Friday, 8 December 2017

Council Meeting - Transfer of Assets, Library and Community Centre

The Town Council have finally lost patience with the County Council, after yet another letter they have sent which has not been replied to. They think it's time for legal action, and were discussing solicitor's letters and contacting the ombudsman, as well as the Welsh Assembly and One Voice Wales. At this stage, they said, there is no point in worrying about upsetting Powys County Council. The last communication they got from the County Council was from someone called Clive Pinney, who told them that he was "awaiting direction from the Cabinet" on the issues around the car park etc.

Meanwhile, the Library will be moving into the room in the new school building in the New Year. Trudi, the Mayor, went to the Open Evening at the new school, and was told there that the school would be moving into the new premises in February. They would take a while to get settled in, and then the Library would move across in about April.
This has consequences for the Town Council, who will not be able to meet in the old school hall in February, and cannot meet in the Council Chambers because of the stairs. They also, of course, cannot meet at the Swan, because of the sale of alcohol there.
There's a possibility they may be able to meet in the new Library room later in the year.
Meanwhile, Trudi has written to the County Council department in charge of property, to express an interest in the old Library building, before the Cabinet meeting the following day. She was quite prepared to withdraw the interest if that was what the Town Council wanted. There was some confusion over who was eligible to apply for and expression of interest, but it seems that Town Councils qualify under the heading of "third sector organisation".
There is still, of course, the problem of how to pay for the old Library building, without the rental income they get from the Council Chambers, and on the whole, they thought there was more chance of them being able to hang on to the Council Chambers, as the County Council have already said that they can only have one building. It might even be possible to restructure the Council Chambers so that there is disabled access and a downstairs disabled toilet (instead of the one on the first floor that nobody with a disability can get to).
In any case, if they were to try to take over the Library building, they would need a detailed business plan, with costings and so forth, which they do not have. (Readers of this blog may remember that HOWLS tried, and failed, to get accurate figures from the County Council so that they could prepare a business plan).
At present the Registrar's office, suitable for weddings, is on the ground floor of the Council Chambers, but the County Council is moving over to a system of sending registrars out by appointment rather than having an office as a base - this already happens in Talgarth. What happens to the records without an office to store them in is unclear.

The Community Space in the new school will be controlled by the school - the school will control the bookings, and the first priority for the use of the space will be for the school. Money from bookings will go to the school.
The Town councillors queried how this was, in any way, community space if this was the case. As it seems to be set up, it's just a room in the school which the school lets out occasionally. It's certainly not a replacement for the old community centre, and calling the school a "community school" is meaningless.

Under planning policy, when Wales and West Housing Association took on the site of the old community centre, an equivalent community space had to be provided for the town. This clearly hasn't happened. The Town Council will therefore challenge the County Council, and include the National Park in the discussion.
At the moment, there is only outline planning permission on the old community centre site - there are various problems with access and so on before full planning permission can be granted.

And while all this is going on, HADSCAL have put forward their latest plans for a hall and changing rooms on the land they own by the playing fields, which could also be a community centre. This plan has history going right back to the millennium, when grand plans for a community/sports centre came to nothing - but they are trying again. They have sent copies of the plan of the proposed building to the Town Council, and have asked for a representative of the Town Council to sit on their committee. Three councillors are also part of HADSCAL (they left the room while this was being discussed).
They have enough money to take this to the planning stage, but need to raise more money to actually build the hall, and they provided two sets of plans. Depending on funding they could start with a basic phase one, and possibly move on to a bigger phase two. I'm not sure about the legalities surrounding this, but it seems that, if they do manage to build it, HADSCAL are not able to manage the building.
However, unlike the "community space" in the new school, this hall would be suitable for weddings, funeral teas, youth club, local theatre group, and so on - and for playing badminton and other indoor sports.
There was some discussion of the pottery group which used a room in the old community centre, where they could also store their work between sessions - this would not be possible in this new hall, and it certainly won't be possible in the "community space" at the new school.
Somebody mentioned the Salem Chapel, and how nice it would be to use that space for the town.

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