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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 06:45 GMT
Lifeline needed for valleys towns
Street, Merthyr Tydfil
Many valleys communities have suffered decline.
Improvements in housing, transport and the environment must take place to keep south Wales valleys communities alive, according to new research.

The report, 'Ambitions for the Future' comes from a study of some of the most isolated valleys communities, by Welsh think-tank the Bevan Foundation.

Victoria Winckler
'Broad input' : Victoria Winckler

Its initial conclusions suggest policies the foundation thinks are needed to improve former mining and steelmaking areas.

Written by the director of the Bevan Foundation, Victoria Winckler, the report calls for more imagination in order to create jobs within the valleys.

It concludes that a higher priority must be given to the social economy, tourism and regenerating town and village centres.

"We are convinced that keeping and attracting people to live in valleys communities will help to keep those communities alive, even if people work elsewhere," Ms Winckler says.

It is thought that improvements in housing, transport and the local environment would attract people to valleys areas, she adds.

There is some good news, however.

The report highlights schemes such as the planned 'Valleywood' film studio complex near Bridgend as an example of new industry.

But much still needs to be done, the report says. It is calling for more civil service jobs to be moved to the valleys.

The research was sponsored by valleys MPs Dr Hywel Francis (Aberavon), Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), Dai Havard (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) and Wayne David (Caerphilly), and local authorities covering Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend.

Hywel Francis
Aberavon MP Hywel Francis is sponsoring the report

Aberavon MP Dr Francis pointed to the proposed 100m development of a new holiday and leisure complex in the Afan Valley as an example of the new approach needed in deprived areas.

'Change'

"We're already seeing the seeds of change in some areas, for example the proposed leisure development in my own constituency," he said.

"The report gives some pointers to what more needs to be done, at Westminster, the assembly, and locally, to turn these communities around."

Report author Ms Winckler said: "The project has already met a wide range of people and organisations.

We're already seeing the seeds of change in some areas

Dr Hywel Francis MP

"We are keen to get as broad an input as possible on the way forward before we produce our final report."

Many valleys communities have suffered from unemployment and social problems since the demise of the area's traditional coal and steel industries.

Home Secretary David Blunkett recently visited the Cynon and Rhondda Valleys and pledged 1m over two years to tackle the drugs problem there.

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  ON THIS STORY
  BBC Wales' Phil Nutting
"Communities have been devastated by the demise of coal and steel "

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