Call to know how new City Deal will benefit Bridgend as first investment goes to Newport
MORE progress needs to be made on identifying projects which will receive investment through the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, according to Bridgend councillors who say residents want to know exactly how it is going to benefit them.
The £1.2bn City Deal has four strategic themes: skills and employment, innovation, connecting the region, regeneration and infrastructure.
It involves 10 local authorities and aims to create 25,000 jobs across the region and bring in £4bn of private sector investment by 2036.
Speaking at a recent Bridgend County Borough Council meeting, the council’s chief executive Darren Mepham said the City Deal was all about “a regional offer”.
He said: “One of the first things the City Deal did was to commission an economic assessment of the region to see where we have our best chance of investment.
“We are putting forward ideas and looking at how they link up with the wider regional offer.
“The housing fund is a strategic programme that will benefit many areas across the region for example, while the skills programme will benefit all areas including Bridgend.
“With transport, clearly we have aspirations around Bridgend railway station as a strategic hub and its place in the wider metro scheme.
“We’ve also talked about how we leverage investment around our energy sector as we know we have a natural concentration of energy tech industries.”
He added: “There are some aspects which involve the regeneration of Porthcawl – there’s a way of developing that so it has a regional aspect and becomes part of a wider package of destination investment whether that’s sports investment, the resort itself or a hotel offer for the region.
“It’s an ongoing dialogue.”
The first investment has seen a loan of £38.5m go to a compound semiconductor project in Newport – IQE has moved into the former LG plant in Imperial Park and is due to open this summer.
At the meeting Councillor Rod Shaw asked why it was placed in Newport given Bridgend’s “preeminence” in the tech sector.
City Deal chairman, and Rhondda Cynon Taf Council leader, Andrew Morgan said the location was important due to a wafer fab manufacturing company being next door to the site and IQE needing the size of the old LG Semicon plant facility premises, adding “obviously it would have been millions of pounds to build those premises”.
Compound semiconductors are essential components inside many of the devices changing the way we live, such a wifi, smartphones, GPS, satellite communications and more efficient LEDs
They will also be crucial for many of tomorrow’s advanced applications, such as electric vehicles with anti-collision sensors, wearable technology to monitor health and high-efficiency solar cells to use in space.
Councillor Morgan said: “Although it’s based in Newport, one of the key things for myself and why I’m able to stand up in my county and sell this project was the reach of IQE in terms of not just direct employees but all across the counties work with.
“For example with General Dynamics in Merthyr making the tanks, GE in Nantgarw, Ford in Bridgend – how these semiconductors are being used and the supply chain of companies was a really big selling point.
“We are also talking now about universities linking in with this new technology. This really does have the potential to grow jobs in the region rather than just based in the foundry in Newport.”
Bridgend Council leader Huw David said strategic projects such as the IQE one in Newport was important to Bridgend.
He said: “We have secured high quality, high paid jobs in the region in a hi-tech industry and that’s important because we have people from Bridgend working for IQE and I’m really pleased that they that Bridgend College is supporting that cluster in terms of helping to deliver the skills and training that’s so important to the industry.
“IQE could of, and were considering, alternative sites because they already have a presence in California and in Asia.”
He added: “It’s a small region – 55 miles at its widest point so strategic projects will have wider benefits than just any one of the single authorities.”
The regional cabinet has given an in-principle commitment to a central transport interchange “Metro Central”, a regional Housing Investment Fund, a digital strategy which includes development regional wifi and a regional skills programme
Last year the leaders of 10