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Rethink needed on Berwyn Centre

December 13, 2012 9:29 AM

On a wet Thursday evening last week I made my way to Nantymoel to meet with the local campaign group set up to fight for the retention of the Berwyn Centre.

As has been reported in previous Glamorgan Gazettes this is an important and historic building. Nantymoel.com records that this is one of the most iconic buildings in the Ogmore Valley. Built in 1901/2, the former miner's workman's hall and cinema has been a central hub of the community for over 100 years, housing at various times a disco, theatre, library, reading rooms, cafe and playgroups amongst many others.

Officially, Bridgend County Borough Council is the trustees of this building and have been responsible for keeping it in good nick. However, in the last few years they have allowed it to fall into disrepair and on the 18th September 2012 the Council's cabinet voted to close and demolish it.

According to the reports I have seen they considered that the cost of repair was too great, setting it at around £2 million and that their only course of action was to knock the building down and partially fund a new building.

However, another report commissioned for local residents disputes this and says that the building can be brought back into use for much less. If this is the case then the inadequate sum of money earmarked for the demolition and rebuild can be used to repair the existing building. It will certainly not be enough to build a new centre even if that were desirable.

I have now had an opportunity to read the Trust deed, which gave the Council responsibility for this building. As a result I have posed a number of questions to the Council and to the Charity Commission.

The first thing that I noted was that the deed appoints the Council as a trustee but does not say how they can be replaced. I have asked the Charity Commission for details as to how this can be done. If the Council cannot be trusted to look after this building then others should have a chance.

The deed also says that if the Trustee decides to discontinue the use of the building as a community centre then the decision needs to be confirmed by a majority of the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries in this case are the residents of Nantymoel.

Why have local residents not been consulted in this way? What is the Council's intention with regards to the cleared site and the proceeds of any sale?

In my view the Council have acted in a high-handed and arbitrary manner in seeking to demolish the Berwyn Centre. I would urge them to engage with the community and think again.

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