THE 50th anniversary of the opening of a steelworks at Llanwern makes us remember just what a vital part this plant has played in the economy and recent history of Newport.

The site, which started life as Spencer Works before becoming Llanwern Steelworks was the force behind a major house building programme as the area became amagnet for workers.

Fromthe outset, with the £150 million spent on creating the steelworks, it represented a major investment in this area with thousands employed, initially in the construction of the vast site and then in the steelworks themselves.

When it opened there were 13,000 contractors and workers at the site. That is almost impossible to imagine today but it resulted in a vibrant local economy and busy Newport shopping centre.

Down the decades the plant was, and to some extent still is, a major employer.

Today of course the steelworks is a shadowof its former self, a symbol perhaps of how the local and Welsh economy has changed over the past half century.

The reliance on heavy industries has gone and today in Newport, Gwent and South- East Wales our economy is perhaps better in one way for being more diverse, but poorer in another, given that the modern industries do not employ workers by their hundreds.

In another twist, much of the former steelworks site is to become a major housing development, bringing once again hundreds of people to the area.