A GROUP of campaigners are attempting to save the old Copperworks School in Burry Port, which they claim is in line to be demolished by Carmarthenshire County Council for a housing development.
The school was built for the children of the workers at the old copper works and is a link to the areas industrial past. The building sits in an impressive walled enclosure alongside another large community building.
It is one of a number of former community buildings in the town, which is being considered for sale by the County and the Town councils.
On Tuesday (Mar 1) we visited the school and met with a lady called Ros, who is one of the campaigners.
She told The Herald: “The council want to have planning permission to develop the land and so the school would be demolished. We would like to save the school for the community.
“The council have given us a six month period to come up with some ideas. We would like to see the community taking part in the survey asking them what sorts of things they would like to see in the area.”
Ros continued: “We would like to see the school being used for a cinema, a market, a well-being centre, a dance studio and a community meeting place. We would look at getting grants but it would also have to be sustained through private enterprise like a coffee shop. We could also keep it as a community space and include affordable housing.”
NOT AN EASY TASK
Explaining the difficulties, Ros told us: “We would like to take it on a peppercorn rent, but the council don’t see that as an option.
“It is okay for the council to tell us they need affordable housing, but we also need community spaces. We only found out about the sale when we saw a man up a ladder doing a survey. We were told there was a reference to it in the Town Council minutes!
“This building is one of the last remaining links to the area’s industrial heritage. It was built by the Elkingtons and the Masons for the children of the workers at the copper works. At a point when people really need community space this is an ideal place to start.
“In the minutes of the council meeting they actually say they will have a plaque here when it has been demolished. There is a lot of new building going on in Burry Port. There is a new school and more housing but there are no community meeting places included.
“I would like to think that we could get help to keep this building for the community. The council elections are coming up and it will be interesting to see which side of the fence they sit on regarding this building.”
A look at the buildings of the school shows that it is not long since works have been done on their interior. If the school was demolished, the money spent on those works would appear to have been a waste of public funds.
The Herald tried to contact the County Councillors for Burry Port.
We were told that Councillor Pat Jones was ill and would not be able to speak to us.
Councillor John James was unavailable. Instead, we spoke with Town Councillor Mike Theodolu. We asked Cllr Theodolu what the Town Council’s stand point was on the school and what the future plans were for the school.
He told us: “The council took a decision a few months ago to allow a period of time for the community group that was interested in using it as an arts centre to see what could come up with and whether they could get the funding, the support and business plan to do anything it.
“We gave them a deadline by which they had to come back to us for the end of April or May. If they have not come back to us with something that is a goer then we will find an alternative.”
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Herald asked Councillor Theodolu if the Town Council had conducted any consultation with the community on the future of the building and if they would back a community enterprise. He explained: “The site belongs to the Town Council. We have a duty to get value for money for any asset.
“In this time of financial restraint, the Town Council must bear in mind all the other community facilities we have that need money spending on them. We are also being asked to take on parks and open spaces by the County Council or they will close. We need to find the money to be able to keep those alive for the community.”
We asked whether the buildings and land had been valued and he replied: “We have not had a valuation. We are waiting to see what this group comes up with. I am really proud of this council for listening to a local group that hasn’t got a track record that’s come up with a proposal, because it is taking a risk with a group who haven’t got a bank account; haven’t been constituted; and we are still giving them a chance, whereas other councils wouldn’t.”
Asked what the Town Council would do with the building Councillor Theodolu told The Herald: “We were happy to have given the group the time to put together a business plan together. I have met them and even given them advice about where they can go for help.
“I am quite proud of the way this council has said, there is a local group who have expressed an interest, let’s give them a chance. If nothing comes of that then we have a duty to the rest of the community to use that wisely.
“We will be considering their proposals, if they come up with them by the deadline. “ If they are robust and convincing, they don’t exactly have to have any guarantees and if they have given it enough thought and it looks like they might get somewhere then we will give them the chance to do that.
“If they don’t, we owe it to the rest of the community, with the continuing growing demand on money and resources to save other community facilities, to do something with that building so we can safeguard other facilities.”
We pushed Councillor Theodolu on whether or not the community had been consulted on the sale of the community land and buildings. He said: “We have recently finished a series of public meetings with the public to listen to what people had to say about the parks and other facilities. These were advertised widely.
“A report in local media says that the people unanimously want us to find the money to safeguard the parks and open spaces. There is a limit to how many times you go asking for views and opinions.
“I think we have enough direction from the people in the community about what they want us to do. We will honour the commitment we have made to this group and if they don’t come up with anything that is viable we will move on.”
The campaign group Regenerate Our Copperworks School (ROCS) says that it is encouraged by the responses to their survey of public opinion on the future of the Old Copperworks School in Morlan Terrace: “The survey and petition, which took place throughout, Burry Port invited not only local residents, but also those people outside of Burry Port who have a love of the town, to express their views on this iconic building that Burry Port Town Council wishes to demolish.
“Many people expressed fond memories of the school and shared their school days with us. We are honoured that Lord Leslie Griffiths of Burry Port has agreed to be our patron and we are equally pleased that MP Nia Griffith is a keen supporter of our aims and objectives.
The Group continued: “We are very keen to garner the ideas of the townsfolk as to the future uses of the old school, which we see as a Centre for the Community where we can present art based activities, these could include dance, theatre, music, story-telling, art classes, exhibitions, crafts, historic talks and will include a family room, and a well-being venue, a café and a school museum.
“Our aim is for the old school to be a part of the town’s tourism infrastructure by providing opportunities for craftspeople to hold activities and skilledbased courses and to use local hotels, restaurants and shops.
“We are actively seeking ideas and suggestions from local residents, artists and craftspeople as to possible uses for this amazing space. Also for consideration is an opportunity for an arts-based professional to establish a business in the school.”
The group have now embarked on a survey-questionnaire to gain an appreciation of the needs and requirements of the Townspeople of Burry Port & Pembrey. The objective is to provide a voice for everyone to express their personal needs and determine a new future for the Old Copperworks School.
Members and supporters of the ROCS Group will be visiting homes and the shopping areas to ask members of the public for their opinion. The quick, short questionnaire enquires of interests in dance, the arts, well-being and youth and family based activities, which will be presented to the Town Council.
Wales Women building cohesion at start of big year
Cohesion was the focus for new Wales Women head coach Warren Abrahams during his first training camp of 2021.
Having been in post just over a month, Abrahams has spent time watching the Welsh performances in the Allianz Premier 15s and getting to know players and staff but the two-day camp was a welcome opportunity for quality face to face time with an enlarged training squad.
“We achieved our key aims on the weekend. The main thing was to learn more about the players. The more we understand them as individuals and as a team, that’s where we can make them better as players.
“The ultimate goal at the moment is to develop cohesion. We have to have the right people and make sure we work incredibly hard on those relationships between players and with management. Everything is tailored to making the team better and we also had some meaningful conversations around the legacy this team wants to leave for the next generation of Welsh women’s rugby and this team has to be the role model for that. That is a long-term goal.”
Abrahams is buoyed by what he’s seen so far. The vast majority of this training squad play in the Allianz Premiership and our players aren’t just making up the numbers. They’re putting down some big markers – just look at Kayleigh Powell and Hannah Jones who both earned a Player of the Match recently and Jaz Joyce who was Player of the Month for December. We’re really proud of how well our players are doing, it’s great for the programme and those experiences are just going to make them better.”
Siwan Lillicrap added, “It’s been nice to get together so soon in the New Year – the first step in a huge year ahead. The focus this weekend was on building a foundation and exploring what we’ve got as a squad.
“I think we absolutely achieved that, the relationships are developing along with a confidence in the squad . It’s been a tough, challenging camp but that’s what you want as we build towards the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup.”
Lillicrap welcomed the input of the new-look coaching team, former Wales captain and Colwyn Bay head coach Rachel Taylor coming in as national skills coach and former Ireland international and Penclawdd forwards coach Sophie Spence joining the set-up as Wales’ World Rugby coaching intern.
“Warren has been very inspirational for us already. It feels like he’s been in post much longer as we’ve done a lot of work on zoom already. It’s great to have Rachel on board. She’s a role model for many of us with what’s she’s done on the field as Wales captain and off it as a coach and Sophie too with her international experience and coaching knowledge.”
Forwards: Abbie Fleming, Alisha Butchers, Gwen Crabb, Georgia Evans, Cerys Hale, Cara Hope, Molly Kelly, Natalia John, Manon Johnes, Kelsey Jones, Beth Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap, Robyn Lock, Shona Powell-Hughes, Donna Rose, Caryl Thomas, Meg Webb, Teleri Wyn Davies
Backs: Alecs Donovan, Beth Huntley, Bryonie King, Courtney Keight, Jade Knight, Caitlin Lewis, Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Kayleigh Powell, Paige Randall, Jess Roberts, Gemma Rowland, Lauren Smyth, Elinor Snowsill, Robyn Wilkins, Flo Williams
Scarlets slay Dragons
Pro-14 Conference BScarlets 20 – Dragons 3
SCARLETS started 2021 as they ended 2020 with a Welsh derby victory at Parc y Scarlets.
Tries from man-of-the-match Sione Kalamafoni and replacement Sam Costelow, combined with the boot of Dan Jones ensured Glenn Delaney’s side made it a festive double to move them up to second in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 standings.
The Scarlets weren’t at their free-flowing best and will be frustrated by the amount of handling errors and ill-discipline in their performance, but the winning run continues ahead of next week’s clash with Cardiff Blues in the Welsh capital.
Despite a rare dry night in Llanelli, the opening 40 minutes was littered with errors from both sides and it meant the game had little flow.
The Scarlets enjoyed plenty of possession and territory, but too often passes failed to go to hand.
It was the Dragons who were first on the scoreboard thanks to a penalty from the boot of ex-Scarlet Josh Lewis.
Wales lock Jake Ball limped off moments later with a knee injury to be replaced by Tevita Ratuva, while Wyn Jones, on his 100th appearance, also left the field for a head assessment.
The outstanding Kalamafoni made a powerful surge up the middle of the field to put the Scarlets on the offensive, but again a promising move broke down.
Dan Jones levelled matters on 29 minutes, then added another penalty on the stroke of half-time after a quick tap from Kieran Hardy.
The Scarlets continued to enjoy the better of play in the second period, but had to wait until 57 minutes for the game’s first try.
More pressure led to Gareth Davies being taken out off the ball and Dragons lock Matthew Screech being shown yellow by referee Nigel Owens.
Scarlets went for the corner instead of the shot at goal and a well-worked training move saw Kalamafoni charge across the whitewash for his first try in Scarlets colours, a score converted by Jones.
With former Scarlet Rhodri Williams adding a spark, Dragons looked for an immediate response, but a brilliant turnover from Ratuva snuffed out the threat.
Then in the final play, replacement Sam Costelow picked up a loose ball, sped through the gap and around the final defender for a superb solo score, with the Wales U20s fly-half adding the conversion for good measure.
After the hard-fought win, Scarlets coach Glenn Delaney said: “I suppose it was a compelling contest of a different nature. You saw a lot of kicking battles going on, neither team wanted to give the other counter-attacking opportunities.
“I thought defensively we were very resolute, I never felt we were in danger on our goal-line, it was a bit stop-start with a couple of drop balls, but I am delighted to get the win and we did create a bit more in the second half.
“With these derby games, I am learning every time we play one, they all seem to be pretty much like this and perhaps bring out the best and worst in us because of the individual competition and contest.
“We would have liked to have done a bit more with the ball and the attacking breakdown with us was poor, the Dragons turned over a bit of ball there so we need to be better in that area and make sure when we make the breaks we are able to capitalise.”Attachments area
Scarlets’ late surge sees off Ospreys
Pro-14 Conference B – Ospreys 14 – Scarlets 16
A LATE try from Angus O’Brien secured the derby day spoils in a nail-biting Guinness PRO14 Boxing Day clash against the Ospreys.
The Ospreys, playing as the official ‘home’ team at Parc y Scarlets, had led for the majority of a tense contest.
But with 71 minutes on the clock, a superb off-load from replacement Blade Thomson paved the way for full-back O’Brien to slice through and dive over for the crucial score.
Man of the match Dan Jones added the conversion to put the Scarlets in front for the first time and the West Walians were able to finish the match on the front foot to claim the annual festive bragging rights and a crucial win to keep them in the hunt in the Conference B standings.
O’Brien hadn’t been named in the original match-day 23, but was brought in at the 11th hour as a replacement for Johnny McNicholl.
In blustery conditions, Scarlets enjoyed the early pressure, but despite hammering away at the Ospreys line were unable to come away with any points.
Instead, it was the Ospreys who were first on the board after 14 minutes through the boot of fly-half Stephen Myler.
The opening quarter was proving a cagey affair with both sides unable to get any momentum going.
A moment of individual brilliance from scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams, who dummied and sprinted clear from 40 metres, extended the Ospreys’ lead on 22 minutes, but the Scarlets’ response was swift with Jones landing a penalty straight from the kick-off.
Jones hit the upright with another attempt, then a pin-point cross-field kick from Steff Hughes just evaded the grasp of wing Steff Evans with the line at his mercy.
A powerful scrum on the stroke of half-time led to a long-range penalty chance, but O’Brien’s strike drifted wide with the Ospreys going in ahead 8-3 at the break.
Myler extended his side’s lead early in the second half, but Jones kept Scarlets in it with his kicking out of hand and off the floor.
Two more penalties from the Carmarthen fly-half to one from Myler made it 14-9 going into the final 10 minutes.
Then the Scarlets struck.
With Thomson having a big impact off the bench, the back-rower plucked a ball out of the sky as the Scarlets surged forward. He was involved again soon after, producing a sublime pass to O’Brien who cut a great angle to the posts.
With only two points in it, the Scarlets showed their composure to make their way downfield and set up camp in ‘home’ territory for the final minutes, denying the Ospreys any chance to snatch the win.Glenn Delaney reflected on the absence of fans from the stadium.“You go back 12 months and there were 15,000 people here and I don’t think I have experienced anything like it. This place was electric.“I say it every week, we are very fortunate to be in the position we are and we are only here by virtue of the supporters of this great club. We want the fans back here as soon as possible.“Hopefully, they found a chance to shout at the TV screens, get involved and share the experience. The derby season is passionate, the only thing we are missing is the people. We must get the people back into the game, they would have loved the occasion.”On the performance, while Glenn Delaney was ‘delighted’ with the win, he added: “There is plenty for us to work on. We stayed in the game and that’s what you have to do in a derby.“There were a lot of things we weren’t happy about in terms of our skillsets and penalty count, we were very ill-disciplined and we need to correct that. We were putting pressure on ourselves. We were trying to play and we were quite close on a couple of occasions, a couple of pass-kicks almost went to hand.“Probably not having a game for a week or so showed, our timing was a bit off; we have had a couple of disjointed weeks, we looked a bit rusty. I thought the Ospreys were excellent, put us under pressure and took their points well.”
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