South East Wales

Circuit of Wales: What next for Ebbw Vale?

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Media captionPeople in Ebbw Vale had mixed reactions to the news that the Circuit of Wales will not go ahead.

Disappointment hung as heavy in the air as the grey clouds in Ebbw Vale town centre, as news broke that the Welsh Government would not be backing plans for the long-awaited Circuit of Wales development.

A "Pray for the Circuit of Wales" sign remained pinned to a notice board, between a poster for concert ticket sales and a reminder not to drop litter.

But there was little surprise to the announcement from residents and shoppers, some of whom had their own suggestions for how the money would be better spent in the town.

The Welsh Government said on Tuesday it had turned down the plea by backers of the project for more than £200m in taxpayer-funded guarantees.

Developers claimed the £433m motor racing track and leisure project would create up to 6,000 jobs in what is a deprived area.

But Economy Secretary Ken Skates said these job claims were "overstated" and there was too much financial risk to the public.

Ministers said an automotive business park would be built instead.

But after six years of waiting for a decision - the idea was first mooted in 2011 - what do the people of Ebbw Vale think?

Image caption Mike Clay said the refusal to underwrite 50% of the cost of the Circuit of Wales was "not surprising"

Mike Clay, who is originally from Ebbw Vale but now lives in Caerphilly, said he was "not surprised" by the decision.

"I think it was a bit of a white elephant, it did not represent the priority in terms of the area, in terms of the public money that was being asked for," he said.

Mr Clay said the money would be better spent on "indigenous industries, providing support to the community to help them to form small companies that will grow in their own right" and not by the Welsh Government putting "all their eggs in one basket".

He added: "I don't think [the decision] really makes any difference to Ebbw Vale because to my mind it was never going to happen.

"The problems and the priorities remain the same - basically the town, the whole area, is dying and the government needs to see it as a priority to do the right things to get it growing again."

Image caption Denise Cooper said she was "very disappointed" by the decision

Denise Cooper, who has lived in Ebbw Vale all her life, said she was "very disappointed" as the project had promised jobs for the area.

"There's nothing here is there really," she said. "I was looking forward to it coming actually."

She said local opinion had been mixed as to whether the project would come to fruition but she had believed it would.

Image caption Clive Herbert said anything that brought jobs was "a bonus"

Clive Herbert, from the nearby town of Tredegar, said he had not been interested in the motor racing aspect of the project, but added: "It's the jobs factor, that's the thing that's got us worried."

He said people had had high hopes it would be built: "People seemed to be very enthusiastic about it as there's nothing else around here really.

"Anything with jobs is a bonus for all the Heads of the Valleys towns. I just don't know what will happen now.

"I'm not worried for myself, I've seen the best days, but it's the youngsters coming up."

Image caption Carl Dennis said the money should be ploughed into regenerating the town centre instead

Carl Dennis, from Ebbw Vale, said: "It's disappointing in some aspects because of the jobs it could have created and obviously it would have helped the whole community.

"But at the same time the funding they would have needed was a hell of a lot of money and obviously there's probably not much money around for the government anyway.

"I think there was always a very mixed response to it. I think there were people who were really for it, for the jobs and the money it would have created, but there were a lot of people as well who were against it.

"I don't know what's next. Personally I think they could put the money into the general town centre because there's quite a few shops that are closed down around here and maybe they could use that to get new businesses around the centre."

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