TRADERS have hailed it as the good news Neath has been waiting for.
Work on the £13 million first phase of the long-awaited town centre redevelopment will finally start after Christmas.
It will see a new multistorey car park go up alongside Neath Civic Centre with the existing multistorey demolished and shops built in its place.
Neath Chamber of Trade president Andrew Lodwig said: “This is brilliant news and it has been a long time coming.
“We have been going through a long, dark tunnel and now people can finally see the light at the end of it.”
Neath will be the first town to benefit from the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales (RIFW) with a loan investment of £13 million in the redevelopment of the town centre.
Funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union, the RIFW provides loans to stimulate and support urban development projects.
The scheme, managed by Amber Fund Management Limited, will play a vital role in the regeneration of Neath town centre by enabling the demolition and building works that are needed for the development to go ahead.
The final development will provide more than 110,000 sq ft of new retail space, linked to the existing town centre at Wind Street as well as the new, 580-space multistorey car park.
Housing, Regeneration and Heritage Minister Huw Lewis said: “This is excellent news for Neath, its businesses and its people.
“Town centres are the heart of communities, providing opportunities for jobs and leisure and ensuring that services are available locally, but they are increasingly under threat from out of town shopping development and online shopping.
“The Welsh Government is committed to helping town centres to adapt to these threats.
“I am delighted the fund has enabled this project to go ahead. It will bring about many economic and community benefits.
“Projects such as this one, which is expected to create many new jobs, are so important in today’s tough economic climate.”
Council leader Ali Thomas said: “The Neath town centre redevelopment plays a key part in our efforts to make this county borough an attractive place to live, visit and do business.
“I want to thank all of those who have never stopped working hard behind the scenes to reach this key milestone in our vision to regenerate Neath town centre.
“Finally, businesses, residents and visitors will see our plans for Neath becoming a reality, and this has been made possible due to the injection of the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales from the Welsh Government.”
Business Minister Edwina Hart said: “This investment will help transform the centre of Neath, support town centre businesses and safeguard local jobs by attracting more shoppers and visitors to the area.”
Amber Infrastructure project director Leo Bedford said: “This investment wouldn’t have been possible without the clear sense of purpose, and commitment shown by Neath Port Talbot Council, which has been integral to the success of this project.
“We look forward to helping other communities across Wales secure funding that will support the implementation of similar regeneration projects.”