A supergroup of councils in the south east of Wales has confirmed its intention to buy the decommissioned Aberthaw Power Station.

In January, The National exclusively revealed how the Cardiff Capital Region was in discussions with energy giant RWE over the future of the site in the Vale of Glamorgan. Now, the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) has confirmed its objective to develop the land. 

The CCR Regional Cabinet met earlier this week and the future of Aberthaw Power Station was once again discussed. The acquisition is described in one section of the meeting minutes as an "exciting opportunity". However, as before, the overwhelming majority of the discussion and associated reports have been redacted from public view and The National is therefore unable to scrutinise the contents.

Past meetings of the CCR have mooted the possibility of developing a tidal energy facility on the site, in conjunction with the so-called Western Gateway group

The National Wales: Aberthaw Power Station B closed in March 2020. Questions have been raised about its future for more than 15 years. Photo: Siriol GriffithsAberthaw Power Station B closed in March 2020. Questions have been raised about its future for more than 15 years. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

Having previously said it would be unable to comment on Aberthaw Power Station, a spokesperson for the Cardiff Capital Region has now confirmed with The National its intention to purchase the site but would not be drawn on whether tidal energy was a component: "Against the backdrop of UK and Welsh Government 2050 Net Zero targets, the Cardiff Capital Region Cabinet has an agreed energy strategy, which will assist in creating the conditions for the region to transition into a carbon-neutral region whilst assisting with future economic growth for the region. 

"Alongside this the Vale of Glamorgan Council has launched Project Zero to help tackle the climate emergency by reducing the Council’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.  

“We aim to use low-carbon energy as an enabler of economic regeneration, increasing our regional income whilst maintaining guardianship of our environment through a focus on clean growth. 

"As part of the strategy to deliver this vision, the CCR Cabinet have agreed to work in collaboration with various other stakeholders in submitting an expression of interest on behalf of the CCR in purchasing the Aberthaw Power Station site.  

“Such a purchase is wholly aligned with both the CCR Levelling-Up Investment Prospectus and the aforementioned CCR Regional Energy Strategy. With the purchase process currently ongoing, commercial sensitivities prohibit any detailed disclosure of the proposal until an agreement is reached by the CCR Regional Cabinet and all other interested parties. 

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"The rationale for our interest in Aberthaw includes the fact that the site has the potential to be redeveloped with a compatible use, such as a site for alternative power generation or digital infrastructure. This is a fantastic opportunity which will also allow us to remediate a decommissioned power station and provide the ideal conditions for innovative physical commercial and industrial land use, with capacity for a large-scale business park with smaller units to attract significant private investments into the area.

"It will also provide much-needed jobs and training opportunities, helping local businesses and our communities to prosper in a post-pandemic setting, and help ensure a commitment to a green future for the people of Wales. 

“As and when the time is appropriate, we will engage in a full public consultation and take on board the views of residents, so that the transformation of the Aberthaw site is something everyone can feel part of and take a pride in." 

What is the Cardiff Capital Region?

Ten local authorities make up the CCR - Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend County Borough, Caerphilly County Borough, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough, Monmouthshire, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Torfaen, and Vale of Glamorgan. It also includes local businesses and organisations, and is supported by the Welsh Government. 

Certain councillors who represent each of the ten local authorities meet periodically to discuss ongoing plans and projects. 

The CCR has met with criticism for failing to engage with local communities. Alison Hughes has lived in the village of East Aberthaw next to the power station for more than twenty years and says she is worried about how CCR is "shrouded in secrecy". 

"When we first moved here in 1999, the ash tip from the power station was only partially built," Alison told The National. "But slowly it got higher and higher, and it's now 65 metres high and full of asbestos, as well as ash. 

"As a family and a village, which is an amazing place to live because it's really close-knit, we have lived in the shadow of the power station for decades. We have had toxic fumes, dust, noise from the coal trains, and endless traffic.

"I feel like we have been fighting and worrying about the power station endlessly. It's actually exhausting. 

"The issue of what is going to be happening to the site has been the topic of numerous village meetings. The fact that the intentions of the Cardiff Capital Region have been so hush hush is very worrying. Why? They evidently don't realise that the site was meant to be returned to nature at the end of the power station's life. 

"Renewable energy sounds great but a commercial and industrial business park does not. 

"We have written to them as a village and nobody even bothered to respond to us, which is unacceptable for a public body. 

"We just want a clean, safe and quiet environment. And I’m not sure we’re going to get that."

The National Wales: Signs on the Wales Coast Path warning walkers of the toxic nature of the Aberthaw Power Station site. Photo: Siriol GriffithsSigns on the Wales Coast Path warning walkers of the toxic nature of the Aberthaw Power Station site. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

Andrew RT Davies is the councillor for the Rhoose ward as well as a Senedd Member for South Wales Central. He says he has requested a meeting with Neil Moore, who is a member of CCR's cabinet, as well as the Chair and Chief Executive of the body. 

"The Aberthaw Power Station has had so many proposals around it in recent years," Mr Davies told The National.

"From a continuation of it as a power station to complete demolition and restoration of the site, and everything in between, including a nuclear reactor, renewable energy to maybe housing and a combination of the two. It's a job to know what they're talking about to be honest with you. 

"But that gives a sense of the scale of the site that we're talking about.

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"To me, the big issue is the remediation works. That is huge. 

"One of the things that alerted me in your article was that the City Deal (CCR) are talking about purchasing the site and then being responsible for the remediation. That is a huge transfer of liability from an independent private company to the public purse.

"This has come out of the blue. There should have been some form of dialogue. I appreciate that for many people, that power station has been part and parcel of their life since the 1950s. Now with the closure it has posed lots of questions. 

"Many people in the rural Vale assumed it was going to be servicing nearby solar farms because of the connection to the National Grid. But if they're talking about a tidal lagoon or a barrage, what does that mean for the solar farms of the local area?

"This uncertainty needs to be answered."

The National Wales: Aberthaw Power Station from the sky. The entire site is around 500 acres. Photo: Ben Salter CC BY 2.0Aberthaw Power Station from the sky. The entire site is around 500 acres. Photo: Ben Salter CC BY 2.0

Local Plaid Cymru councillor Steffan Wiliam said: “Plaid Cymru councillors in the Vale have previously warned that the Cardiff Capital Region’s structures are not transparent, and that they’re accountable to nobody.

“Any plans for Aberthaw should be made available to local councillors and local people, rather than hidden behind a wall of secrecy.

“Without seeing the plans, all we have is rumours and hearsay, instead of engagement with the local community.

“Frankly, that’s not good enough for a public body that represents local councils and will have increasing responsibility for the economic and planning matters in future.”

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The current functions of the Cardiff Capital Region will eventually move into the new South East Wales Corporate Joint Committee (CJC). A separate meeting was held on January 31 which confirmed this. The other three Corporate Joint Committees will cover the south-west, the north, and central Wales.

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