Council agrees £2m acquisition of former zinc oxide factory site

CARMARTHENSHIRE Council is to buy a zinc oxide factory site in Burry Port which has been earmarked for homes and commercial development for a decade.

Executive board members were told that the privately-owned land in question was unlikely to be brought forward for development in the near future without council intervention.

Minutes of the discussion, which was held in private for commercial reasons, said that redeveloping the former Grillo site would support the council’s Burry Port regeneration proposals and the delivery of a masterplan for the town.

The executive board agreed to provide £2 million for the acquisition of the seven-acre site, which adjoins council-owned land.

Councillor John James, who represents Burry Port, said he welcomed the decision.

“It’s good to see things are moving,” he said. “It’s the gateway to the harbour, and it’s an eyesore.”

The move follows a decision last December to grant a long-term lease for the development of the town’s harbour into a top-class facility for boat owners and tourists.

Proposals to develop the Grillo site were put forward around 10 years ago, and then adopted as supplementary planning guidance.

People in the town were consulted at an early stage, which resulted in the proposed number of houses and flats — and their height — being reduced.

But a planning application was called in by Welsh ministers in 2011 and permission refused, due to flooding concerns.

The flood classification for the site was changed later and, fast-forward to early 2016, the county council granted outline consent for up to 230 houses and flats and a small amount of retail and leisure at the former Grillo site.

An attractive waterfront area was also part of the concept.

A design statement submitted as part of the outline application by Castletown Estates said the Grillo site was one of four parcels of land designated as the Eastern Harbourside.

Burry Port harbour had been established by an act of Parliament in 1825, and the town was home to copper, lead, silver and zinc processing for decades.

A power station opened in there in 1954 before being demolished in 1990, prior to the opening of the Grillo zinc oxide factory. The factory closed in 2006 and has been razed, but mounds of earth and bricks still remain.

The council could now seek a development partner to take forward proposals for the former Grillo site.

Council leader Emlyn Dole said it was a prime site and “front and centre” to the whole concept of developing the harbour.

“There was a need to defend that,” he said.

The harbour redevelopment is being taken forward by a company called The Marine Group, which got on site in April this year.

Plans have also been submitted to convert and extend the current RNLI base in the harbour into a cafe and restaurant, as well as creating a marina management office with new changing rooms.

Ex-Pembrey and Burry Port town councillor Les George said he felt the town had been “let down”, in development terms, for years.

“We have got one of the finest harbours in Wales,” he said. “Everything seems to be happening elsewhere.”

Former businessman Mr George said he believed proposals to redevelop the Grillo site would go down well in the town.

“I believe people would rather see something happening rather than nothing happening,” he said.

“And we badly need affordable houses.”

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