Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of the planned Defence Technical College at MoD St Athan”, the First Minister Rhodri Morgan AM told a gathering in Barry on Friday.
Speaking at the seventh spring breakfast hosted by Vale AM Jane Hutt at Barry College, Mr Morgan said that he could not understand why a minority were so opposed to the multi-billion pound investment coming to the Vale.
“I simply cannot understand why some people can’t get their heads around this brilliant project, which is one of the best that we could possibly have in the Vale,” Mr Morgan observed.
The critics were “a little late to wake up to the fact that there is a military base in the Vale” – when there had been one at St Athan for 71 years, at one time involving 14,000 personnel.
Referring to the withdrawal of Land Securities Trillium (LST) from the project’s consortium, Mr Morgan also struck a positive note by pointing out that this was “probably for the best”, as its replacement, Sodexo, was a much larger group.
There were now big players in the consortium and Sodexo would play an important role in “making sure that the job gets done” by focusing on functions to “make the organisation tick”.
In a wide-ranging keynote address, Mr Morgan clearly viewed the project as an encouraging boost for the Vale in particular, and Wales as a whole, in difficult economic times.
He stated that there were support packages in place from the Welsh Assembly Government for employers, employees and those made redundant during the economic downturn, in the Vale and elsewhere, including PROACT and REACT schemes.
The Assembly Labour chief’s view was supported by the Vale Council’s Tory leader, Coun Gordon Kemp, who agreed that most people in the Vale saw the benefits that the Metrix-led scheme would bring to the area, although some still had concerns.
The next stage will be the formal submission of planning proposals to the authority before a date is set for the start of work on site.
Jane Hutt AM thanked the First Minister, and others from a cross-section of the Vale public and private sector, for attending the annual business breakfast.
She explained that she had decided to use the event as an economic summit for key employers, business, voluntary, and community representatives.