An innovative portfolio of major Neath Port Talbot projects aimed at helping tackle climate change while safeguarding the future of the steel industry has been given a regional stamp of approval.
Following the thumbs-up at a meeting of the Swansea Bay City Deal’s Joint Committee, the business case for the £58.7 million Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth programme will now be submitted to the UK Government and Welsh Government for final sign-off.
With a targeted focus on the Port Talbot Harbourside area, the programme is projected to be worth £6.2 million a year to the local economy once all projects are operational. Over 1,300 jobs will be created or safeguarded, with at least 30% of these to be new.
Led by Neath Port Talbot Council, the Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth programme is made up of four inter-linked elements:
- An energy positive Swansea Bay Technology Centre building on Baglan Energy Park providing flexible office space for start-up companies and indigenous businesses, with a focus on the innovation, ICT and R&D sectors. The excess energy from solar and other renewable technologies will be converted into hydrogen at the nearby Hydrogen Centre to be used to fuel hydrogen vehicles.
- A National Steel Innovation Centre that will support the steel and metals industry in Port Talbot and Wales, while reducing its carbon footprint.
- Decarbonisation projects including an electrical vehicle charging network, as well as air quality modelling and real-time monitoring to enable better informed air quality decisions in future.
- An Industrial Futures project to address the gap between demand and supply for businesses and available land in the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone, with a hybrid building providing production units as well as office space to support start-ups and indigenous businesses in the innovation and manufacturing sectors. Land remediation is also planned, along with flood defence work, the construction of access roads and the upgrading of highways. A Property Development Fund will be made available to support private sector building schemes in the Enterprise Zone.
A £47.7 million contribution from the Swansea Bay City Deal is being sought, with remaining funding to be split between the public and private sectors.
Cllr Rob Jones, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, said: “This portfolio of projects is worth millions of pounds and the creation or safeguarding of more than 1,300 jobs in Neath Port Talbot, so its backing from the City Deal’s Joint Committee is a major step forward.
“Neath Port Talbot produces more renewable energy than any other local authority area in Wales, but we’re keen to further build on our reputation for environmental excellence.
“The decarbonisation element of our Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth programme will allow us to realise that goal through a number of transformational projects, while responding to the climate change emergency declared by regional councils and the Welsh Government.
“Helping protect and future-proof the local, regional and national steel and metals industry, the National Steel Innovation Centre will also have a critical role to play, alongside over 18,000 square metres of new, technologically advanced business space at the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone to meet evidenced demand from businesses in key sectors.
“We’d urge the UK Government and Welsh Government to consider and approve this programme of projects as soon as possible, so we can start delivering for the benefit of local residents and businesses.”
Formal submission of the programme for approval follows the UK Government and Welsh Government releasing the first £18 million of City Deal funding, based on the approval of two projects – Yr Egin in Carmarthen, and the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District.
The Pembroke Dock Marine project aimed at boosting the development and implementation of marine energy in South West Wales has also been formally submitted to both governments for final approval.
Other projects set to follow suit in coming months include Homes as Power Stations – a regional energy efficient homes project led by Neath Port Talbot Council.
Funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector, the Swansea Bay City Deal is being led by Carmarthenshire Council, Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire Council and Swansea Council, in partnership with Swansea University, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea Bay University Health Board and Hywel Dda University Health Board.
The investment programme is worth £1.8 billion and over 9,000 jobs to the Swansea Bay City Region in coming years.