Page last updated at 09:10 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 10:10 UK
Wildlife centre opens on steel works site
Environmental Resource Centre
The centre is built on the site of the former Ebbw Vale steelworks

A new environmental learning centre is opening in Ebbw Vale as part of the redevelopment of the former steelworks which closed in 2002.

The Environmental Resource Centre will be run by Gwent Wildlife Trust.

It is located in an environmentally rich site next to the demolished Victorian pump house and cooling ponds.

The Welsh Assembly's environment minister Jane Davidson and BBC Wales wildlife presenter Iolo Williams will officially open the site on Friday.

The new centre is part of the Works regeneration project, a joint initiative by Blaenau Gwent council and the Welsh Assembly to redevelop the site of the former steel works.

The Environmental Resource Centre (ERC) will focus on providing a wide variety of learning activities for both schools and the wider community based around the environment, climate change and sustainable living.

Common blue butterfly
The common blue butterfly can be seen on the site.

Denis Jackson, people and wildlife manager for the Gwent Wildlife Trust said: "As well as finding out the animals and plants that have made the former steelworks site their home, visitors from near and far will be able to learn how to reduce their impact on the environment by taking actions such as recycling, growing their own food and reducing packaging."

The cooling ponds and the surrounding area now support more than 100 plant species and a diverse range of wildlife including, common blue butterfly, dunnock, wren and blackbird, slow-worm and common lizard.

Boardwalks link the resource centre to dipping platforms and outdoor teaching areas over the ponds, which are home to species such as palmate newt, common toad and common blue damselfly.

The new building is designed by Design Research Unit Wales. It uses a pioneering new Welsh construction system called Ty Unnos.

It literally means 'the house of one night' and is based on a historical Welsh tradition that if you could erect a property with four walls, and have smoke coming from a chimney between sunset and sunrise, you could take ownership of that land.

Ebbw Vale Iron and Steelworks 1938
Ebbw Vale was once home to a state-of-the-art integrated steelworks

The wood frame building construction process is backed by woodland charity Coed Cymru. It uses Sitka spruce a low cost Welsh timber which provides high levels of insulation.

Pupils from Pontygof and Willow Town primary schools in Ebbw Vale have been involved in the external artwork for the building, working with the Gwent Wildlife Trust and the Design Research Unit Wales to design the graphics for the exterior walls.

Steel company Corus has donated almost £30,000 towards the £400,000 project to build the Environmental Resource Centre.

The money was made available to Corus through the Landfill Community Fund, which allows the operators of landfill sites to contribute a percentage of the tax they pay on waste towards publicly accessed community and environmental projects.

To celebrate the opening of the Environmental Resource Centre a free community day will be held on Saturday between 1100 and 1500 BST.

Future plans for the rest of the steelworks site include a local general hospital, learning campus, leisure centre and sports pitches, a theatre, high quality offices and around 500 homes.

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