Letter: Rays of hope for Welsh valleys

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Sir: Tony Heath's interview with Peter Hain, the Welsh Office minister ("Hope in the Valleys", 30 May), is very timely. As MP for Neath, Mr Hain has been playing a leading part in the new thinking around the community and economic regeneration of the South Wales valleys and now has a unique opportunity to implement his plans for "industrial villages".

Crucial in that new thinking is the inclusive nature of the developing strategy: in our case the Dulais Valley Strategy, involving all sectors of the local communities. The creation of a Welsh Assembly is but a larger version of the local democratic partnerships which have been emerging across Wales in recent years.

It is very important that the new Welsh Office and hopefully the new Welsh Assembly ensures that: an environment is created in which this sense of democratic civic participation prospers; the private sector locates beyond South-east Wales - in the valleys and in rural North and West Wales; and a culture of lifelong learning becomes an essential human right for the rebuilding of Welsh, British and European societies.

The abolition of the nursery voucher system, an early referendum for a Welsh Assembly, new opportunities for education and training and the rejoining of Unesco are a tangible resurgence of hope for the valleys and the world beyond.

Professor HYWEL FRANCIS

Chair, Dulais Valley Partnership

Seven Sisters, Neath

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