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New ways of running innovation centre could be considered in review

ALTERNATIVE locations for an innovation centre, and changes to the way it is being run, should be considered as part of a review into its future, councillors have said.

Torfaen council is carrying out a review of the Springboard Business Innovation Centre after several companies left the site, leaving the local authority facing financial losses.

Whether the current operating model of the innovation centre is “fit for purpose” is being considered, with the council set to make a loss of £93,000 this financial year.

At a meeting of Torfaen council’s prosperous communities overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday, councillors recommended new locations in town centres are considered for the innovation centre.

Cllr Fay Jones raised questions over transport links to the centre at Llantarnam Park in Cwmbran and whether the location was suitable.

Cllr Nick Jones suggested the innovation centre could help meet the needs of businesses looking to expand in Pontypool and Blaenavon, suggesting using office space in Pontypool for the centre could be looked at as part of the review.

Cllr John Killick asked if other ways of running the innovation centre had been considered, pointing to leisure centres being run by a separate organisation in Torfaen Leisure Trust.

Cllr Killick asked if a different operating model, such as this, could help the innovation centre access more funding.

Dawson Evans, Torfaen council’s group leader for economy, regeneration and culture, said the proposal could be considered as part of the review.

Cllr Jones asked if the “core concept” and purpose of the centre needed to be reviewed to meet the current needs of businesses.

“I appreciate the scheme in theory is a very good one but somehow it does not seem to be working in practice for those people who are using it, or did use it and have chosen no longer to use it,” he said.

Mr Evans said the Covid pandemic had changed working habits and led to more home-working, which had impacted the innovation centre.

He said the review would look at what could be done to “turn that ship around”.

Mr Evans said options would be assessed following the review, but that they could include disposing of the centre, changing its use and a different organisation running it.

Councillors also suggested that the criteria businesses need to meet to join the innovation centre is also looked at and potentially expanded, as well as recommending that ways of promoting it are made a greater priority.

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New ways of running innovation centre could be considered in review

The Springboard Centre in Llantarnam
The Springboard Centre in Llantarnam Park, Cwmbran. Picture: Torfaen council