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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 09:45 GMT
Boost for heritage visitor centre
Blaenavon
The money will be used to regenerate the town
A 110,000 boost has been given to support the running of a World Heritage visitor centre in south Wales.

Torfaen Council has agreed for the money to be used to turn a run-down school in the former ironworks town of Blaenavon into a visitor centre.

The historic valleys town near Pontypool was recognised for its key role in the industrial revolution when it was awarded World Heritage status in 2000.

The new plans focus on turning the disused St Peter's School into an education and visitor centre.

Previously, the former ironworkers' school was covered by a huge protective structure to help the building dry out after years of disuse had caused damp problems.

Other organisations will be approached to provide more financial support for the centre.

It was hoped the World Heritage title Blaenavon would improve the fortunes of the deprived town which has an unemployment rate of 4.5%.

I think this community has been under-valued for many years
John Rogers, Blaenavon project co-ordinator

The town's ironworks were built in 1789 and were followed by the development of the mining industry.

The landscape is considered to be of such historical importance that it was the only UK mainland site to be on Unesco's list for accreditation in 2000.

When the World Heritage Site status was given, it was said it could generate 15m investment for Blaenavon over a period of five years and could bring 250,000 visitors a year.

"I think this community has been under-valued for many years," said Blaenavon project co-ordinator John Rogers.

"People have not recognised its contribution to world history.

"Britain has been fixated by palaces and the like, but the greatest contribution to society came from the industrial revolution," he said.

The ironworks have been carefully preserved with the five furnaces still visible, along with cast houses, a foundry, a water-balance lift, calcining ovens, a coal level and workers' houses.

Taj Mahal

The World Heritage Convention protects 630 sites of "outstanding universal value" in countries around the world such as the Taj Mahal and the Great Barrier Reef.

In February, plans to introduce a wave of second-hand book shops to Blaenavon were welcomed by local people.

The move is an attempt to boost the economy by creating a "book town" similar to Hay-on-Wye in mid Wales.




SEE ALSO:
What is a World Heritage site?
06 Apr 99 |  UK News
Best of British sites nominated
06 Apr 99 |  UK News
48 new world heritage sites
02 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific


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