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Community spirit saves nursery from ‘disaster’

The completed portakabin: After help from the community
The completed portakabin: After help from the community
The completed portakabin: After help from the community

THE CLOSURE of a school in Llansawel which resulted in the loss of a nursery has had a happy ending after community members step in to help out in a massive effort.

The village hall committee trust have provided a new home for the Cylch Meithrin, a popular nursery group based in the village school, which the county council closed last Easter.

Bill Davies, the secretary for the committee, spoke to the Herald about the issue, explaining: “The closure of our school was of course a disaster for our village. Cylch Meithrin had occupied one of the school’s outbuildings for about forty years and were given notice to quit around Christmas 2014.”

The committee felt that to lose that nursery as well as the school would have compounded the problem, as parents would quickly be persuaded to take their children elsewhere as the lack of certainty for a continuous service had been lost.

Due to impracticality, the village hall were unable to hold the children from the group as it would conflict with other on-going community activities that take place there, and the lack of space would be insufficient for the children.

Bill Davies explained: “We felt we had to act quickly and there was no time to apply for supporting grants, so we chose to use some of the hall’s own savings, so that we could assure parents that the new space would be satisfactory and that there would be no break in the service.”

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To attempt to provide somewhere for the nursery, the committee purchased a large elderly portakabin on Ebay, which was an ex-MOD classroom, and measured approximately 10 metres by 7.5 metres. The room was brought to the committee from Essex by a local road haulier Roy Davies, and was stored in his own yard until the time was right.

The committee then applied for, and successfully received, planning permission whilst preparations for a building foundation were carried out, including water and electric supply, and sewerage.

When the building was put in place, the committee realised that more needed to be done in order to accomplish the task successfully for the nursery. Bill Davies continued, “We realised that we would have to do a good deal more to it than originally intended, to make it comfortable, especially when we learned that it had been made for export to the Middle East and that the level of insulation was less than we had supposed. Basically, we had bought a strong steel frame but everything else needed to be improved.”

Throughout the summer and autumn of 2015, Bill Davies and the rest of the committee took part in a great effort to finish the building. The windows and doors were replaced with larger doubleglazed units, insulation on the walls was doubled and tripled in the roof space, children’s and staff toilets were installed, and a new kitchen and cloakroom/hallway were put in place. The building was rewired to have a new false ceiling, a water heater, and a thermostat-timer controlled heating system. The interior was then also decorated and ramps were built up to the entrance of the building.

After months of dedicated hard work, the project was completed in November, but since then the committee have been waiting on CSSIW (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales) to finish their processes to allow the Meithrin to move into their new home. Carmarthenshire Council has allowed the Meithrin to remain in its old home until the transition can be made.

The total cost of the project was under £14,000 which included the £1500 cost of the building itself. Various contributions to help out were made by members of the community including the doors and windows who were fitted by local builders Emyr Roberts, and Elgan Davies. Emyr also used skilled labour to install the kitchen free of charge. Other general work was carried out on a volunteer basis by various members of the committee. All materials and costs were paid for by the committee, and the total cost amounted to approximately three quarters of the committee’s savings.

Barrie Martin, the Trust’s chairman, said: “We were fortunate to have managed the Trust’s finances to have accumulated a surplus: we do not exist to build a miser’s heap; and you could hardly think of a better use for the money than to keep the Meithrin in our community.”