forming a Community Interest Company.

Idris intends raising capital to finance the scheme through “green bonds” and Mr Morgan said investors would also be involved in the development of the site, and promised the local community will be as well.

At the meeting, in response to Mr Morgan promising “hundreds of jobs”, Dave Leech, the council’s strategic director for communities, acknowledged potential plans for the British had previously been “abandoned” but said: “I can’t stand here and promise you this will happen but I promise you we will have a go at it if we think it is the right thing for communities around that site.”

Some 20 people attended the meeting and one told Mr Morgan: “There is no point telling me about hundreds of jobs if they are low paid”.

Mr Morgan said he agreed and council officer Mr Leech said they wouldn’t be.


Other concerns were raised about the feasibility of the proposals and the development itself, which Mr Leech said would be in line with the council’s masterplan, drawn up with local residents, that included preserving the environment and its historic character while creating a sustainable community. He said landscaping and greening work is already taking place.

Mr Morgan said: “We are not going to be covering large patches of land with solar panels, we don’t need them, nor are we putting 30 great big wind things up the mountain, it’s not necessary. There are new combinations of power.”

In response to the presentation a resident at the meeting said: “All that looks wonderful but myself and many others would just like to see it made safe and landscaped for the wildlife.”

Abersychan councillor Giles Davies said he was “excited” by the proposals and said: “I’ve lived here all my life, and I’m 55 now, and for the first time in my life I’m quite excited and feel positive about the British, in the past it has been all doom and gloom with the open cast but I can see a future for my children and grandchildren.”

Dr John Cox, of the residents liaison committee, said they had a “history of being disappointed at every level” on the future of the site for 40 years. He said the plans appeared to be in line with residents wishes but questioned whether they will be feasible.

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