BLAENAU Gwent council is looking at buying up Ebbw Vale’s Festival Park as part of a plan to save the shopping centre from being left with empty shops, it has been revealed.

Several stores within the centre have closed recently, and a leaked report says there is a “strong possibility” the ‘failing’ site will otherwise be mothballed.

London-based investor GWM Capital bought the site last year, with Metis Real Estate taking over asset management of plans to turn it into a leisure and tourist destination.


But a report says Metis Real Estate have been unable to bring it into profit and GWM – which has been covering costs – has “taken the decision to close Festival Shopping”.

Blaenau Gwent council will consider approving entering into negotiations for the purchase of the site next week and accepting a surrender of the lease from current owners GWM.

Discussions have been held with Welsh Government, which has indicated support for the purchase through a mix of grant and loan funding.

But the support would only be offered on the basis the council is able to generate income from the site.

Options for the future use of the site are listed as business premises, housing, operation of existing leisure facilities, active travel routes and parkland with a nature reserve.

The council is looking at the potential of attracting SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) businesses into the former retail units with some refurbishment carried out to provide a ‘campus’ feel.

SMEs could employ between four and 10 staff in each of the units which could potentially offer between 108 and 270 jobs, the report says.

Several businesses could be interested in the plan following enquiries made by the council, it is said.

A public sector hub is also being looked at for the site, with the possibility of moving civic centre functions and other public sector organisations to Festival Park.

A report says the civic centre – which is under review as part of plans to cut costs – “can no longer house the staff and politicians in a safe environment in terms of social distancing”.

A large housing scheme could then be considered for the site of the council offices.

“The council’s current location makes up part of the Ebbw Vale Northern Corridor housing development site which has been agreed as part of Blaenau Gwent housing prospectus,” the report says.

“The transfer of activity from the Civic Centre could bring forward a large housing scheme adjacent to the town centre.”

In the longer term, the report says two car parks which once served shoppers and leisure facilities could be turned into housing.

Alongside the housing, areas of the parkland would be brought back into use for recreational leisure purposes.

Pedestrian links to Ebbw Vale Parkway station would also be improved to make the site more accessible as part of the plans.

The preferred option ahead of next week’s meeting is to enter into negotiations “with a view towards agreeing heads of terms for the acquisition of the Festival Shopping Site and parkland”.

“If the council does not step in and the owner is forced to mothball the site, it is possible that the empty buildings could become a permanent situation and the site could fall into such disrepair that would cause even greater significant financial challenges than there are currently to bring it back into use for another purpose,” the report says.

The preferred option would also see a business case developed and brought back before councillors in September.