Forest Pennant, a leading natural stone specialist based in the Forest of Dean, has recently supplied its Royal Forest Pennant sandstone for the regeneration of Abertillery, a town located in the heart of the Welsh valleys, in a contract worth over £250,000.
A total provision of 1500m2 of Royal Forest Pennant paving has been laid across Church Street and the St Michaels Church courtyard, both of which form central areas in the town. In addition to Royal Forest Pennant paving, Church Street now features a horizontal street sign consisting of six natural stone slabs inset with stainless steel lettering reading Church Street, and 28 individual seats in a cubic design adorned with stainless steel corners and black granite tops. A wealth of new Royal Forest Pennant street furniture has also been installed in the courtyard, including two benches and twelve seats, accompanied by a set of stone steps incorporating stainless steel lettering and copings for the churchyard wall.
During the design process, Chris Griffin, projects manager at Forest Pennant, worked with Damian Assinder, landscape projects officer at Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, and Reverend Coleman of St. Michaels Church to incorporate the religious sentiment of the courtyard within the renovation scheme. The furnishings create tangible representations of various biblical references, including an engraved slab to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee and blessed by the Bishop of Monmouth.
Not only did this project require substantial technical planning, but we also had to consider the careful integration and blending of two natural stones and their accompanying colour palettes, to incorporate both Forest Pennant and the existing paving, said Chris. In order to guarantee optimum technical accuracy and efficiency, we used advanced water-jet cutting technology for the intricate inset wording on the steps. The seat and bench units, however, presented the real challenge because they were too large for this technique. After much head-scratching and several false starts, the stainless-steel letters were used as a template for the masons to cut out the rebate by hand, resulting in truly bespoke individual units.
The Welsh Assembly Government promotes local sourcing for all regeneration projects. Following a brief introduction to Forest Pennant during a seminar held by the Heads of the Valleys programme, Nick Landers, principle projects officer for Blaenau Gwent Council, was impressed by the unique features of the Pennant stone, including the durable, diamond-sawn finish and the assortment of natural colours. The relationship was furthermore strengthened during the successful regeneration of Ebbw Vale, a neighbouring Blaenau Gwent town.
Forest Pennant has always done their utmost to accommodate our requirements, even at very short notice. They offer a very professional, bespoke service tailored to meet our needs, commented Nick. The regeneration programme offers one of the most significant opportunities to upgrade the physical environment of the town, changing the perception, image and economic fortunes of the town centre of Abertillery and retaining the economic vitality and viability. Utilising natural stone was a means of creating a unique and very special environment.
The Church Street phase 2 scheme has received many compliments from both members of the public and the business fraternity, which was also echoed at a recent public consultation event to promote future regeneration schemes in the town.