A Turkish conglomerate is expected to seal a deal that aims to bring hundreds of jobs to one of Wales’ most deprived areas.
The Welsh Government has been in talks with the Ciner Group – one of Turkey’s largest industrial concerns – about developing a huge bottling plant at Rassau Industrial Estate, near Ebbw Vale in Blaenau Gwent, for more than two years, and the indications are that a deal is close to being struck.
Politicians are reluctant to speak openly about the prospects of such a large project coming to the area, mainly because they don’t want to raise hopes that could in theory still be dashed.
But a source close to the project said: “The group is very keen to come to Blaenau Gwent, and is already looking forward to embedding itself in the community. The big decision to come has been taken, and it’s just a question of sorting out a few technical issues.”
It is understood that at one time there was a possibility that the plant could have gone to Bridgend rather than Blaenau Gwent, but it is also understood that another inward investor is looking to occupy the site in Bridgend that could have gone to Ciner, and it was felt the more heavily industrial nature of the project would be more suited to Blaenau Gwent.
Last June it emerged that a small group of officers and councillors from Blaenau Gwent council had visited Turkey to visit a bottling factory, and that they had been accompanied by a Welsh Government economic development official.
It was reported at the time that the delegation had been impressed by the facility, which was located in a mountainous and remote area to the south east of Istanbul.
Now plans have been submitted for a glass bottle manufacturing facility on the Rassau Industrial Estate, with operations planned to start in 2023 and full production the following year.
The Ciner Group, which was founded in 1978, is one of the leading industrial conglomerates in Turkey, with interests in a number of sectors including mining, energy, glass, chemicals, media, maritime and tourism. In total it employs 10,500 people.
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A Welsh Government spokesman would only say: “We are in commercially sensitive discussions with a Turkish company to establish an advanced manufacturing facility here in Wales.”
One politician from Blaenau Gwent, who did not want to be named, said: “My instinct is to say nothing on occasions like this until a deal has actually been signed. To claim that a project is coming raises the hopes of local people, and they have been dashed too many times in the past.”
Ten years ago plans to create a car racing track to be known as the Circuit of Wales on the moors above Ebbw Vale were announced. It was suggested that 6,000 jobs could be created by the project, which would have had a hotel and retail elements ancillary to it. But its promoters found it difficult to get financial backing from the private sector and sought a substantial financial guarantee from the Welsh Government.
In June 2017 a proposed taxpayer-funded guarantee of £210m was rejected by the Welsh Government on the grounds that the financial risk was too great.
Instead, ministers announced that £100m would be spent on an automotive business park. The 10-year project has already created 100,000sq ft of new and refurbished commercial, start-up and industrial space, and prospective businesses are being spoken to.