Wales politics

Merthyr Hoover site could be bought by Welsh Government

Hoover factory Merthyr Tydfil
Image caption The Hoover plant in Merthyr Tydfil closed in 2009

One of the most high-profile former industrial sites in south Wales could be bought by the Welsh Government, BBC Wales understands.

More than 300 jobs were lost when the Hoover washing machine factory in Merthyr Tydfil closed in 2009.

Part of the site is still used for distribution and talks are taking place with its owners - Hoover's Italian parent company Hoover Candy.

Ministers have refused to comment about a possible purchase.

But Hoover Candy said it has held talks with a number of interested parties.

It is understood there has been interest from the Welsh Government in buying the site for a number of years, but talks have gathered momentum in the past year, although no price has yet been agreed.

If the acquisition goes ahead it would be a significant deal for the Welsh Government as it seeks to promote economic development in the heads of the south Wales valleys.

Merthyr Tydfil council would like to see the site developed for transport as part of the new Metro transport network, as well as for employment and housing.

Council leader Brendan Toomey said: "The significance, particularly for the development of the metro, is absolutely huge.

"The site lends itself to a railway station, and coupled together with park and ride facilities. The site is also big enough for housing and other developments.

"Apart from the historical connection with the area, the site itself is ideally situated at a junction just off the A470. The connections are absolutely perfect.

"If the Welsh Government could do a deal, it would be welcomed by everyone at Merthyr council."

Earlier in July, ministers announced plans for a new approach to investment in the south Wales valleys with the creation of a task force.

The new group will try to meet the area's needs in education and health, as well as economic development.

A spokesperson for Hoover Candy said: "The site still serves as Hoover Candy offices, warehousing and distribution.

"Since the closure of our manufacturing operation at Merthyr Tydfil in 2009 we have been having discussions with many interested parties about the long term future of the site.

"Although there are no specific plans at present, we continue to consider viable development opportunities."

Analysis by Nick Servini, BBC Wales political editor

I am told we are at a highly sensitive stage in these discussions but there is barely concealed enthusiasm at a local level for development of this huge site which acts as a southern gateway to Merthyr Tydfil.

It would complement a strong local story for the town with the defence firm General Dynamics set to employ around 250 people assembling armoured vehicles nearby.

But it would also have a wider significance.

If a deal is completed, it would be a strong signal that the Welsh Government is willing to invest in economic development at a time when there are big questions about its appetite for risk after a Brexit.

It is early days. The talks may not end in a deal but it could mark an interesting new chapter for a famous old site.

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