South East Wales

Fight to save 'The British' derelict Torfaen colliery

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Media captionThe Grade II-listed office building and Quadrangle were designed by Hyde Park and London Zoo architect Decimus Burton

Campaigners are fighting to save a former Torfaen colliery site that is home to a number of listed buildings.

'The British', named after the ironworks founded there in the 1800s, has been derelict for 40 years.

Its office building and Quadrangle were designed by Hyde Park and London Zoo architect Decimus Burton.

The community has "cautiously welcomed" £4m plans for a housing development, nature reserve and hydro electric power scheme.

Although the Talywain site is littered with old drift mine shafts and water courses, it is thought about 100 houses could be built on safer parts, with Gwent Wildlife Trust managing other land as a nature reserve.

The plans have come after years of complaints that private owners were not restoring the listed buildings.

Image caption Resident Lynda Clarkson said 'The British' has massive potential

Resident Lynda Clarkson said there was "no excuse" for not bringing the site back into public ownership.

She added: "There have been so many speculative purchases over the years which have put schemes forward but have never had any real intention of carrying them out, then sold the site for a profit.

"The area has just been generally held back economically because we've got this constant threat. People don't want to move into the area."

She said the new plan has been welcomed, albeit with some scepticism.

"The potential here is massive. It's a hugely diverse area for wildlife, so we'd like to see it put back into public ownership to address the small number of safety issues that are still on site with mine shafts and water courses.

"We're concerned that the site will be left barren again. Let's hope we can trust the council and the Welsh Government to get it sorted."

Image copyright Gwyn Jenkins
Image caption The community are concerned 'The British' could be left barren

On Thursday, Torfaen council will tell Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Communities Carl Sargeant that the regeneration scheme could be the area's last chance after 40 years of privately funded schemes failed.

HSBC bank acquired the land about 10 years ago and placed the site up for auction earlier this year.

But they have now paused proceedings until October, to allow some time for a new plan to be developed.

Image caption Local walker Gwyn Jenkins says the site should be brought back into public ownership

Gwyn Jenkins, who walks in the area twice a day, said the Quadrangle, originally an ornate office building, had been "left to rot".

He added: "It's now used by motorbikes and they are tearing up the site so, hopefully, if they bring it back into public ownership they can fence it off and put a nice little amenity there.

"The other day there was cars there with people rambling - if they can ramble there now, imagine how popular it could be?"

Torfaen council leader Bob Wellington said: "Numerous proposals by the private sector to reclaim the land and develop the site have all come to nothing and the site has remained derelict for decades.

"The council have negotiated with HSBC to delay the site returning to an open auction and the continued uncertainty that brings."

Drone footage courtesy of Gwyn Jenkins and Hastings Museum & Art Gallery provided the image of Decimus Burton

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