Sevenoaks Modular, a Neath-based specialist in timber frame construction, aims to invest some £6.5 million in acquiring and regenerating a large part of the iconic industrial site in Neath. Known locally as the Metal Box factory, it is proposed that the site will undergo a renovation overhaul and is to be renamed the JCG Buildings.
The company, which currently employs around 100 people in Neath, anticipates it will double its workforce in the next 12 months in conjunction with its expansion to the 250,000 sq ft site. The company has been growing rapidly since it was formed in June 2018 on the back of a growing demand for modular construction solutions in the UK. This move should allow it to go from producing 1,000 homes per year to more than 3,000 per year.
Sevenoaks Modular will acquire around half of the Metal Box factory site from Neath Port Talbot Council, which bought the factory in 2019. It will move all its operations to the site once it has been refurbished as will its sister companies Hale Construction and Hale Homes, both part of the Hale Group. Between all the companies, some 200 people will be based at the site.
Supported by the public and private sectors, the company will make a significant investment to regenerate the site. It will install a new roof, conduct extensive repairs on the main premises, build offices and install an eco-friendly wood burning facility, complemented by cutting-edge energy storage units, which will recycle offcuts from the construction process and power the entire site.
In partnership with local education providers, it will also establish a training academy for young people looking to get a foothold in the construction industry, and open parts of the site up to use by the wider community. The company anticipates all the work will be completed and the site fully operational within 12 months.
Sevenoaks Modular has an order book in excess of £10 million all with tier one contractors and large property developers. It anticipates further rapid growth, which is partly being driven by government initiatives to build more homes quickly. The UK Government set a target of building 300,000 new homes in 2017 and the Welsh Government aims to build 20,000 new affordable homes by 2021.
JG Hale Construction now has a turnover in excess of £40 million. It will move all of its operations to the new site using the vast space as an indoor, offsite construction hub.
Charlotte Hale, director of Sevenoaks Modular, said:
“This is about making a significant investment that will benefit the local economy, allow us to keep pace with demand and all while pushing an environmentally friendly agenda, both in terms of the style of construction we champion and in terms of how we will regenerate the site itself.
“The entire site will be self sufficient in terms of the energy it will generate and require – it will be a fantastic case study for the benefits of the circular economy. Our aim is to sustainable redefine the buildings and restore the site to its former glory but in an innovative and eco-friendly way; we want it to be a landmark of the town again, which the community can be proud of, while also benefiting the local supply chain and keeping jobs and money in the region.”
Councillor Rob Jones, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said: “We are delighted these well-known firms from the Hale group have seen the potential of this site by investing in a sizeable part of it.
“Our intent in purchasing the site is to develop a location which will not only assist in securing the future of local firms and employment but also in fostering opportunities for further growth and job creation.
“The decision by firms like these to re-locate to this site will inspire confidence, helping us develop it as a centre for both offices, manufacturing and other uses which will help develop expansion and growth and create jobs for Neath Port Talbot.”
Jonathan Hale, chairman of Sevenoaks Modular and JG Hale Group, said: “The construction industry is increasingly moving towards more offsite construction methods that save time and money and this site is perfect for our expansion into this way of working across all the businesses. We look forward to creating many more high-quality jobs in the town and returning this site to its former glory as a hub of industry in Neath.
“On top of that, for me, it is about leaving a legacy. My family has created jobs and wealth in this part of Wales for many generations and this investment should leave a positive legacy that will endure for many more generations to come. I want this site to again become a central part of the community of Neath and I am very excited by the plans we hope to deliver to make that a reality.”
The Metal Box factory site was occupied for more than 70 years by the Metal Box container factory known locally as “The Box” but has been vacant after the previous occupiers, the Crown packaging company, closed in 2016.
With support from the Welsh Government’s targeted regeneration Investment programme Neath Port Talbot Council bought the site in 2019 with plans to turn it into a business zone to create jobs. This investment Sevenoaks Modular represents a big boost to that strategy. The entire site could provide space for up to 500 jobs with interest from a number of locally based companies.