£1.3m hub bid group to dis­band

South Wales Evening Post - - COMMUNITY - LIZ BRADFIELD [email protected]­line.co.uk

A COM­MU­NITY group in the Am­man Val­ley which was at the fore­front of plans to de­velop a for­mer school into a re­cre­ation cen­tre is to dis­band af­ter fail­ing to agree a lease for the site.

The Y Ban­wen As­so­ci­a­tion wanted to turn the old Ys­gol y Glyn – now called Y Ban­wen – in School Road, Lower Brynamman, into a com­mu­nity hub with plans for a youth cen­tre, com­mu­nity cen­tre, a cafe, and work­shops for char­i­ties as well as a soft play area, a com­mu­nity gar­den and an elec­tric bike hire busi­ness.

The group, which has spent five years work­ing to­wards the £1.3 mil­lion project, had al­ready se­cured £100,000 fund­ing which the group says will now be lost be­cause it has been un­able to agree on the terms of a lease with the own­ers of the build­ing Gwaun-cae-gur­wen Com­mu­nity Coun­cil.

Members of the as­so­ci­a­tion said they were “dev­as­tated” to no longer be able to take the project for­ward.

Ar­wyn Wool­cock, chair­man of the as­so­ci­a­tion and a Neath Port Tal­bot county coun­cil­lor for the area, said: “It’s gutwrench­ing.

“It has been a long­stand­ing wish of the pub­lic of Lower Brynamman to have their own com­mu­nity hall, which would bring them into line with the other three vil­lages in the com­mu­nity of Gwaun­cae-gur­wen, where com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties are avail­able and fully sup­ported by the com­mu­nity coun­cil.”

The school, which closed in 2011, was bought in 2016 by the com­mu­nity coun­cil for £125,000 af­ter a fea­si­bil­ity study and busi­ness plan was de­vel­oped by the Y Ban­wen As­so­ci­a­tion.

While a lease was pre­pared Y Ban­wen worked with the agree­ment of the com­mu­nity coun­cil to sub­mit bids for fund­ing to en­able “es­sen­tial work” on the site and take for­ward a phased devel­op­ment ap­proach.

But while ini­tial cap­i­tal fund­ing for build­ing works was se­cured – £100,000 from the EU’S Ru­ral Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme and around £15,000 from the lo­cal au­thor­ity and other or­gan­i­sa­tions for a new boiler in the lower school – it was all con­di­tional on hav­ing a lease.

Members of the Y Ban­wen As­so­ci­a­tion said the fi­nal lease of­fered al­lowed for an ini­tial pep­per­corn rent. How­ever other costs and fees re­quired by the lease were to be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Y Ban­wen.

Mr Wool­cock said there were no funds of­fered to sup­port the util­ity bills and in­sur­ance costs of the site while work was un­der­way.

He said: “The pro­jected level of these costs and a lack of as­sur­ance that rent would not be in­creased fol­low­ing the sched­uled rent re­views mean that those in­volved in Y Ban­wen could not in all con­science move for­ward to sign the lease given the level of risk in­volved.

“It is with great re­gret there­fore that we have to an­nounce that Y Ban­wen will seek to wind up its ac­tiv­ity with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion’s sec­re­tary, So­nia Reynolds, who is also a county coun­cil­lor for the area, said: “At a time when pub­lic fi­nances are so lim­ited and there are many more calls on the lim­ited char­i­ta­ble re­sources and grant fund­ing that is avail­able, it is very im­por­tant that a project the size of Y Ban­wen Com­mu­nity Hub, is vi­able in the short-term with the po­ten­tial to be self­sus­tain­ing in the longert­erm.

“It was es­sen­tial for Y Ban­wen as a group of un­paid vol­un­teers to agree a lease for the site that al­lowed them to con­cen­trate on se­cur­ing more than £1 mil­lion in cap­i­tal funds over an ex­tended pe­riod to bring the whole site back into full use.

“The lease terms also needed to al­low for es­sen­tial safety work to take place on the out­side ar­eas, heat­ing for the lower school that houses the Am­man Val­ley Men’s Shed, and re­fur­bish­ment of the ex­ist­ing tem­po­rary cabin as an ini­tial com­mu­nity hall so that var­i­ous com­mu­nity groups, in­clud­ing Maerdy Youth, could ben­e­fit from us­ing some space as soon as pos­si­ble.”

She added: “We hope the com­mu­nity coun­cil will seek to bring a com­mu­nity hall for Lower Brynamman into be­ing.

“How­ever, the part­ners will now look at other op­tions that may sup­port that as­pi­ra­tion and bring all of those ser­vices en­vis­aged for the total of Y Ban­wen to re­al­ity within the val­ley.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion is a part­ner­ship in­volv­ing lo­cal res­i­dents, the Tairg­waith com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion Canol­fan Maerdy, Maerdy Youth, and Gwaun Cae Gur­wen Com­mu­nity Coun­cil.

It was es­tab­lished as a not-for-profit com­pany lim­ited by guar­an­tee in May 2017 and had been go­ing through the process of reg­is­ter­ing as a char­ity.

Any funds re­main­ing will be do­nated to sup­port Am­man Val­ley Men’s Shed and Maerdy Youth, its members have said.

Ge­off Moore, chair­man of Gwaun-cae-gur­wen Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, said the coun­cil had re­ceived a let­ter from the as­so­ci­a­tion in­form­ing them it was wind­ing up its ac­tiv­ity.

He said a spe­cial coun­cil meeting had been or­gan­ised for next week to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion.

The for­mer Ys­gol y Glyn lower school build­ing in Lower Brynamman.

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