Multi-million pound plans for projects across the county of Neath Port Talbot are expected to be submitted to the UK Government’s levelling-up program.

The council’s cabinet will be recommended to approve the proposed bids to the £4bn UK-wide funding programme, when they meet later today.

The plans include a new piazza in Neath town centre, a major upgrading of Port Talbot’s civic square and improvements to the town’s riverside area.

A scheme intended to bring new life to commercial premises in the county is also included, with cash to help buy and renovate properties proposed under a Commercial Property Grant project.

The proposed Levelling-Up Fund ask for Neath Port Talbot totals almost £10m.

What is ‘levelling-up’?

The £4bn UK-wide funding programme announced by UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak in this year’s budget will invest in regeneration, culture and transport schemes across the UK.

Each parliamentary constituency area can submit bids which can either be individual or ‘parcel’ projects made up of up to three elements.

Wales is set to receive around £240m from the programme over four years of funding rounds.

Under the Levelling-Up Fund, local authority areas have been categorised according to need, with funding targeted towards those in highest need. Neath Port Talbot is designated as a Category 1 area.

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Not everybody is happy with the UK Government’s plans. Critics have called it a ‘pork barrel fund’ that rides roughshod over devolution and pits local authorities, MPs and MSs against one another.

Others have criticised why some of Wales’ poorest areas, such as Caerphilly, are not prioritised.

What is being proposed in Neath Port Talbot?

In addition to the £3m Commercial Property Grant, the plans are shared between the county’s two constituencies, Neath and Aberavon in two parcel bids.

In Neath, the council is proposing a new piazza, adding to the town centre leisure centre and library development currently under construction. It will provide community and green space and improved access to public transport.

Its intended use would be for a wide range of events including farmers markets, performances, Christmas fayres and temporary food and beverage kiosks.

In Aberavon, the council is proposing a Port Talbot civic square upgrade. The proposal includes electric power supply units that could be used for markets and special events that would otherwise rely on generators. The upgrade is intended to result in Christmas parades, summer carnivals, seasonal markets and an outdoor cinema.

There are also plans to redevelop the area along the banks of the River Afan near Port Talbot’s town centre, which include a combination of hard and soft landscaping along with a new children’s play area.

Neath Port Talbot Council consulted with a number of stakeholders as part of the bidding process, including Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock, Neath MP Christina Rees, the Swansea Bay City Deal Economic Strategy Board, Port Talbot Business Improvement District and the Public Services Board.

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