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Community Politics Rhondda Cynon Taf South Wales

Welfare hall in Cynon Valley to be run by charity

AN OLD age pensioners welfare hall in the Cynon Valley has been handed over to a charity to continue running the services and activities there.

In April, Penrhiwceiber Old Age Pensioners Welfare Hall was handed over to Lee Gardens Pool Committee through community asset transfer.

The charitable incorporated organisation took on the building on a 25-year lease.

The delegated officer decision report said that a costed business plan was submitted by Lee Gardens Pool Committee for the proposed leasehold transfer to enable the group to maintain service provision and meet demand whilst expanding and diversifying to meet identified local need.

The existing tenants felt they were no longer best placed to manage the building due to the rising utility and maintenance costs along with their reduced committee members and as such had asked to surrender the current lease.

The report added that the only “expression of interest” received during the 30-day window of opportunity was from Lee Gardens Pool Committee.

It said that the Lee Gardens group’s proposal for the hall meets identified local need, promoting a sense of ownership for a facility valued by local people.

It said the proposal provides continued access to existing community services as well as proposals to extend provision, enabling residents of all ages and abilities to socialise at little or no cost.

The report added 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.

It said that Lee Gardens Pool Committee are prepared to take on the running of the building whilst they explore other funding opportunities to enhance the building ensuring the ageing building will be improved and remodelled to ensure it is energy efficient and fit for purpose.

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And the report said Lee Gardens have a history of successfully levering in significant sums of capital and revenue grant funding for their existing leased pool site with awarded funding of £683,799.94 since 2015.

The report added that Lee Gardens Pool Committee were very active during the start of the coronavirus pandemic, witnessing loneliness and isolation increase and people’s wellbeing plummet.

Following lifting of lockdown restrictions, the committee started holding socially distanced events in the pool grounds.

When restrictions were further lifted Penrhiwceiber Old Age Pensioners Welfare Hall was regularly hired to meet growing demand for services and the report said that it soon became apparent that the leaseholders were finding the daily upkeep of the centre difficult and a partnership was established with Lee Garden Pool Committee with volunteers carrying out the day-to-day maintenance and building management.

The activities, organised by Lee Gardens Pool Committee which are currently run from the OAP Welfare Hall include:

  • Knit & Natter – A free group for people of all ages who like to knit, crochet and do needlework. Knitting for friends and family or join a team of fundraisers and produce items for sale to raise money for Lee Gardens Pool. There are 30 members of this group, some of which knit from home.
  • Purple Shoots Quiet Quillers – A self-regulating group making paper quilled objects
  • Family Craft – An after-school group for children and family members making a range of craft items.
  • Christmas Craft – An RCT adult education group expressing themselves through craft
  • Valley’s Re-Told – A local history group working with Museum Wales on a project funded by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation to bring art into the community.
  • Friendly Friday Drop-In – A space where people can call in for refreshments and a chat that is free, friendly and warm, regularly hosting on average, twenty people.
  • Weekly table-top sales – A sale of pre-loved toys, clothes, bedding and other household items, even furniture, to people who need them, at significantly reduced costs, which provides a small income.This activity also reinforces the importance of recycling and re-using items by diverting waste from landfill and helps alleviate the impact of cost of living challenges for some families.

It also hosts The Joan Club, an over 60’s group which  meets weekly, and CISWO, the Coal Industry’s Social Welfare Organisation, which meets once a fortnight.

The officers’ report concluded that Lee Gardens Pool Group’s proposal offers a viable and sustainable opportunity to a provide an accessible space from which to operate valued services and activities within the heart of the community.

It said that the benefits of transferring an asset to a community group on a long-term leasehold transfer are substantial and varied, unlocking community enterprise, encouraging volunteer commitment, helping use local knowledge and skills and allowing the organisation to attract the necessary capital investment to create a thriving community facility.

It also said that a lease will increase the sense of ownership, enabling local people to develop a valuable asset, empowering the community to design and deliver services to meet local need as well as providing them with an ability to lever in funding to enhance this much-loved community asset.