After years of speculation, the sale of Aberthaw Power Station has finally gone through, it has been confirmed.

As reported exclusively in The National on St David's Day, the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) group of local authorities has bought the site of Wales' last coal-fired power station for £8 million. CCR says it is committing £36.4m to the project in total, which includes the purchase price.

The other £28.4 million will be spent on "demolition, remediation, and re-development".

The contracts have now been exchanged between Cardiff Capital Region and energy giant RWE, the seller. 

The National Wales: The distinctive Aberthaw Power Station as seen from the air. Photo: Siriol GriffithsThe distinctive Aberthaw Power Station as seen from the air. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

The Cardiff Capital Region have released a proposed "master plan" for the redevelopment of the site, which they say "will take several years to come to fruition given the nature of and complexities involved in the transitioning process".

In sum, CCR says it will:

  • Support the production of renewable and green energy projects
  • Provide an accompanying battery storage facility to support the green energy projects
  • Produce a zero-carbon manufacturing cluster which will include green hydrogen production facilities
  • Provide a green energy innovation centre to promote innovation, growth, knowledge and community interaction with the zero-carbon future of Wales
  • Be responsible for the development and maintenance of a bio-diverse ecology park which will include a visitor centre, providing amenities to the local community
  • Create the correct conditions to support industrial de-carbonisation and future giga-plant facilities

Cardiff Capital Region also says the project has "the potential to create thousands of direct, indirect and induced jobs, along with local supply chain and upskilling benefits", though no further details were supplied as to what that means in practical terms. 

The National Wales: An artist's impression of the Aberthaw Power Station site created by London real estate giant, Reef Group for Cardiff Capital RegionAn artist's impression of the Aberthaw Power Station site created by London real estate giant, Reef Group for Cardiff Capital Region

The National Wales: The "master plan" of the site produced by London real estate giant Reef Group on behalf of Cardiff Capital RegionThe "master plan" of the site produced by London real estate giant Reef Group on behalf of Cardiff Capital Region

The CCR goes on to say that it will "maintain a strong commitment to engage and involve local community stakeholders in order to develop an open, inclusive and participative ethos as soon as the commercially sensitive considerations have been addressed.

"There are areas of the site which require ongoing custodianship, in respect of nature, biodiversity and managing the overall ecology of the site, which will be best achieved in partnership with community."

The National Wales: The Aberthaw nature reserve. The lagoon is where the ancient Aberthaw harbour was situated before it was destroyed to make way for the power station. Photo: Siriol GriffithsThe Aberthaw nature reserve. The lagoon is where the ancient Aberthaw harbour was situated before it was destroyed to make way for the power station. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

The group also says that its redevelopment plan will "commit to safeguarding and developing the Nature Reserve, working with colleagues in the Vale of Glamorgan Council to ensure effective plans are put in place. In the interim, whilst plans are worked through, commitment is given to ensure this ecologically valuable component of the site is protected and, wherever possible, further enhanced and augmented".

However, Cardiff Capital Region, despite promising to work with local residents in the future, stops short of making specific reference to concerns raised by members of the nearby community recently. Those concerns centre around what will happen to the 65 metre high pulverised ash mound, the sea wall being breached by the tide, and problems with traffic due to poor local transport infrastructure. 

The National Wales: The long Aberthaw Power Station ash mound, 65m high. The smoke stack can be seen in the background. Photo: Siriol GriffithsThe long Aberthaw Power Station ash mound, 65m high. The smoke stack can be seen in the background. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

"We'll believe these plans when we see them," Paul Turner told The National. He has been living in the shadow of the power station since 1990 and says that since then, he and his wife Sara have seen many ideas come and go, including nuclear power and tidal energy. 

"Everybody who lives near that site knows how toxic it is. The ash tip is full of asbestos from when they demolished the original A power station. And the site gets flooded whenever there's a spring tide or a storm, ask anyone who has worked there. That'll only get worse as the years go by.

"Will £28 million keep the tide from drowning that site? I'd say RWE are laughing all the way to the bank."

The National Wales: The Climate Central Coastal Risk Screening Tool predicts that the site will be under water by 2050, with flooding reaching as far inland as St Hilary'sThe Climate Central Coastal Risk Screening Tool predicts that the site will be under water by 2050, with flooding reaching as far inland as St Hilary's

There are similar concerns from Barry Town Councillor, Dennis Clarke: "The ambition for the Vale to access clean, green, high value employment is commendable but this site could not be sold to private industry. The likely reason the site was regarded as unsaleable might be the cost of dealing with tidal flooding, clearing the significant level of contamination, removing the slag heap, identified as dangerous by RWE.

"It's well known that the road access is completely insufficient, especially bearing in mind the Vale and the Welsh Government persist in supporting a too large, unviable development at Model Farm.

"I hope the CCR releases the papers that will show why they believe this site is suitable for any development beyond reinstating what was in place before the power station was built."

The National Wales: A map produced by London real estate giant Reef Group in 2021 depicting so-called "major assets" nearby A map produced by London real estate giant Reef Group in 2021 depicting so-called "major assets" nearby

In its statement, the CCR describes the Aberthaw site as having "strong strategic links with other major assets, including Bro Tathan Business Park, Cardiff Airport, and the overarching St Athan Enterprise Zone – one of the few sites in the UK capable of accommodating large-scale lithium-ion battery production".

Last month, the Welsh Government was accused of having let a proposed gigafactory project at St Athan "slip through (its) fingers" by Welsh Conservative South Wales Central MS Andrew RT Davies. It followed an announcement by car battery manufacturer, Britishvolt, that it was creating a factory in Northumberland, whereas St Athan had been its original preferred location. 

The National Wales: March 2 2022: Aberthaw Power Station as photographed from the Wales Coast Path. The site is currently badly flooded in the wake of recent storms and spring tides. Photo: Siriol GriffithsMarch 2 2022: Aberthaw Power Station as photographed from the Wales Coast Path. The site is currently badly flooded in the wake of recent storms and spring tides. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

CCR's plans make no specific reference to tidal energy at Aberthaw either, despite the group having earmarked the site as being "perfect for that type of facility" last summer. By October 2021, it was also reported that a new commission was being set up to explore building a barrage across the Severn estuary for tidal energy; CCR is a part of that commission. 

However, a statement supplied by Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, does moot the possibility of tidal energy: "The proposed plan for Aberthaw is positive news which fits well with our commitment to develop tidal lagoon projects and support ideas that can help Wales become a world centre for emerging tidal technologies".

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Mr Gething's enthusiasm is echoed by the UK government's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, who is the Conservative MP for Monmouth: "The UK Government’s investment in the Cardiff Capital Region will deliver thousands of jobs at Aberthaw and help put Wales on course for an economic recovery from the pandemic."

The current functions of the Cardiff Capital Region - including any activity at Aberthaw - will eventually move into the new South East Wales Corporate Joint Committee (CJC).

Three other Corporate Joint Committees will cover the rest of Wales in the south-west, the north, and the central area of the country.

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