Neath residents - 'They're replacing our heritage with flats'
FRUSTRATED Neath residents claim the heart and heritage is being lost from their town.
They have been sharing their thoughts in a Facebook group — Memories of Neath Old and New — saying their cherished town is being turned into flats.
Their comments come as demolition work is due to start on the former Empire Bingo Hall on Monday.
The Coastal Housing development, which will include 12 flats for social rented accommodation, is scheduled to be completed in June 2013.
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Sunnybank resident and Blaenhonddan community councillor Tony Wyn Jones said: "We don't need any more flats in the centre of Neath.
"The Empire would have been ideal for a multi-purpose centre for children."
Twelve flats have also been proposed for the old Mackworth Club — also known as the Windsor Club.
Council planners have decided to undergo a site inspection after concerns about parking were raised.
Cimla resident Jason Reynolds said: "People are frustrated with what they are seeing in Neath.
"They are taking the heritage out of the town and putting in flats.
"People moving in are going to overgrow the town and there are no facilities for them.
"People are also seeing the shops going."
There are also concerns about the shops in the town centre.
Chairman of Neath Chamber of Trade Andrew Lodwig said empty shops in the centre included the Dorothy Perkins store and the former Greggs.
"Everything is closing down and nothing is opening," he said.
"I can only sympathise with the traders and shoppers of the town with their frustrations. I am just hoping for the day when we see the contractors on site for the development."
In April a grant of £13 million for phase one of Neath's long-awaited new shopping centre was announced.
But head of property and regeneration Gareth Nutt said there was still a lot of work required before the funding could be used for the first phase.
The council is now promoting a workshop event which will be held at the Bluebell Hotel, Neath, on Monday starting at 5.30pm.
The purpose is to gather views on how to make the most of what Neath has to offer and how best to promote the town to businesses and visitors alike.
Council leader Ali Thomas said: "Neath town centre, and indeed the entire county borough, is a fantastic place to live, to visit and to do business.
"Within the current financial climate it's particularly important for us to be proactive in promoting the local area to businesses and visitors from far and wide.
"I would therefore encourage anyone with a passion for Neath town centre to join this group and help to spread the message."