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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 11:48 GMT
Town book shop plans given go ahead
Blaenavon town centre
The book town project could be set up in Blaenavon
Plans to introduce a wave of second-hand book shops into a south Wales town to regenerate the area have been welcomed by local people.

Ten shops could be set up in Blaenavon, near Pontypool, in an attempt to boost its economy and create a "book town".

I think Blaenavon is a spectacular and wonderful town

Richard Booth, organiser

If the project is successful, it could expand to other parts of Wales, with Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire possibly next in line.

The proposals are the brainchild of Richard Booth, who is credited with the revival of the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, and his business associate, James Hanna.

Despite achieving world heritage status two years ago, Blaenavon has remained a deprived town.

About 70 people living in the town heard about the plans at a public meeting on Tuesday evening.

The organisers have said that there was a lot of interest in the project and they believe that it will help tackle deprivation locally.

"I think Blaenavon is a spectacular and wonderful town," said Richard Booth.

Big Pit, Blaenavon
Certain aspects of Blaenavon's heritage have been maintained

"The most important thing to realise is that this is a community economy and can be achieved by community input."

His partner James Hanna set up a similar scheme in Norway.

"The book towns have worked worldwide and there is no reason why it won't work in Blaenavon," he said.

"It should do the same thing for Blaenavon as Richard Booth has done for Hay-on-Wye.

"It should create a rural tourist economy," he said.

Blaenavon is famed for its ironworks, which were built in 1789 and were followed by the development of the mining industry.

Five furnaces can still be seen, along with cast houses, a foundry, a water-balance lift, a coal level and workers' houses.

This could provide a win, win, win situation for us

John Rogers, Blaenavon project manager

The nearby Big Pit colliery was closed in 1980. It later opened to the public in 1983 to become Britain's most popular coal mining museum.

But despite having the World Heritage Status tag, the estimated 250,000 visitors a year to the town have not materialised and many shops have been closed and boarded up.

John Rogers, Torfaen Council's project manager for the town, supports the plans.

"We are very keen on this - the council has invested so much into trying to create conditions for betterment and to encourage visitors," he said.

"But we are not seeing enough visitors coming into the town.

"This could provide a win, win, win situation for us. It is an exciting proposal," he added.


More from south east Wales
See also:

01 Dec 00 | Wales
22 Nov 02 | Wales
08 Oct 02 | Wales
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