Vale of Neath to become major heritage attraction after £17.7m Levelling Up Fund success
19 January 2023
Neath Port Talbot Council has been successful in attracting £17.7m in UK Government Levelling Up Fund money to establish the Vale of Neath as a major heritage and natural environment led visitor destination,
The bid is a key element in developing a ‘string of pearls’ of key destinations in the Vale of Neath focusing on heritage and the great outdoors supported by partnerships with the public, private and third sectors.
Known as the Vale of Neath Heritage Corridor Attractor, money from the the successful bid will deliver two major improvement projects, one at Neath’s Gnoll Estate Country Park and the other at Pontneddfechan in Waterfall Country forming part of an overall ‘Vale of Neath Heritage Corridor Masterplan’.
The transformational bid is one of 111 just announced by the UK Government to have won a share of £2.1bn from the latest round of its flagship Levelling Up Fund aimed at creating jobs and boosting the economy.
At Gnoll Estate Country Park, the project will improve and restore existing heritage features and will also develop on-site visitor accommodation.
Elements of the work will also involve:
• Conserving and opening up access to important heritage features including Gnoll House cellars and cascades
• Diversifying the play offer
• Modernising the visitor centre and café,
• Enhanced biodiversity and nature conservation
• Enhanced physical links with the neighbouring Woodland Trust site to double the available land for outdoor leisure at this location
• Enhanced car parking provision (incorporating EV charging facilities)
The Waterfall Country Pontneddfechan visitor infrastructure improvement scheme will address significant pressures being experienced by the host community by creating improved access to services.
The area will also benefit from a visitor hub gateway building incorporating; public toilets, a farm / village shop for the benefit of the local community and visitors and bunkhouse style visitor accommodation aimed at improving visitor spend.
The project will also provide a permanent parking solution to include formal and overflow parking, coach and minibus parking and EV charging facilities.
There will also be public realm/ visitor gateway improvements to enhance ‘a sense of arrival’ in the village to include a village square offering opportunities for small events such as pop-up markets, outdoor seating and safe pedestrian routes with a viewing platform plus interpretation and signage.
Cllr Steve Hunt, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, said: “We are delighted to receive this major investment for the Gnoll Park and the Vale of Neath and I would like to congratulate our staff involved in preparing the bid.
“This council works hard, against considerable competition, at winning investment both from the public and private sector and at present we are host to the £250m Global Centre of Rail Excellence at Onllwyn which will create hundreds of high quality jobs, the Afan Valley Wildfox resort promising 1,000 jobs and are part of the Celtic Freeport bid which if successful could create 16,000 jobs and £5.5bn of new investment.”
Deputy Leader Cllr Alun Llewellyn said: “This bid recognises the huge potential of the Neath Valley and and will be part of our Valleys and Villages strategy which will identify opportunities for economic, social and environmental improvements for all our valleys in the future.”
Cllr Martyn Peters, Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration added: “This council’s Rainbow Coalition has made it a priority to create a better look for our towns, valleys and villages and to boost jobs and the economy.
“This huge investment will go a long way to delivering some of that. These two projects are aligned in terms of delivering an overall vision to create a market-led sustainable destination in the Vale of Neath that builds on the key strengths and qualities of the Vale of Neath, its built heritage, natural environment and accessibility.
“This also fits in with one of the main objectives in the council’s Recover, Reset Renew Corporate Plan, to ensure our local environment, culture and heritage can be enjoyed by future generations.”