A new delivery team has been given conditional planning approval to take forward the transformational Afan Valley leisure resort project which could create hundreds of jobs and provide significant social and environmental benefits for communities in the area.
The new team led by the Salamanca Group, a privately-held merchant banking business and home to experienced investors with a proven track record in delivery, were granted permission to progress the project to its next stages by members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday.
Now named the Wildfox Resort Afan Valley, the adventure resort will encompass a hotel, hundreds of lodges, cafes, bars and facilities for skiing, hiking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.
Martin Bellamy, Chairman and CEO of the Salamanca Group confirmed: “We are creating a new team with the expertise, finance and capability to deliver the Wildfox Resort to achieve positive social and environmental benefits for local communities. We appreciate the complexities of this project, the frustrations and disappointments of the past and understand what is required to turn it around.”
Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, Cllr Ted Latham, said: “This is an exciting proposal with potentially huge benefits for our residents in the Afan Valley and for the County Borough as a whole.”
Peter Moore, who developed Center Parcs in the UK, said: “I am delighted to be working with the new team to bring this project forward and remain passionate about the potential of the resort.”
Karen Jones Chief Executive of Neath Port Talbot Council, added: ‘The council has been working with the applicant and their agents for some time to ensure sufficient information was submitted to enable the council’s Planning Committee to thoroughly assess the proposed development. As part of this process, officers have been providing advice and guidance and I now look forward to working with the new delivery team to ensure benefits associated with the proposed development are maximised and potential impacts minimised.”
The planning committee’s resolution follows a period of uncertainty after the original decision to grant planning permission in March 2019, including significant matters of concern raised in the national press and on television concerning a director of Afan Valley Ltd.
The company subsequently went into administration, but with the support of Council Members and Officers, positive discussions with Peter Moore and Duff and Phelps (who were appointed administrators and interim managers of the leisure resort project) led to the submission of the new business plan, and at its Tuesday meeting, the council’s planning committee passed a further, final resolution confirming it was content the Wildfox Resort Afan Valley development is deliverable.
Neath Port Talbot Council’s Bay Technology Centre, sited on one of Wales’s premier business parks in the heart of South Wales, is on schedule to be completed in December of this year.
The £7.9m three-storey office and laboratory space, located at the M4-side Baglan Energy Park in Port Talbot, will host different size units for start-up companies, indigenous businesses and inward investors looking for a base to set up and grow their operations.
The centre, being built by contractors Morgan Sindall Construction, will offer 2,500 square metres of mixed use space for flexible office and laboratory work as well as a reception area and spectacular atrium on the first floor.
Innovative design and use of materials, including specialist photovoltaic panels made to look like cladding, will provide a sustainable building which is energy positive. The design also means the ‘thermal mass’ of exposed precast floor slabs can store and transfer heat from the building providing a cost effective heating solution.
Outside will be a new car park for staff and office users, as well as a cycle shed to encourage use of environmentally friendly transport methods. Landscaping will also be carried out to install a mix of grass and wildflowers to the site. Following ecological assessment, construction has been timed to avoid disrupting local wildlife and ensure the site’s biodiversity is protected.
The initiative has been part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Welsh Government and UK Government through the recently approved £58.7m Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth Programme, part of the £1.8bn Swansea Bay City Deal regional investment project.
Neath Port Talbot has an increasing number of ongoing developments being progressed supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth, including SPECIFIC, (an innovation and knowledge centre), the Hydrogen Research Centre, The Flexible Integrated Energy Systems Project (FLEXIS) and the TWI Technology Centre (Wales).
The area has strong links with and access to academia (at HE and FE level), with a number of established innovation research centres with national and international links, specialising in hydrogen, energy systems, life sciences and manufacturing; covering a range of areas from composites, propulsion, material engineering, training and skills, metallurgy and coatings, and, state of the art non-destructive testing (NDT) methods with cutting-edge inspection technologies.
The Bay Technology Centre comprises:
Ample car parking.
Easy access to M4, road, air, sea and rail networks.
High-specification security access system.
Access to on-site conference facilities, meetings rooms and break-out areas.
NPT Council economic development support, for networking, growth and investment.
Innovative ecosystem with collaborative space.
Energy positive design.
Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development, Cllr Annette Wingrave, said: “We are close to completing a state-of-the-art, hybrid building the design of which ties in perfectly with the council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy (DARE) Strategy for a cleaner, greener future for everyone.
“We look forward to working closely with start-ups, indigenous businesses, inward investors and others looking to move into the Bay Technology Centre.”
Simon Wright, restaurateur, broadcaster, food writer, and consultant has been appointed to the role of Professor of Practice by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).
The title of Professor of Practice is awarded to acknowledge an individual’s academic and/or professional distinction in a field which is aligned to the University’s mission and strategic direction. Professor Simon Wright’s expertise will be pivotal in assisting the University to develop initiatives which aim to deliver economic, social and cultural growth linked to local food and hospitality, sustainability, agriculture and rural entrepreneurship.
Professor Wright is a renowned champion of Welsh food and drink produce, sustainable agriculture and the hospitality industry. He has managed restaurants in Carmarthenshire for over 30 years and has developed a career as a broadcaster participating in a range of TV and radio programmes, including for the BBC and Channel 4. He was the restaurant consultant for Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares in the UK and Europe for 10 years, as well as a restaurant inspector for the AA’s Restaurant Guide. In 2010 he was named the Local Food Ambassador for Wales and was awarded the Wales True Taste Champion Award in the Welsh Government’s annual awards for his “dedication and devotion to Welsh food and drink”.
Simon has served on the Welsh Government Food and Farming Sector Panel and has been active for many years in contributing to food policy at all levels of government including the Food Strategy for Wales and the Food Tourism Action Plan. Most recently he has been working with Coleg Sir Gâr on designing further education courses based on sustainable and local food production and with Carmarthenshire County Council in radical efforts aimed at putting local food on the public plate.
He recently co-founded the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective as a response to the challenges facing the sector from Covid-19. The collective now has more than 300 supporting businesses across Wales and is actively engaged with Welsh Government on strategies for the survival and recovery of the sector.
Simon Wright, who also has a background in Town and Country Planning, said on his appointment: “I’m pleased to have this opportunity to play a role in supporting the University’s ambitions for sustainable regeneration in West Wales based around the rural economy and particularly the food and hospitality industries. There has never been a more crucial and acute time for these issues to be addressed. My passion is local food and all that comes with it – community, landscape, agriculture – and I’m delighted to have this opportunity and to be able to play a part in shaping the future of food and farming in West Wales and further afield”.
Professor Wright will be part of the team delivering Canolfan Tir Glas, a major development for the University’s Lampeter Campus. Its aim is to promote the local food industry, local sustainability, resilience, and enterprise within a rural context. Working closely with Ceredigion County Council and a range of local organisations, the initiative will strengthen the economic infrastructure of Lampeter and the surrounding area.
A core part of the scheme is the collaboration with food retailer Aldi to develop a food village on part of the University’s Pontfaen fields, as well as a food and hospitality training centre within the town. The development also includes the creation of a Rural Enterprise Hub and a University of Gastronomy on the University’s campus itself. Professor Wright will assist in the development of the Lampeter training restaurant as a commercial outlet for local and regional food and drink producers, assisting in the development of local food supply chains and primary and secondary food manufacturing in the region.
In addition, he will support research and enterprise, as well as curriculum development at all levels across the UWTSD Group, which includes Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion as constituent colleges.
Barry Liles, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Skills and Lifelong Learning and Head of the Wales Institute for Science and Arts said: “I’m pleased to welcome Simon Wright as a Professor of Practice to the University. The University will benefit from his expertise and experience in the food and hospitality industries, and in particular, the needs and demands for these industries in the rural communities of West Wales. We are developing an exciting curriculum, as well as research and enterprise initiatives to ensure that this crucial sector is supported by a highly skilled workforce as well as having access to the University’s expertise, technology and innovation, particularly post COVID”.
Gwilym Dyfri Jones, Provost of the Lampeter Campus who is leading on the development of Canolfan Tir Glas said: “I’m delighted that Simon Wright will be lending his expertise to the development of Canolfan Tir Glas. This initiative is underpinned by economic regeneration, with the aim of creating new jobs, attracting many more visitors to the town and increasing the number of further and higher education students studying in Lampeter. His insight and leadership on aspects of the project will be invaluable.”
Professor Medwin Hughes, DL, Vice-Chancellor added: “Simon Wright’s appointment as a Professor of Practice is central to the University’s strategy for developing provision in Lampeter that is linked to regional needs and government sector priority areas. The development of such provision aims to support the recovery and resilience of our communities, post pandemic, through knowledge transfer, research innovation, workforce development and by providing a ready pipeline of skilled, digitally literate students and graduates, in partnership with employers. The food, farming and hospitality industries are the mainstays of those communities in West Wales and Professor Wright’s experience in advising government policy and working in these areas over the past 30 years makes him a great asset to the University. I’m pleased to welcome him to the UWTSD community”.
Across Wales, there is a huge amount of work, thought-leadership, strategy and policy being developed around the future of our food, the future of farming, and how we can build a more sustainable system. In preparation for our upcoming Food System Conference for South West Wales, we are sharing some interesting reading, as well as useful links and organisational profiles, in an attempt to provide a useful hub for those who want to immerse themselves in this topic!
WHAT WALES COULD DO WITH A COMMUNITY FOOD STRATEGY The Welsh Government has announced that it will create a Community Food Strategy during its current term. Jane Powell explores the benefits of a comprehensive community food strategy that would consider land use for Wales. “Such a food policy could help us decide what our land is for, as well as pulling together other threads, from farming and the economy to health and social inclusion.” What Wales Could Do With A Community Food Strategy
WALES FOOD MANIFESTO From shorter food supply chains to a focus on education and understanding, the Wales Food Manifesto is a citizen-led campaign for a food system that will protect and respect people and nature. The draft version of the manifesto is now open for comments and feedback. Wales Food Manifesto (Draft)
WALES FIELD GUIDE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS Jane Davidson chairs the Wales Inquiry for the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission, and this 2020 report draws from their conversations with people across the nation, illustrating the incredible work already underway. “These inspiring stories show a surge in energy and appetite for new ways of sourcing and growing food and a new appreciation for the role of the countryside.” FFCC Wales Field Guide for Future Generations
FOOD POLICY ALLIANCE CYMRU – MANIFESTO Food Policy Alliance Cymru is a coalition of organisations and stakeholders building and promoting a collective vision for the Welsh food system, through collaboration, engagement and research. Their 2021 Manifesto envisions a food system that eliminates food poverty, supports population health, provides good jobs and focuses on sustainable, zero carbon faming for nature and climate. Food Policy Alliance Cymru Manifesto
THE GLOBAL FARM METRIC After four years of hard work and collaboration with numerous farmers, organisations and experts, The Sustainable Food Trust has created a measurement framework for on-farm sustainability, called the Global Farm Metric, which covers 11 categories of sustainability. “We need a common approach to measuring a farms impact on the environment, economy, and society”. Read about the Global Farm Metric
Community Growing & Local Food Roundtable 4theRegion assembled a group of thoughtleaders from across South West Wales, to discuss the local food movement and the increased interest in community growing. Featuring Neil Barry & Witchhazel Wildwood from Swansea Community Growing Network; Tom O’Kane & Jessie Kidd from Cae Tan CSA, Gareth Davies from Pembrokeshire Community Food Network, and Maggie Vicuna from the Forest Garden Project.
A MARKET FOR LOCAL FOOD – CONVERSATION WITH BEN REYNOLDS 4theRegion spoke to Ben Reynolds from Urban Foundry about the website, South Wales Food & Drink, and why creating and sustaining a market for local food is so important. Food and drink suppliers from across South Wales can list themselves on the website to benefit from co-promotion with likeminded businesses across the region. South Wales Food & Drink: www.southwalesfoodanddrink.com
TYFU CYMRU SUPPORTS COMMERCIAL HORTICULTURE IN WALES Boosting horticulture farming is key to the Welsh Government’s plans to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and is identified by their Green Recovery Taskforce as a route to accelerating Wales’ transition to a low-carbon economy and a healthier, more equal nation. Tyfu Cymru (Grow Wales) provides funded, tailored support to Wales’ horticulture sector, and has published a Commercial Horticulture Action Plan for Wales. Tyfu Cymru and the Wales Horticulture Alliance
REGIONAL FOOD SYSTEM CONFERENCE FOR SOUTH WEST WALES Please book your place at 4theRegion’s upcoming food system conference! This will bring together everyone who cares about the future of our food and farming system, to share perspectives and agree priorities for government, businesses and civil society. If you eat food, you are invited! Listen, learn and share your views at this online event over two days, 5th and 6th October 2021. Register Your Place
The first community-owned solar farm in Wales is offering Swansea businesses the opportunity to plug into locally produced green energy whilst supporting grassroots community projects on their doorstep.
Gower Power Solar Storage, a project made possible with funding from the Development Bank of Wales together with support from Welsh Government Energy Service and European Regional Development Funds, will enable up to 300 local businesses and homes to be supplied with green energy from the solar farm owned 100 percent by community benefit society, Gower Regeneration Ltd. All profits from the project will be ploughed back into local grassroots community projects.
The 1MW solar farm at Killan Fach Farm, Dunvant, began generating power on March 31st 2017 and became the first community-owned solar farm in Wales after a successful share offer raised around £900,000 from ethical investors, mainly in the Swansea area.
Gower Power Solar Storage has teamed up with leading green fuel provider Ecotricity as part of the project, and they will provide the necessary customer services and billing. Ecotricity will be able to top up any electricity that isn’t generated onsite with 100 percent renewable sources, and also offer Gower Power Solar Storage business customers carbon neutralised gas.
It is expected that the solar farm will generate clean, renewable electricity for 30 years, and over time will produce a surplus of around half a million pounds.
Ant Flanagan of Gower Power said: “We are delighted to launch this offer for Swansea businesses. We know from our research that businesses are prioritising green practices and are keen to continue to embed them in their operations. This is an important part of their CSR practices, it is a real selling point to younger recruits into their firms and increasingly, it makes sound business sense. We hope firms in the Swansea area will look at the offer we are making and consider plugging into the new tariff as a hassle-free way of making their operations greener, cleaner and more community focused.
“Many people will be aware of Gower Power, which has been a successful community run project for years. Everything we do is designed to support local community initiatives – particularly those which don’t always find it easy to get funding – and this green energy tariff will support this important work by ploughing profits back into these projects.
“We are pleased to have won the support of the Development Bank of Wales and the Welsh Government Energy Service, both of whom see this scheme as a forward thinking one for Wales. We would encourage business who are interested in a cleaner, greener way of working and doing some good for their local community, to register with Gower Power today. We are only able to support 300 businesses and homes so we would urge businesses to take this opportunity now before it’s too late.”
Dale Vince, Ecotricity CEO, said, “It’s great to be working with a community energy company whose ethos is so well-matched with our own at Ecotricity. It is fantastic to be able to help businesses decarbonise their energy use and help local communities benefit from the profits generated from green electricity sales – shifting the way that the energy market has operated for so long.”
Julie James, Minister for Climate Change, said: “The Welsh Government has set targets of producing 1GW of locally owned community energy by 2030. Projects like Gower Power Solar Storage are vital in helping us reach these targets and seeing communities benefit from a prosperous, net zero economy. I would like to congratulate everyone at Gower Power Solar Storage and wish them the very best for the future as they lead the way
supplying electricity to local consumers and businesses from Wales’ first community-owned solar farm and hope to see many others follow their path in the future.”
Nicola Griffiths of the Development Bank of Wales said: “Renewable energy schemes like Gower Power Solar Storage have long-term environmental, social and economic benefits for the people of Wales. Indeed, we are able to support renewable energy projects with up to £5 million from the Local Energy Loan Fund as part of our efforts to develop a low-carbon economy in Wales.”
In time, members of the community benefit society will decide which local projects and enterprises will benefit from any surplus income generated by the farm. Gower Power Co-op CIC is already supporting numerous local projects with funding raised similarly, from sales of green electricity from solar assets elsewhere in Swansea.
Cwmgors kicked off the first game of the season by unveiling their new solar panels on the club house. The club are hoping the solar panels can provide an energy boost to the season. The 30kW system cost £27,928 and was installed free of charge by Egni Co-op with funds from its Share Offer which has raised £4.49m to date.
Dorian Jones from the Club said “We’re delighted to be one of the first rugby clubs in Wales to install solar and play our part in tackling climate change. We’ve all seen the news of wildfires in different part of Europe. Our club works with a lot of young people and we want to play our part on building a future fit for them.”
There are panels on the front and rear of the building which faces east – west. This means the roof gets the sun in the morning on the rear and on the front in the afternoon. The panels will reduce the club’s electrical consumption from the grid and their carbon emissions by 7,700 kg/year . It’s estimated the club will save £2,400 /year which helps the financial stability of the club as all sports venues are recovering from Covid.
Feasibility and development costs for the project were funded by the Rural Development Programme, the Welsh Government Energy Service and Sustainable Communities Wales.
Dan McCallum, co-director of Egni Co-op said “Cwmgors is the birthplace of the greatest rugby player of all time, Gareth Edwards, and it’s great that his home club is leading the way in reducing our carbon emissions.
Egni Co-op has now raised £4.49m from Community Shares and is fast approaching its target of £4.6m. We want as many people to join us. Anyone can invest from £50 to play their part in tacking climate change. Please visit www.egni.coop for more info. We’re delighted that we’ve recently been able to pay our Members the 4% annual interest on their investment as per our Share Offer Document. Those Members include 44 schools where we’ve got solar panels. Egni Co-op is now the largest rooftop solar co-op in the UK which is a fantastic achievement for Wales. Other sports venues such as Merthyr Town Football Club have also installed solar with Egni and you can see a short film about it by double Bafta Cymru winner, Mike Harrison below.”
About Egni Co-op
Egni has installed 4.3 MWp of rooftop solar on 88 schools, community buildings and businesses across Wales. It’s now the largest rooftop solar co-op in the UK. www.egni.coop
All the sites are backed by the Feed in Tariff. Egni is refinancing our loan from the Development Bank of Wales with co-op shares as this is at 6% interest whereas co-op members invest at 4% interest. This means that there is more surplus going into climate change education projects in Welsh schools.
Here are recent films made by double BAFTA Cymru winner, Mike Harrison about the largest rooftop solar project in Wales on the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome in Newport and at Merthyr Town Football Club.
The team behind Egni Co-op have also delivered the award-winning Awel Co-op, a 4.7MW community wind farm which was commissioned in Jan 2017. It was funded by a £5.25m loan from Triodos Bank and a £3m community share offer www.awel.coop.
For further details of Egni, please contact Dan McCallum 07590 848818
About Regenerate NPT
Regenerate Neath Port Talbot is the local partnership that is delivering the Rural Development Plan in Neath Port Talbot Council. The programme is jointly funded by the European Union as part of the Common Agricultural Policy through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and the Welsh Government.
The term given to the ‘partnership’ is ‘Local Action Group’ and it is made up of members from the public, private and voluntary sectors. In Neath Port Talbot the LAG – Regenerate NPT, is responsible for overseeing our local LEADER programme. The LAG is made up of representatives from a wide range of organisations throughout the areas of NPT and Wales. The LAG is there to target the priority areas for NPT and to support the development of grass root projects that directly address these priority areas.
About Sustainable Communities Wales (SCW)
SCW works with community organisations across the country to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. They reduce their emissions and act as an example of sustainability for the whole community. Funded by the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Programme, SCW is delivered by a consortium of Welsh energy efficiency experts, led by Severn Wye Energy Agency. For more information, visit sustainablecommunities.wales
About Welsh Government Energy Service
The Welsh Government Energy Service provides free technical, commercial and procurement support to develop energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and has supported Egni. The energy service helps with financial planning and funding, for example interest free loans and grants.