NEWPORT’S infamous "white elephant" was reopened yesterday as one of the world’s largest data centres after being empty for more than a decade.

Next Generation Data (NGD) Centre took over the former LG building, near Duffryn, around two years ago in a £200 million project to convert and upgrade the 750,000 square foot building into a centre to store computers and digital information.

The building currently houses data halls for BT, storing hundreds of server racks, and IT company Logica, which uses its hall to help manage the IT requirements of its government clients.

Only part of the building is currently being used, but NGD is currently talking to other clients with the hope of filling it in the next three to five years.

Originally built as a semi-conductor plant for LG, the warehouse was intended to be the largest ever inward investment in Wales creating more than 6,000 jobs when it was announced in 1996.

Then prime minister John Major hailed the project a vote of confidence in the UK economy when he attended a ground breaking ceremony that year.

But it failed to open due to a recession in Asia and had laid empty until BT and Logica moved in last January.

A total of £131 million was paid in government aid to attract investment but the projects were never completed and less than half the jobs materialised.

Eventually, £71 million was clawed back in cash and properties by the public bodies involved.

At yesterday’s opening, science, innovation and skills deputy minister, Lesley Griffiths, said: “The digital economy is one of the priority sectors for research and development in Wales, and for a highly respected company such as Next Generation Data to locate and develop this site here in Newport sends out a strong, clear message.”

Newport West AM Rosemary Butler, said: “Thanks to NGD and their tenants this will now become one of the biggest data centres in the world. That is a real feather in the cap for Newport and will inevitably boost business confidence in the area.”

EDITORIAL COMMENT: White elephant no more

IT is great news that the former LG building in Newport finally opened yesterday after standing empty for more than a decade.

At long last, this building, which was labelled by so many for so long as a white elephant, is a viable workplace and a world leader at that.

Built to the highest standards in the world at the time, the aircraft hangar of a building which was to house LG, was proofed against earthquakes and boasted the cleanest environment possible, to enable the production of sensitive semiconductors.

But before it even opened the microchip market collapsed and the rest is history.

The building was left to stand empty and the whole scheme became mired in controversy.

But all that changed yesterday as Next Generation Data Centre opened its doors following major investment and refurbishment.

The 750,000 sq ft building will be the world's largest data centre, housing hundreds of servers for a range of clients.

It has the potential to create up to 500 jobs over the next five years when the whole building will be brought back into use.

At a time where we are still experiencing economic gloom, the opening of the building for business is a wonderful boost to the local economy.