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.
Llanelli AC round off season
LLANELLI Athletics Club junior members from under 11’s upwards rounded off their track and field season with the annual end-of-season Inter Club Competition at the Pemberton Athletics Track on the final Tuesday of August.
Events held were 75m, 100m, 800m, High Jump, Long Jump, Javelin and Shot.
48 hours later, it was the turn of the under 17, under 20 and senior athletes to participate in the track championships situated next to Parc Y Scarlets.
They were great evenings of friendly competition in front of family, friends and coaches as members now look forward to the cross country, road and indoor season in Wales and further afield in England.
Thirty-five under 11, under 13 and under 15 athletes took part on the first evening whilst more than a dozen of the club’s under 17, under 20 and senior were in action at the second event.
Age Group winners will be announced at the club’s annual presentation evening later this year.
Elsewhere, there was a good representation of senior and master athletes at the recent Cardiff Metropolitan University 10K in the Welsh Capital.
Out of the twenty-six running from the club, twelve recorded new personal bests over this distance in an event which saw more than 6,000 runners finish as it continues to grow year on year.
Finishing times: Dai Keenan (34:02), Nick Sheehan (34:04), Dean Summers (34:22), Jimmy Watkins (34:37), Jamie Stedman (36:29), Alan Davies (36:57), Simon Rees (38:36), Rob Davies (42:55), Mike Halsall (44:16), Jordan Chappell (45:27), Tahir Altimimi (45:47), Craig Hopkins (46:10), Roxanne Turner (47:36), Luigi Bonifacio (52:56), Vanessa Buckler (53:35), Andrew Stephens (55:02), Andrew Bowen (55:27), Emily Denmark (56:11), Heledd Jones (59:48), Hannah Gale (59:49), Rachel Evans (60:29), Zoe Jermin-Jones (63:14), Lisa Campion (67:40), Rob Campion (67:42), Vicki Turner (71:22) and Amanda de la Hey (74:29).
Carmarthen’s David Jones crossed the line as the 63rd male home, in a time of 34 minutes 45 seconds.
Stars batter Bynea
New Dock Stars 91-0 Bynea
NEW DOCK STARS earned their first win of the season on Saturday as they thrashed Bynea 91-0.
The home side ran in thirteen tries in an impressive display which saw Jason Baxter convert ten of those.
Jordan Evans, Josh Harris and Luke Morris all scored twice as did Joe Scott and Stu Taylor.
Luke Edwards, Kieron James and Levi Roots also bagged themselves a try each as they showed no let up against their opponents.
Baxter also added two penalties for an excellent personal haul of 26 points.
The result lifts the Stars up to third in the table while Bynea remain bottom.
On Saturday (Sept 21), Bynea will look to bounce back when they face Laugharne in the first round of the WRU Bowl.
The Stars will be full of confidence after their big win and they face Tumble in the first round of the Bowl.
Trim too good for Furnace
Furnace 8-21 Trimsaran
TRIMSARAN travelled the short distance to Furnace on Saturday (Sept 14) for what was an entertaining derbt clash.
This was the first meeting between the two teams for a few years as Furnace were promoted along with Penygroes last season after finishing second in League 3 West Central C last season.
The cherries won their first game last week against Bynea by 55-8 so were on a high coming into the game after also having a successful pre-season which saw them win all 3 of their games.
Trim also made a winning start to the season last week after a narrow victory over Cefneithin by 18-15.
Trimsaran were under no illusions how difficult this game would be and knew they would have to give 110% if they wanted to stop the cherries.
Trim kicked off and after a handling error Furnace had the early initiative with a scrum near halfway.
Trim showed their intention from this scrum driving Furnace back 10-15 meters and getting awarded the early penalty.
This was the start of a period of 20 minutes where Trim were pressuring the Furnace defence and in the home teams territory constantly.
Furnace did show some strong defence and had secured a couple of turnover but it wasn’t long until Trim took a well-deserved lead after second row Emyr Evans crossed the whitewash to open the scoring after some good build up work by Trim.
Furnace ill-discipline allowed Trim to get the territory and within the next 10 minutes Trim had extended their lead to 11-0 after two penalties by fly half Corey Phillips.
Furnace came into the game now after a loose return kick from the kick off and had a run of possession and territory, this allowed them to break down the wing and score their first try of the game in the corner against the run of play. The score was now 5-11 to the visitors with 10 minutes of the first half left.
Trim were back pressuring the home team deep in their 22 and set up a driving maul from a lineout but some good defence from Furnace turned the ball over and allowed them to clear their lines.
However, some more ill-discipline for being offside allowed Trim to again get territory and after a few good phases of play from the forwards the ball was passed out to winger Callum McCormack who touched down for his teams second try in the corner.
The difficult conversion was nailed over by Corey Phillips and with only 5 minutes of the first half remaining the score was 5-18.
From the kick off Trim cleared their lines only to be told it was kicked out on the full so Furnace now had an ideal attacking lineout just before half time to hit back. The cherries were awarded a scrum 5 yards out after the ball became unplayable and had one more chance as the ref called last play to get some sort of points.
Furnace tried to power their way through but Trim held them out before they spread the ball wide and were tackled into touch to bring the first half to an end. Trim were happy with the outcome at half time but knew Furnace would come back at them in the second half all guns blazing.
Furnace kicked off the second half and were the team to pressure first. They were awarded a penalty of their own which they kicked at goal to reduce the deficit after 5 minutes of the second half.
Trim pushed for another score to extend their league but a pass was intercepted by the Furnace hooker and he booted the ball back down deep into the Trim 22.
A shove from the Cherries number 9 off the ball resulted in a yellow card for him as the ref had finally had enough of the penalties conceded after numerous warnings. This allowed Trim to clear their lines and retain possession from the lineout.
The game started to turn a bit scrappy now with both teams failing to retain possession for enough phases to trouble the defensive lines. Furnace did have a break down the wing but the green and blacks defence was strong enough to keep them out only for Furnace to be awarded a penalty and a shot at goal which was unsuccessful. 5 minutes later it was Trim who were extending their lead thanks to a drop goal from hooker and captain Ryan Edwards to make the score 8-21 with 20 minutes left.
Trim had a further chance through a penalty to take the game beyond the home team but the shot at goal was just missed. Furnace had more possession and territory in the final 10 minutes of the game but the green and blacks held firm in defence and managed to hold out everything the cherries threw at them. When the ref called last play of the game full back Dan Griffiths booted the ball off the field to secure an impressive win for Trimsaran and to make it two wins out of two.
On Saturday (Sept 21), Trimsaran host Amman United and Furnace travel to Cardigan in the first round of the Specsavers National Bowl.
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