Port Talbot residents gathered at Aberavon Beach on Sunday May 8 to hold a peaceful protest about the lack of leisure facilities provided on the Aberavon seafront.
With emotion still running high in the town following The Passion, which saw thousands flock to the seafront over the Easter weekend, the group set off on their march at 11am intent on seeing Aberavon Beach restored to its former glory, and becoming a prime tourist attraction in South Wales.
Keith Suter, founder of the ‘Defend Aberavon Beach’ group, which originated on Facebook and which currently has 1,489 members, explained what the protesters’ aims were: “We want to see more buildings along the beach that visitors can use, and which will ultimately attract more business investment.
“On the whole of the prom there are currently only two buildings, which the general public can access. It is such a waste of land. We want NPT county borough council stop allowing private businesses to build along the promenade and wasting precious land, which could be utilised to attract more tourism to the beach. We should be trying to generate more visitors, not turn them away.
“Look at the thousands of people who came to the beach for The Passion. It just reinforces the group’s message: ‘Build and they will come’.”
Dougie Portwood, from Ty Morfa Rd, aired his frustration at the absence of basic facilities at the lower end of the beach. A keen kite-surfer, Aberavon Beach was one of the main reasons he and wife Jenny moved to the town from Reading in 2005.
“There is something magical about this beach”, he said.
“You can’t beat if for water sports. You only have to look up and down the beach every day and you will see people surfing, kite surfing and kayaking. Yet, at this end of the beach, there isn’t even anywhere visitors can change out of a wetsuit or grab a quick refreshment. Instead, you have private business and a car park full of rubbish, where there could be a small toilet block and changing room and a small shop even.”
As the group made their way past the skateboard ramps, mum Paula Lewis, from Scarlet Avenue commented: “There is nothing down on the beach; not even a park for the smaller children. It is shameful. You shouldn’t have to traipse half way along the beach to use the one set of toilets with babies in pushchairs. It’s not good enough. We have a lovely beach but only a third of it is being used at the moment. Why can’t we have more toilets, a park, and a little crazy golf course perhaps? A little shop, where you can buy a bottle of water, a bucket and spade or even rent a deckchair? The beach is not user friendly for elderly people, who would love to come here.”
With boarded up and vandalised buildings aligning the seafront and the paddling pool drained and shut throughout the Easter holidays, these Port Talbot protesters are frustrated that their complaints and their questions have so far been unanswered.
Grandmother of seven, Joan Targett, from Golden Avenue, who was there with her husband and her two youngest boys, said: “Take my family as an example. I have seven children and seven grandchildren.
“That is 16 people who could be using this beach and spending money here if there was more on offer. We should be bringing revenue into the town.
“Why is private business being allowed to build on a beautiful expanse of land? “Neath Port Talbot council is ignoring the pleas of residents. There should be more consultation between the council taxpayers and those who make the decisions on what is allowed to be built on the seafront. Surely we should have a say?”
Daniel Morgan, a full time student from Afandale, concluded: “You look at your parents’ old photos of the beach, when they came here when they were young and you listen to their stories of how people would come from all over the valleys, catching a train to Port Talbot station to make their way to the beach. There were even fairground attractions at the bottom. That would never happen now.”
• PortTalbotMagnet has asked NPT Council for a response on this issue and will print it when it arrives.