IN the week that Merthyr Tydfil was named the town with the lowest life expectancy in Wales, the Welsh Government has announced radical plans to move its inhabitants to the coast.
Drastic action has been sought after the Welsh Government’s recently released figures revealed the average life expectancy of men in Merthyr is just 74 – six years less than other areas of Wales.
It’s a second blow for the South Wales town, following a 2010 Sky News documentary in which presenter Jeff Randall angrily revealed that one in four Merthyr residents were receiving some form of out-of-work allowance.
Now the sobering life expectancy statistics – coupled with Merthyr’s tag as ‘unemployment capital of the world’ – have forced officials to make plans to relocate the troubled town’s residents to the sea.
However, it’s not an idea First Minister Carwyn Jones can claim is his own.
In the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s the Government had considered evacuating the town to start again at the seaside.
Now those ancient plans are to become a reality as Welsh Government chiefs bid to help the once proud town, which was at the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution, climb out of the doldrums and restore its reputation.
All signs now point to Merthyr-de-la-Mer – even if it means abandoning an expensive blueprint to rebrand Merthyr as the ‘Gateway to the Brecon Beacons’ in a desperate bid to regenerate the town.
Merthyr Tydfil MP Dai Havard said: “For me it’s a good move, I’ve always fancied a house with a balcony and a sea view.
“For the rest of Merthyr it may take some time to adjust. Many of them haven’t been out of their houses for a few years, so the concept of sea and sand is going to be totally alien to them.
“Let’s just hope we’re not going to be moved anywhere near Bridgend or Port Talbot, because that’s going to be a case of ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire’.”
However, the plans haven’t been welcomed by all.
Gurnos resident Chantelle Davies, 32, said: “My family has lived on this estate all my life and I’m not moving now. My grandkids are growing up here, why would they want to move to the seaside?
“There’s more chance of me getting a job than moving out of Merthyr.”