More than 70 new jobs will be created as part of the £100m expansion of Bridgend Paper Mills.
The expansion of the mills, located in Llangynwyd, Bridgend, will create 74 permanent jobs plus an estimated 100 construction roles.
Toilet tissue manufacturer WEPA, which currently employs 270 people at the Bridgend site, has pledged to invest around £100m in the development, which was first approved by Bridgend County Borough Council in November.
Tony Curtis, joint managing director at WEPA UK, said the expansion of the 25-hectare site will produce 74 new "high-quality" jobs largely focused on operations and maintenance.
Bridgend council's development control committee voted unanimously in favour of the expansion of the mills on June 4.
Councillor Richard Young, cabinet member for communities, said: “With the coronavirus pandemic still in effect this news could not have come at a better time.
"It represents a huge vote of confidence in both the local workforce and the county borough’s economy and will prove to be of major significance for generations to come."
Plans for the development include an extension for a new paper machine and stock preparation area, an £80,000 investment in traffic calming measures on the A4063 at Coytrahen, and a planned active travel route for the Llynfi Valley.
Bridgend Paper Mills was built in 1950 and is now run by WEPA UK. WEPA is a leading manufacturer of hygiene paper products with two main UK sites – the mill and converting facility in Bridgend and a commercial office in Bolton.
Mr Curtis said the development will "make the Bridgend plant best in class from a sustainability and environmental perspective" with investment in "state-of-the-art new manufacturing assets which consume less water and less energy than the older generation of machinery". He added: "This would result in a significantly reduced impact on the environment."
Independent Alliance group leader Norah Clarke said the expansion is a "welcome boost to the area" and it will help the local economy.
The construction and commissioning stages of the development are estimated to last 63 months with the demolition of some buildings including three vacant bungalows near the site.
The occupier of Brynsiriol Farm, a property north west of the site, objected to the development, claiming that the proposed 42m warehouse will "have a significant visual impact" on their property.
They also raised concerns over artificial lighting, noise from "lorries, forklift trucks and general vehicle use" and pollution, which they said will lead to "de-valuation" of their property.
The planning application stated: "Unfortunately, the height of the storage building is unavoidable due to the proximity of bedrock to the surface and the lack of an alternative space within the factory confines.
"Only a small number of residents would be directly affected by the new development compared to the wider economic benefits of the scheme."
Senedd Member Huw Irranca-Davies said the expansion was "of particular importance in these challenging economic times".
"The construction of additional buildings will undoubtedly have some visual impact but this will largely be evident in the immediate vicinity, rather than in any significant way to the wider local area. I understand that these buildings are essential to the proposed development."
WalesOnline - Hannah Neary, 12 JUNE 2020
The German tissue giant WEPA is set for growth in the UK. The company is considering the possibility of expanding existing operations at its Bridgend paper mill in Llangynwyd and in February submitted a planning application to the Bridgend County Borough Council. The council approved the project in late June.
According to the planning application, WEPA's Bridgend project provides for the installation of a second tissue machine, a new pulp storage area for bales, a bale handling area, a new sludge press building, a paper machine building for the second line, a converting extension, an auxiliary material storage area, a high-bay storage warehouse with a capacity for some 35,000 pallets and a shipping area for finished products.
Construction work is planned to start in Q2 this year. The construction and commissioning phase of the proposed plant is expected to last approximately 63 months. "The company intends to invest approximately £100 million [$127 million] in expanding the business and to produce some 250 tonnes/day or 75,000 mtpy," the planning application said.
The Bridgend paper mill was built in 1950 and has passed through several owners. In 2018 WEPA, which used to run the site as a joint venture with Northwood, acquired the remaining part of the business from its jv partner.
The mill currently employs 267 people and can produce some 55,000 mtpy of tissue. It is estimated that the investment project will create around 74 new jobs.
"With the coronavirus pandemic still in effect, this news could not have come at a better time. Not only does the expansion secure almost 270 jobs, it is generating 74 new roles as well as creating around 100 more for the construction of the new facilities. The Bridgend paper mill is one of the county borough's oldest and longest-standing employers, and this significant investment indicates that relationship is destined to continue for many years to come," Richard Young, cabinet member for communities, was quoted as saying in the local press.
TAPPI Tissue360, July 2020