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Freeport, new leisure facilities and tourism money among council achievements in tough year

A View Of Neath Port Talbot (Pic: Neath Port Talbot Council)

Securing the multi-million pound Celtic Freeport, opening Neath’s new swimming pool, leisure centre and library complex and securing more than £17m in Levelling Up money for the Vale of Neath tourism corridor.

These were among Neath Port Talbot Council’s key achievements in the 2022/23 fiscal year outlined in its Corporate Plan Annual Report entitled Recover, Reset, Renew which was endorsed by the council’s Cabinet on 28/11/23.

The report shows Neath Port Talbot Council is on track to meet four ambitious wellbeing objectives: Best Start in Life; All Communities are Thriving and Sustainable; Our local Environment, Heritage and Culture Can Be Enjoyed by Future Generations, and Jobs and Skills.

Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, Cllr Steve Hunt, said: “Despite the considerable challenges during the 2022-2023 fiscal year, this council remains on track to accomplish these objectives, demonstrating remarkable resilience and progress.

“While it has been difficult navigating yet more uncertainty, Neath Port Talbot has a significant amount of regeneration projects and investment coming to the area, which in time promise to provide a wealth of jobs and supply chain opportunities for local people and businesses.”

Government approval of the Celtic Freeport bid, won jointly with partners Associated British Ports, the Port of Milford Haven and Pembrokeshire Council, means Neath Port Talbot can play a major role in the promising Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) industry.

Throughout the year, the council’s Rainbow Coalition lived up to its strong commitment to improving the look of Neath Port Talbot’s towns, valleys and villages with an extra £4.25m aimed at “cleaning up and greening up” local communities.

The hard work and investment was validated by a Keep Wales Tidy survey which revealed a notable increase in cleanliness. An impressive 95.7% of the streets in Neath Port Talbot were clean during 2022-23, compared to 92.85% in the previous fiscal year, closely aligning with the All Wales performance of 96%.

A £2m investment in preserving historic environmental assets, including Margam Castle and Neath Abbey Ironworks highlighted the council’s dedication to preserving its rich heritage. 

Furthermore, the council reported a rise in the number of Welsh speakers aged three and over, increasing from 22.0% to 22.6%, reflecting the enduring cultural vitality of the community.

A total of 65% of people across Neath Port Talbot now participate in arts, culture, or heritage activities three or more times a week.

The council also expanded its green spaces, with 884 hectares of council-owned land designated for green spaces and local nature reserves, a significant increase of 64 hectares, contributing to the wellbeing of residents and visitors alike.

In addition, Neath Port Talbot Council accessed £47.7m from the UK Government City Deal grant for the Supporting Innovation & Low Carbon Growth Programme, and an additional £15m for the pioneering Homes as Power Stations initiative.

Other 2022/23 achievements by the council included 34% of all 0-4 year-olds accessing Flying Start, 657 children and young people accessing enhanced and fully funded play and leisure opportunities, £2m from the council budget being used to support those impacted by the energy crisis and working with schools, colleges and local employers to offer 1,876 training weeks for traineeships, apprenticeships and work experience.

Also, 39 local organisations were supported via the Food Poverty Grant, more than 800 people were supported into training, work experience or employment and UK Government Shared Prosperity Funding was used to deliver a wide range of anchor projects and grant schemes.

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