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pounds 1m revamp aims to recapture industrial heyday of Valley town.

Byline: By Darren Devine Western Mail

A south Wales Valleys town is to be given a million pound makeover to help it recapture the glories of its 19th century heyday. Aberdare's prosperity grew out of a thriving coal industry, but the closure of the pits has brought poverty and deprivation in its wake.

Now Aberdare is in the top quarter of the most deprived towns in Wales and is declining further with productivity and income falling behind the Welsh and UK national averages.

But now under a regeneration scheme financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) homes and businesses in Aberdare town centre will be rejuvenated.

And the Valleys town will not be the only part of Wales to benefit from the cash - Flint and Dolgellau, in North Wales, will each receive around pounds 1m apiece to revive dilapidated historic buildings.

The area of Aberdare covered by the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) grant has 33 listed buildings. It is viewed by Welsh historic monuments group Cadw to be of national importance due to its links with the industrial revolution.

Considered by experts as one of the town's finest buildings the Black Lion Hotel, on Victoria Square, is one of those that will benefit from the pounds 900,000 regeneration fund. The Georgian building's original canopy and frontage, not seen since 1872, may be reinstated.

The grant will also be used to produce newsletters, fund training courses in conservation and for the creation of a town walk for residents and visitors.

Chairman of the HLF's committee for Wales Dan Clayton Jones suggested the pounds 2.75m between the three towns would help lift the gloom.

He said, "It's the first step towards creating lively, appealing town centres where people enjoy living and working and where local stakeholders and investors can feel confident about a positive future."

Aberdare's decline is in stark contrast to its late 19th-century heyday. Then the town was considered one of the most pleasant places to live, even having its own post-graduate theological college until it moved to Llandaff in 1907. Owner of the Black Lion Hotel Nino Polledri said, "My family were born and bred in Aberdare and have witnessed a significant decay in the town over the past 50 years and with a large number of buildings closed it will only get worse." A facelift could bring in new visitors and investment, he said. Heritage minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas said evidence from other townscape heritage schemes shows they can act as a stimulus for regeneration.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 25, 2007
Words:419
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