Agenda and minutes

Regeneration and Sustainable Development Scrutiny Committee - Friday, 25th February, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Remotely via Teams

No. Item


Welcome and Roll Call


The Chair welcomed those present and a roll call was taken.


Chairs Announcements


The Chair noted which items the Committee had decided to scrutinise from the Cabinet Board agenda.


Declarations of interest


There were none.


Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 1 MB

·        3 December 2021

·        14 January 2022

Additional documents:


The minutes from the meetings held on 3 December 2021 and 14 January 2022 were approved.


Global Centre of Rail Excellence - Progress Update pdf icon PDF 289 KB


The Committee received an update, as requested by Members of the Scrutiny Committee, regarding the progress of bringing forward the development of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE).


It was explained to Members that Planning Committee had conditionally approved a planning application for the construction of a world-class rail testing facility at the head of the Dulais and Tawe Valleys on 27 July 2021. The project represented a capital investment of circa £157m with the potential creation of up to 200 jobs.


The presenting officer gave Members a brief timeline, detailing each scheduled phase, as outlined in the report. It was noted that they were currently in phase 1a of the project, where a project delivery group was now well-established and were meeting on a fortnightly basis.


Members’ queried how the project could be extended further, to maximise the potential impact and investment, as there were currently limited links from the valleys to Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea. It was further noted that Transport for Wales would benefit from this and it felt like a golden opportunity which should not be missed to improve these links, for both freight and passengers trains. The officers agreed as there were significant opportunities and benefits that could come from this project, and noted the continued development expansion of the rail infrastructure was supported by Future Wales, the National Development Plan for the Welsh Government. It was explained that if there were to be future considerations for expansion and for the use of the line to be for passengers also, a suitable business case would need to be developed. It was thought that this one significant development could act as a catalyst for future projects, such as the regional metro and other sustainable travel solutions.


Members asked how, as a Council, Neath Port Talbot could support the Swansea Bay and Western Valleys Metro proposals and to ensure it was on the Welsh Government and the U.K. Governments’ agendas. It was further asked what more could the Council do to better integrate the valleys with the towns and cities.  The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development reassured the Committee that she was encouraging the proposed transport link improvements regularly and these were being discussed at the Regeneration Board. The officers added that the Strategic Development Plan and the Regional Transport Strategy would need to be brought forward in the next few years, where elements would be discussed at a more strategic level. In addition to this, the review of the Local Development Plan was coming forward, which would be steered by the new administration, with the aim of adoption by 2025-26.


Officers noted the Member’s request to ensure Glynneath and Neath Valley were considered in future discussions regarding the improvement of transport links.


The Chair agreed with the comments made by the Committee and echoed that it was an exciting project with lots of opportunities. He noted concern, however, for the jobs that would be provided once the project had been implemented; his  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Pre-Decision Scrutiny

To select appropriate items from the Cabinet Board agenda for pre-decision scrutiny (reports enclosed for Scrutiny Members)


The Committee chose to scrutinise the following Cabinet Board items:


Economic Recovery Plans


The Committee considered the report which sought approval of the South West Wales Regional Economic Delivery Plan (REDP), the Welsh Government’s Regional Economic Framework (REF), and the Council’s own Economic Recovery Plan (ERP). It was explained that there had been significant change in the past few years, and Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic had caused major issues within the economies, therefore these documents needed refreshing.


The Committee were informed of a number of changes to the three plans, which were appended to the Cabinet Board report, and the key areas the plans intend to deliver. The officer summarised these, and noted that these plans outlined how the economy could grow over the next ten years.


Members of the Committee questioned whether the council was considering the pooling of resources regionally to deliver any of the aspirations outlined in the regional plan. In response, the officer present explained that it would be dependent on funding; however, Neath Port Talbot had worked extremely well with colleagues across South West Wales. An example was given in regards to supporting innovation in low carbon growth, such as developing the supply chain within the renewables industry, and how this would require the involvement of companies from across the region.


Members queried about how the plans linked in to the Local Development Plan (LDP), particularly in regards to economic development, and how it could feed in to the planning policy. The officers confirmed that the aspirations for the LDP were currently being set out and the plans would feed into these, and it was crucial to ensure the LDP fit within the national and regional strategies.


In response to questions regarding the town centres first approach, the officers explained that it was a funding approach from Welsh Government, where they focuses on the bigger town centre, which tended to be the coastal belt for Neath Port Talbot.  It was noted that there was currently a piece of work underway focusing on tertiary town centres, which would be followed by the three bigger town centres, to ensure full advantage of funding was being made.


The Committee expressed concern for the retention of local residents and students, due to the lack of jobs. The officers confirmed that there was a big emphasis on training and skills currently, which would be addressed across the region and within Neath Port Talbot. There was an urgent need to upscale local young people to prepare them for future jobs, and it was noted that half the jobs within the region would require a minimum qualification of NVQ level 4 within the next five years.


In response to queries regarding the rising house and energy prices, it was noted that rising energy costs were affecting businesses across the whole of the U.K, and across Europe, but the key focus needed to be on decarbonisation. Officers confirmed that they would be working with local businesses to ensure they were in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Forward Work Programme 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 434 KB


The work programme for Regeneration and Sustainable Development Scrutiny Committee was noted.


Urgent items

(whether public or exempt) at the discretion of the Chairman pursuant to Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972


There were none.


Access to Meetings

To resolve to exclude the public for the following item(s) pursuant to Section 100A(4) and (5) of the Local Government Act 1972 and the relevant exempt paragraphs of Part 4 of Schedule 12A to the above Act.


RESOLVED: that pursuant to Section 100A(4) and (5) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded for the following items of business which involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 14 of Part 4 of Schedule 12A to the above Act.


Pre-Decision Scrutiny of Private Item/s

To select appropriate items from the Private Cabinet Board agenda for pre-decision scrutiny (reports enclosed for Scrutiny Members)


Waterfall Country Options Appraisal


The Committee considered the report, which sought endorsement from Members for the adoption of two possible options for the delivery of a permanent visitor parking solution.


Following the officers introduction of the report, the Committee was supportive of the proposal to be considered by the Cabinet Board.


Burrows Yard


The Committee considered the report which sought Members approval to remove from the proposed sale contract, the requirement that the purchaser must find a suitable operator for its existing store within 12 months of a satisfactory planning permission on the Burrows Yard site, as detailed within the private circulated report



Following scrutiny, the Committee was supportive of the proposal to be considered by the Cabinet Board.