The running of a community centre has been handed from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council to Pontypridd Town Council.
Graig Community Centre has been the subject of a community asset transfer with the community council taking on a 21-year lease.
The centre was leased to the trustees of Graig Community Centre for 28 years from November 30, 1998 but the trustees approached the council to consider the early surrender of the lease as they were no longer best placed to manage the building due to rising maintenance costs along with reduced committee members.
The council agreed with the request to surrender the lease and there was then a 30-day window of opportunity in December 2019 and January 2020 for any “not for personal profit” community organisation to submit an “expression of interest” to lease the centre.
The only expression of interest received was submitted by the town council and a costed business plan was submitted by the town council in October 2022, detailing the proposal for the lease of the centre to re-establish a programme of community engagement and development opportunities.
As the building has remained closed since before Covid-19, the town council also wish to expand services to meet identified local need.
The proposal involves:
- Supporting and encouraging activities for older and more vulnerable people on the Graig and wider surrounding areas, such as friendship groups, community coffee mornings and advice
- Encouraging people to lead a more active lifestyle by promoting and supporting lifestyle activity groups and providing a safe, subsidised centre for such activities to take place.
- Supporting the improvement of outcomes for children and young people by encouraging use of the centre for youth provision and children’s activities.
A council report on the community asset transfer said that various community groups have expressed an interest in using the facility as local demand for services grow, which include a local playgroup, Men’s Shed activities, cultural arts activities, gardening, food growing and community pantry activities, as well as intergenerational activities
At the strategic community asset transfer panel meeting in November 2022, it was recommended to approve the lease to the town council for a number of reasons including that the building was handed back to the council by the previous tenants who were unable to sustain the tenancy, the town council’s proposal for the centre meets identified local need, promoting a sense of ownership for a facility valued by local people and the proposal provided details in relation to accessing additional community services, enabling residents of all ages and abilities to socialise at little or no cost.
Other reasons included that the proposal will safeguard and sustain a facility that the whole community can use to engage in activities to improve their general health and well-being, learn new skills, socialise and feel connected, the town council wish to expand their support and reach in local communities as a community anchor organisation by creating a network of community hubs across their catchment area and the town council has commissioned a building condition and sustainability survey and are fully prepared to take on the running of the centre whilst exploring funding opportunities to enhance the ageing building to ensure it is energy efficient and fit for purpose.
The town council have also secured capital funding from the UK Government Shared Prosperity Fund – RCT Community Fund to carry out key renovations and energy efficiency enhancements which must be completed by the end of March 2024 and which are subject to the lease completion and landlords consent.
There were a couple of risks identified but also some mitigations to those.
One risk was around maintenance issues relating to assuming responsibility for a community building that hasn’t been used or open for a few years but the town council has commissioned and received a building condition and sustainability report which will feed into a schedule of works with the aim of completing these by the end of March 2024. Capital funding has been secured subject to the completion of the lease and the town council employ a support team who can respond to day to day maintenance requests quickly.
Another risk identified was financial sustainability of the community asset but the town council has completed an exercise to look at community need in the area.
Further events will be held to encourage local people to use the building once the building is open and the town council will endeavour to ensure that the income from the centre is sustainable but has acknowledged that may take time and in the meantime is prepared to subsidise its running costs.