AN ENGINEERING firm which is due to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year could have been forced to close due to a £50,000 rent increase.
The uncertainty put 22 jobs in Cwmbran at risk as Severn Environmental Engineering feared it could have had to leave the area or close down completely.
Its future has however been secured after it found a new base at the Ty Coch Industrial Estate where it will move to from the Springvale Industrial Estate, where its rent would have more than doubled.
Director John Waters said the firm – which designs and manufactures heating, ventilation and extraction systems for the electronic, pharmaceutical, food, automotive and recycling industries – has been based at the Springvale estate for the past 15 years.
But the company, that was founded in Cwmbran in 1975 and works locally, nationally and internationally, was told the rent on its unit is to increase from £37,000 a year to £87,000.
“It’s a disgrace,” he said. “I’ve been with the company 40 years and 15 at these premises they just chucked it on us from £37,000 a year to £87,000. “
“If we had stayed it would have put us through. I’ve got 20 blokes out there I’ve got a responsibility for,” said Mr Waters who started with the company as an apprentice.
“I wanted to keep the firm here, all the people are local boys so to relocate out of the area would be detrimental to them.”
Mr Waters said he feared he wouldn’t be able to find suitable alternative premises in Cwmbran and said units he had looked at were often “too small or too big” but said the new base at Ty Coch is “ideal” after it “turned up out of the blue” when he noticed a sign saying it was available to rent.
Torfaen Borough Council has granted change of use planning permission, to general industrial use, as the unit at Ty Coch, that has been empty since August 2021, was used for storage.
The planning application spelled out the threat to its survival and stated: “The landlord has sought to increase the annual rent of the unit by more than double. The new rental level is such that it is not financially viable for the business to remain at the premises.”
It described the new rent as “affordable” and added: “Relocation will ensure that all 22 current staff members are retained and relocated to the proposed new base.”
Mr Waters told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he was disappointed with the increase: “We paid rent three months in advance and always on time and have improved the place.
“When we first moved in Springvale was like a ghost town – now the site is full.”
Mr Waters said he was taken aback by the increase: “I wouldn’t have believed it before. You hear stories about people’s housing rents increasing like that and now it has happened to us. Landlords are ruthless and just don’t care, they think they can get someone else in who will pay that.”
He added the firm intends to move “as soon as possible” but will have to continue paying rent at Springvale until December and is able to exit due to break clause in its rental agreement.
Torfaen council’s planning department said the new use of the former warehouse at Ty Coch is “complimentary to surrounding units” which includes a recycling facility that could already produce noise and odour. Its environmental officer raised no objections and the unit is around 153 metres from the nearest house, on Oakland Terrace, and separated by trees.
First Investments Ltd, the Chorley-based landlords of the Springvale unit, were contacted for comment.