BLAENAU Gwent councillors have “welcomed the much needed redevelopment” of Festival Park in Ebbw Vale after plans were given the green light.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday, January 12, councillors wanted reassurances that the proposals by Mercia Real Estate for the park will not be a “damp squib.”
Birmingham-based Mercia Real Estate, who bought the park in 2021, lodged plans with the council to convert it into a “mixed use business centre.”
The main parts of the scheme will be to dismantle a number of the units and use that floor area for more yard space, parking, roads, and paths.
Some of the units will be modified and the canopies will be removed.
The central mall walkway will be resurfaced to become a service or access road.
Change of use permission will also be needed for the shop units so that class A, B as well as D uses are accommodated at the site.
These cover retail, professional services, food and drink, offices and research, training and education, gyms and crèche facilities.
One change to the proposal is that the number of parking spaces will drop from 200 to 118.
Planning officer Helen Hinton had advised councillors to recommend approving the development.
Acting for the agent, Tim Gent said that the developers hoped to have people working at Festival Park in 12 month’s time.
Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “I’m fully supportive of this as it’s been redundant for a considerable amount of time. There were concerns about it being vandalised so it will be a millstone off the authority’s neck.
“The only thing that concerns me that a couple of years ago we were talked through a scheme at length and unfortunately it never came.
“I appreciate there are no guarantees, we would like to see works happen within reasonable amount of time to reassure residents.”
Cllr George Humphreys said: “That is prime land for any investor – we all want investment, we have lots of places at the moment, but we haven’t go the people to fit them.
“I’d like to make sure we have every angle to cover to make sure it’s positive and not a damp squib.”
Ms Hinton said: “We have to take the developer at their word, but the fact they have sought the conditions to be phased is a good indication that they are very keen to get on site and get cracking.
“We have to risk it for a biscuit – it is identified that there is demand for this type of unit and I hope this reassures that we’re not approving a white elephant.”
She explained that very small businesses could start in a small unit and if successful and grow they could move to bigger units at the mall.
This means they would not be lost to other parts of South Wales which have bigger units to offer.
“There’s a retention opportunity they have somewhere to expand in to and makes it more viable in the long term,” said Ms Hinton.
Committee chairwoman, Cllr Lisa Winnett said: “This is a much-needed development the business uses are highly needed.”
Cllr John Hill said: “We’ve got a very good application and I like the varied units it’s better than having them all the same size, we should welcome this with open arms.
“This could be the catalyst for other things.
“If this proves successful watch people wanting to come into the area.”
He moved the motion to go to a vote and it was unanimously approved by councillors.
Following the meeting, Blaenau Gwent cabinet member for regeneration, Cllr John C Morgan said: “This now allows the currently unoccupied Festival Park to be developed and utilised for a variety of uses, thereby providing the site with a new lease of life.
“The development fits strategically with our Tech Valleys vision and addresses local need for further business units within the area.”
Mercia Real Estate chief executive officer, Samuel Clark said: “We are confident that the proposed new plans for Festival Park will be an attractive proposition to new and existing businesses.”