A group of local authorities in the south east of Wales has purchased the site of the former coal-fired Aberthaw Power Station, The National can reveal.

It is understood the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) group of councils has bought the decommissioned site from energy giant RWE for an estimated £8 million, with contracts due to be exchanged later this week.

The decision has been met with concern from local residents, politicians and conservationists.

In January, The National exclusively revealed how the CCR was in discussions with RWE over the future of the site in the Vale of Glamorgan. The council supergroup later confirmed its intention to purchase the 500 acre defunct power station and grounds. 

Recent meetings of the CCR have discussed the possibility of developing a tidal energy facility on the site, in conjunction with the so-called Western Gateway group, as well as a large business park. 

Aberthaw Power Station, the last coal-fired power station in Wales, is being bought by the Cardiff Capital Region group of councils for an estimated £8 million. Photo: Siriol GriffithsAberthaw Power Station which is situated at Limpert Bay in the Vale of Glamorgan. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

A CCR meeting was held last week, during which the 'final full business case' for purchasing Aberthaw Power Station was discussed. However, the information is redacted, citing Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, and is therefore unable to be scrutinised by the public. 

The National also understands that Cardiff Capital Region is claiming 5000 'green jobs' will be created from the venture, though it is unclear at present how this will be achieved. 

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Speaking about the sale, Tom Glover, UK Country Chair of RWE, told The National: “The Aberthaw Power Station site has been at the industrial heart of Wales for over 50 years. It played an invaluable role helping to secure the energy supplies across the UK electricity system and we are very proud of everyone who worked at the site and would like to thank them and the local community for all of their support.

"We are incredibly pleased that Cardiff Capital Region have a future vision of a green and renewable transformation of the site which very much mirrors RWE’s transformation into Wales’ largest renewable generator and our ambition for a net zero generation fleet. We want to wish Cardiff Capital Region every success in this innovative project”.

The National asked RWE why - with its expertise in renewable energy - it was selling the site rather than pursuing green energy itself at Aberthaw, but the company was not forthcoming with an answer. 

Aberthaw Power Station, the last coal-fired power station in Wales, is being bought by the Cardiff Capital Region group of councils for an estimated £8 million. Photo: Siriol GriffithsAberthaw Power Station from the sky. The entire site is around 500 acres. Photo: Ben Salter CC BY 2.0

Meanwhile, local residents have shared their concerns with The National over the plans for the defunct power station, mainly regarding the 65 metre high waste ash tip, transport infrastructure and the future of the nearby nature reserve and sea wall. 

Bob Dickens is a chartered engineer and renewable energy specialist who lives locally with his wife, Glenda. He told The National he was "amazed" at the suggestion that 5000 jobs could be created: "While I'm very much in favour of job creation, of course, it would suggest labour intensive operations. 

"It would be a huge industrial park and would ruin West Aberthaw and Gileston and generate huge traffic issues for what is a rural area without the necessary infrastructure.

"If you include the proposed plans at Model Farm, that implies more than 9000 new jobs in total, and all within a mile or so. Is that realistic when you have the nearby Bro Tathan industrial park unable to be filled?

"These villages are ancient, and go back to Neolithic times. They are national treasures with a plan to develop them in order to increase tourism. I'm not convinced visitors will want to come and visit an industrial park."

Local resident Alison Hughes echoed Mr Dickens' concerns: "As residents we have lived for far too long with toxic fumes, dust, endless heavy traffic and a hulking great ash tip, all because of the power station. We need a break. The environment needs a break. It should be returned to nature." 

Aberthaw Power Station, the last coal-fired power station in Wales, is being bought by the Cardiff Capital Region group of councils for an estimated £8 million. Photo: Siriol GriffithsMembers of Barry and Vale Friends of the Earth stand in front of the Aberthaw Power Station 65 metre high pulverised ash mound. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

Barry and Vale Friends of the Earth have been scrutinising the plans for Aberthaw Power Station since it was decommissioned two years ago.

Environmental campaigner, Max Wallis, told The National he felt it was an "irresponsible" decision by Cardiff Capital Region:"The 65 metre high ash mound is eroding. It's become unstable since RWE abandoned the drainage system. People know that spring tides and storm surges overtop the sea wall as well. There are multiple issues with this site which need to be rectified. 

"People were promised, when the power station was built in the 1950s, that the site would be returned to nature at the end of its life. That's a promise that the CCR will have to take seriously.

"They don't appear to have enquired from Natural Resources Wales about the environmental licenses and their conditions. These cover the sea wall and the ash mound and the biodiversity area. 

"This is an irresponsible way to spend public money."

Aberthaw Power Station, the last coal-fired power station in Wales, is being bought by the Cardiff Capital Region group of councils for an estimated £8 million. Photo: Siriol GriffithsSigns warning passers by on the Wales Coast Path of the toxic nature of Aberthaw Power Station. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

Andrew RT Davies is the councillor for the Rhoose ward as well as a Senedd Member for South Wales Central, and has raised concerns recently in the Siambr over the future of the site

"There are concerns that I have which I have expressed to the Vale of Glamorgan Council as well as the Cardiff Capital Region about the level of expertise they as an organisation have to deal with this type of site, which will mean high remediation costs," said Mr Davies.

"Obviously it's been in use for a long time as a power station with fossil fuels.

"Is it really right that the public sector is engaged in this type of a project? We know already that there's Bro Tathan in the locality, with a huge amount of space available. There's Brocastle just down the road from St Athan, and I don't believe there's a single development on that business park. You've got the old Ford engine plant standing idle at the moment. And of course, in the east, there are proposals over Model Farm

"We all want a successful economy, we all want opportunities uncorked, as it were. But is this the right opportunity for the Cardiff Capital Region to be injecting their money into?"

Aberthaw Power Station, the last coal-fired power station in Wales, is being bought by the Cardiff Capital Region group of councils for an estimated £8 million. Photo: Siriol GriffithsThe mouth of the canalled Afon Ddawan - River Thaw, which was re-routed from its original location when Aberthaw Power Station was built in the 1950s. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

Steffan Wiliam is the Mayor of Barry and has described the Cardiff Capital Region as being "opaque" and "not subject to scrutiny".

"This is about a democratic deficit," Mr Williams told The National

"There is no relationship between the people of Aberthaw, or Barry for that matter, and the CCR. They are shrouded in secrecy and jargon and their plans for this site have been kept away from the public. Why?

"We get promised a lot of white elephants in this part of the world. I worry about what they are hiding. They have operated behind closed doors when it comes to Aberthaw Power Station and that's not healthy for democracy. I'd like to know how many members of the CCR cabinet have even visited the site in person. 

"Are the CCR going to detoxify the land to make the local area safe? How much is that going to cost? 

"There is no demonstration as to how they will fulfill this promise of 5000 jobs either. The nearby Bro Tathan industrial estate in St Athan is already like the Marie Celeste.

"This is something that is being done to us, whether we like it or not." 

Aberthaw Power Station, the last coal-fired power station in Wales, is being bought by the Cardiff Capital Region group of councils for an estimated £8 million. Photo: Siriol GriffithsSeveral tidal schemes have been mooted up and down the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel over the years

It's not the first time a tidal energy facility has been considered at Aberthaw. Over the years many tidal lagoon and barrage schemes have been mooted up and down the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel at various points, which has the second highest tidal range on the planet. Only the Bay of Fundy in Canada is higher. 

The last time plans were laid out at Aberthaw was in 2015 when a company called Kepler Energy revealed designs for a 30MW tidal energy fence between Aberthaw and Minehead on the opposite Somerset coast.

The Cardiff Capital Region was approached for comment.

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