Industrial village plan for Welsh Valleys

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Indy Politics
THE FORMER Garden Festival site at Ebbw Vale is to be turned into an 'urban village' as part of a five-year regeneration programme for the Welsh Valleys costing pounds 1bn, David Hunt, the Secretary of State for Wales, said yesterday.

Mr Hunt also told MPs that he had adopted a Labour concept of industrial villages as part of the plan, which will replace the Welsh Valleys initiative started by Lord Walker, his predecessor.

However, Paul Murphy, Labour spokesman on Wales, dismissed the proposals as 'superficial and cosmetic' and the repackaging of money for projects that were already in the pipeline.

The announcement was seen at Westminster as an endowment by Mr Hunt, who is being tipped for promotion within the Cabinet in late July.

Ministers hope it may also help to reassure the mining communities in England, hit by the Government's pit closure programme. Michael Heseltine, the President of the Board of Trade, has appointed Lord Walker to repeat the Welsh initiative by seeking inward investment and job creation in the mining areas.

Labour MPs yesterday insisted that the initiative had failed to stop unemployment rising by 12 per cent in Wales. Mr Murphy said the Welsh Valleys were still among the worst blackspots in Britain.

Outlining the plan for industrial villages, Mr Hunt said: 'It is not my intention to see valley communities relegated to mere dormitory towns feeding the M4 or coastal fringe.'

The programme will include: grants to assist the Welsh language targeted at Gwendraeth Valley and Taff Ely; new bids by local communities in the community revival strategy; pounds 9.25m in new hospitals at Ebbw Vale and Torfaen; and pounds 123m for local councils for their housing programmes; strengthening of the valleys forest initiative; and centres of excellence by the Sports Council for Wales.