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Delivery of Freeport is key to 2023/24 strategic change programme

Harbourside Neath Port Talbot (pic: Neath Port Talbot Council)

NEATH Port Talbot Council has said that establishing a company and investment board to deliver the Celtic Freeport is a key part of its Strategic Change Programme for the coming year.

The successful Celtic Freeport bid was set up by Associated British Ports, alongside Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven in 2022 with the aim of becoming the first of its kind in Wales.

It gained Government approval in March, 2023, to supply floating offshore wind turbines at a site in the Celtic Sea, as well as developing green energy research and tax breaks for inward investing companies.

With the bid approved, council members said the next stage in the process was now a key priority for 2023, with plans to develop and submit an outline business case within a 12 -16 week window, which will be followed by the production of a full business case that takes around 12 months.

Once completed, the Freeport could create more than 16,000 jobs in south west Wales along with generating more than 5 billion pounds for the local economy in the coming years.

Speaking after the council approved its updated Strategic Change Programme for 2023-24, council leader Steve Hunt said the bid could be transformational for the area.

He said: “As a new administration we have concentrated on getting external and new funding into the county borough balanced against an increasingly challenging financial background for maintaining core services to support day to day life.

“We managed to set a fair, balanced budget for this financial year and with our partners have been successful in gaining Freeport status – something that could be truly transformational for this region.”

Elsewhere in the report the coalition outlined priorities such as a focus on education, social services,  tackling climate change, leisure, and improving town centres across the borough.

Further priorities include the delivery of projects such as the  £17.7 million development for the Vale of Neath Corridor, the £400m GCRE rail testing centre in Onllwyn, the £300m Wildfox resort in the Afan Valley and £4.5m of public realm improvements.

There will also be a focus on education in the Swansea Valley after plans for a new school in Pontardawe were rejected, meaning a solution has to be found for Godre’rgraig Primary School where students are currently in temporary classrooms, after the school was closed due to the threat of a landslide.

The Strategic Change Programme also provides a direction for travel for the council and is part of the council’s Corporate Plan 2022 to 2027 which focuses on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and adapting to new ways of dealing with increasing demands on services.