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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 13:15 GMT
Dara has future, assures minister
Dara worker
Dara's boasts a 'world-class maintenance facility'
Commercial interest in south Wales' "world-class" aerospace facility will not be affected by 500 job losses, according to an assembly minister.

The fast-jet facility at St Athan is to close by April 2007 with the loss of 500 jobs, it was announced on Tuesday.

Another 500 had previously been announced.

Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies says he regrets the Ministry of Defence's decision but he is confident of generating investment at the site.

The UK government confirmed that the Defence Aviation Repair Agency (Dara) would close.

The closure has been widely criticised by Labour's own MPs.

The fast-jet facility, which currently services RAF planes, will close in 2007, while Dara's large aircraft business at St Athan will be market-tested for a sell-off.

Mr Davies admitted he was very disappointed by the announcement, adding: "The original decision to move the work away from St Athan was one we said was wrong. It was wrong economically and we said it was going to be a bad decision for the taxpayer."

Andrew Davies
The MoD has to make decisions in terms of their own budgets and costs
Andrew Davies AM

However, he maintained there was a future for the 80m super hangar at Dara.

"We have acquired the site through the WDA and there are still visionary plans to develop a world-class maintenance facility in the aerospace sector.

"We have worked to establish St Athan as a centre of excellence, together with the MoD building the hangar," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"The fact (commercial operator) Lasham has come shows the sector shares my belief.

The assembly government has said that ATC Lasham and TES Aviation Group - maintenance, repair and overhaul companies - represent the first two new commercial investments for St Athan and signify a new direction for the site.

Mr Davies added: "They were very confident about growing the business. When the original announcement was made about moving the work away, they saw that as a huge opportunity."

'Body blow'

Asked why the government had not listened to the assembly government's advice to keep the site, he replied: "The MoD has to make decisions in terms of their own budgets and costs."

He insisted the assembly would not accept a "defeatist" outlook for the site. "To write it off as a retail park is not our vision for it," he added.

Conservative economic development spokesman Alun Cairns told BBC Wales: "It's really the end of an era here at St Athan. There has always been an operation here linked with the RAF. It's a body blow to the local economy."

"There is no logic to it. They have spent 80m building this hangar and what are we going to have now? Maybe a super B&Q or an Ikea or something of that nature."

One Dara worker, who did not wish to be named, said: "Its been devastating. All the workers didn't think it would happen.

"Why was it built, when I think they knew the jobs were going to go?"

Defence staff fight losing battle
08 Nov 05 |  South East Wales

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