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.
Gascoigne entertains Llanelli
OVER 400 people were at attendance in the Selwyn Samuel Centre in Llanelli on Saturday (Jun 18) to see former England legend Paul Gascoigne talk about his life and footballing career.
Gazza had the crowd in stitches with his stories from his past and was visibly emotional with the crowd’s warm reaction to him being there.
At one point a member of the crowd asked him if he could play one last game for one team who would it be… his answer was Swansea City to the crowds delight.
His next event will be in Tenby on September 17. The event was kindly sponsored by RDH Contractors and Sylan Lakes holiday cottages in five roads.
Ryan Giggs quits as Wales manager with ‘immediate effect’
EX Man-Utd winger has left his position as the manager of the national football team with ‘immediate effect’.
Giggs stepped back from his role in November 2020 following after being arrested.
49-year-old Giggs has been charged with assault and using controlling behaviour towards an ex-partner. A claim that Giggs has denied.
In a heartfelt statement on his decision, Giggs said: “After much consideration, I am standing down from my position as manager of the Wales men’s national team with immediate effect.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to manage my country, but it is only right that the Wales FA, the coaching staff and the players prepare for the tournament with certainty, clarification and without speculation around the position of their head coach.
“I do not want the country’s preparations for the World Cup to be affected, destabilised or jeopardised in any way by the continued interest around this case.
“I am sad that we cannot continue this journey together because I believe that this extraordinary group will make the country proud at our first World Cup since 1958.
“It is my intention to resume my managerial career at a later date.”
Following Giggs arrest in 2020, former Wales captain Robert Page took over as interim manager.
Under Page Wales beat Ukraine to earn themselves a place at Qatar World Cup for the first time in 64 years.
Giggs faces one charge of using controlling and coercive behaviour August 2017 and November 2020, one charge of assault causing actual bodily harm of his ex-girlfriend Kate Greville on November 1, 2020.
He also faces a charge of common assault on the victim’s sister.
Giggs denies all charges against him and will stand trial on August 8.
The trial is expected to last five days.
Following the announcement, a FAW spokesperson said: “The FAW places on record its gratitude to Ryan Giggs for his tenure as manager of the Cymru men’s national team and appreciates the decision he has taken, which is in the best interests of Welsh football,
“The full focus of the FAW and the Cymru men’s national team is on the Fifa World Cup in Qatar later this year.”
Llanelli edged out as Ynystawe pull off mammoth chase
A SCORE of 331-4 would normally be enough for a team to pick up victory, but South Wales Premier Division 2 leaders Ynystawe had other ideas as they pulled off a remarkable chase on Saturday (Jun 4).
Llanelli had been asked to bat first after Ynystawe had won the toss and their total was underpinned by a brilliant unbeaten century from Iwan Rees.
The opener hit sixteen fours and four sixes in his knock of 153 which came off 146 balls.
He had good support from Steven Devonald who scored 29 and Rhydian Morgan who scored 20 (2 fours, 1 six).
Rees and Rhys Harris shared the best stand of the match as they put on 157 runs for the fourth wicket.
Harris hit 12 fours in his score of 87 from 74 balls but he was out to the bowling of Rhys Palmer.
Rhys Westcott also finished unbeaten on 18 from 11 balls as Ynystawe were set 332 to win the game.
In reply, opener Nathan Lee scored 20 before falling to Jac Rees who also then took the wicket of Morgan Hodges on a score of 23.
Carl Roberts played well for his half century, hitting eight fours in his score of 56 before being trapped leg before by Aled Gilley.
Andrew Beasley was run out on a score of 15 and that left Ynystawe on 140-4.
Thomas Morgan and Luke Garthwaite shared 93 runs for the fifth wicket. Both reached their half centuries but Morgan was out to Iwan Rees on a score of 50.
Rees also bowled Ceri Durke and Rhys Palmer was run out by Rhydian Morgan having hit a four and a six in a quickfire score of 15.
That left Ynystawe 275-7 and they only had six overs left to get their target.
Garthwaite was on a score of 75 when Palmer fell and he took control as he smashed his way to a century.
He finished unbeaten on 118 from 67 balls after hitting 20 fours and two sixes. The last of his fours won the game for the home side as they ended up winning with two overs to spare.
On Saturday, June 11, Llanelli host Cowbridge while Ynynstawe travel to Penarth.
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