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Kidwelly Industrial Museum closed for years despite attempts to reopen

Inside Kidwelly Industrial Museum (Pic: Carmarthenshire Council)

LONG-TERM plans to reopen Kidwelly Industrial Museum without “simply repeating the same offer” as before are to be looked at by Carmarthenshire Council.

The museum is on a 13-acre site featuring scheduled ancient monuments, listed buildings, steam engines, rolling mills and numerous artefacts connected to the tinplate industry. It was operated by the Kidwelly Industrial Museum Trust from the early 1980s to 2017, when the museum closed.

A letter from a Carmarthenshire Council officer on behalf of council leader Darren Price said the museum trust had made several attempts to re-start its activities since 2017 but that the Covid pandemic and other challenges had “made matters extremely difficult” for the few remaining trustees.

It said: “Over time, the management of the museum site has gradually returned to Carmarthenshire Council through the museum service because the authority as landowner has obligations to ensure its care.”

The letter,  seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, said the buildings, land and collections had been surveyed with a view to set out “realistic options” for the site.

The letter added: “We have been using this time to start making links with key individuals and heritage organisations we believe will be beneficial to the museum going forward. Our plans will include making bids to funders once the project plans are fully developed. We know that simply repeating the same offer as before will not work but there are very good examples of equivalent sites that are operating successfully in the UK, and we will be looking carefully at these.”

Trustee chairman Malcolm MacDonald said the organisation had been reliant on volunteers, with funding over the years coming from the county council, Kidwelly Town Council and donations. Asked if he would like the trust, which has a 125-year lease for the museum, to have a role to play in the site’s future, he said: “Yes, I think that is important.”

Mr MacDonald said he had been trying for a year-and-a-half to arrange a meeting with the county council to understand what its plans were. He gave a presentation to the town council in April, minutes of which said legal negotiations between trustees and the county council were “complex and ongoing”. The minutes also said the site was deteriorating.

Asked what sort of condition the buildings were in, Cllr Gareth John, cabinet member for regeneration, leisure, culture and tourism, said a detailed survey had been carried out by specialists.

“It is fair to say that the condition of the structures vary due to their age, purpose and exposure to the elements,” he said. “Health and safety works have been prioritised whilst options for its future are considered.”

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