Council moves forward with plans to relocate health center and improve highways in Afan Valley
An obsolete health center will be relocated as part of plans to improve the well-being of residents living in a remote community in the Afan Valley.
Neath Port Talbot council plans to move the Cymmer health center to a new site and improve nearby highways with the aim of improving access and quality of health care in the village.
Council officers will work with Swansea Bay University Health Council to move the health center to a suitable location, which has not yet been decided, and carry out road works worth 4.4 million pounds sterling. Public consultations will take place on both projects.
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Board and health board report says Cymmer health center ‘meets operational standards’ but ‘does not meet modern healthcare standards and accommodation requirements’ and is ‘difficult’ access.
It also states that Cymmer is located “on the side of a steep valley” and that the health center is located on higher ground than the surrounding areas, making it difficult to reach by car or on foot. Few residents use cars and public transport, and active travel links are “very poor”.
Officers plan to widen a local roadway to provide better access for large vehicles in the community. The roadway is described as “extremely steep with very tight hairpin turns” making it difficult for trucks and buses to navigate. As a result, vehicles over 18 tonnes sometimes occupy the entire roadway, which is “extremely dangerous” for them and for other vehicles.
The Cymmer Viaduct, the main access route for heavy goods vehicles to the local villages of Abercregan and Glyncorrwg, is deteriorating and may be irreparable. A weight limit was placed on the Grade II listed structure in 1999 and the concrete has since deteriorated further, with council deeming it “at risk of structural collapse”.
Despite this, heavy vehicles continue to use the road illegally, according to research by council officials. By widening the adjacent roadway, the council plans to preserve the viaduct as a reserved lane for cyclists and pedestrians.
There are currently two general practitioners’ offices and one dental office in the upper Afan valley which are housed in 40-year-old buildings which “are no longer fit for purpose and require considerable investment,” the report said. .
In addition to these problems, the region experiences ‘an aging population with more complex health needs’ and is home to communities ‘among the poorest and most disadvantaged in Wales’.
He also indicates that the “poor health” of the inhabitants is “a major problem”. More than a third of the inhabitants of the upper Afan Valley suffer from long-term limiting illness and life expectancy is one of the shortest in the UK at 74.8 years, or nearly three years younger than the Welsh average.
The Welsh government has provided capital funding for the motorway improvements and the council will need to find additional capital funding for the new health center project.