Bontgoch fights for its community building
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Work is underway to see how the old school in Bontgoch can be saved for the community.
The community group for the village, Cymdeithas Elerch, has been campaigning since March 2004 to create a community centre from this deteriorating and unused building.
Now the community regeneration group for the Dyfi Valley, ecodyfi, has secured funds from the Welsh Development Agency to move the process on.
Neil Taylor, an Aberystwyth consultant, has already interviewed residents and analysed the evidence about the need for such a centre.
He noted that in recent years the village has experienced a remarkable regeneration, with an influx of younger couples moving back into the area, and that the village now has 30 children under fifteen years of age, 22 of whom were born in Bontgoch.
Gareth Evans is one Bontgoch resident asking where they are to play.
"At the moment they only have the roads, but these are dangerous because they are narrow and busy", he said.
"And where do the young parents meet?"
ecodyfi has just appointed a second consultant on behalf of the group.
Alan Underwood's job is to explore how funds might be raised to buy, restore and equip the building.
He is expected to propose a combination of grants from the European Union, statutory bodies, charitable foundations, businesses and contributions in kind from the local community.
The group will put all this evidence to the planning committee of Ceredigion County Council, hoping it will refuse permission to change the building to a private dwelling.
Members point out that the planning policies of Ceredigion County Council do not permit the change of use of a building which leads to the loss of an existing community facility unless there is an alternative provision.
They argue that a possible part-time use of the rear section of the church would come nowhere near meeting the needs of the whole community, and would not provide an appropriate outdoor play area for the children, so therefore is not an alternative provision.
Sharon Walters is a member of the Cymdeithas Elerch committee.
"Every community needs a place where we can all meet together under one roof", she said.
"It's a fundamental necessity".
She explained that the new centre would be the venue for village meetings and for a range of groups such as a Youth Club, Gardener's Club, and Mothers and Toddlers, that it would be used for regular social events such as whist drives, barbecues, firework displays and Eisteddfodau and for special fund-raising events.
The Centre could be hired for celebrations of weddings and birthdays and provide a meeting place for mourners following funeral services at St Peter's.
The Old School could also continue its original educational purpose, by running Welsh classes and regular workshops.
The community committee's Chair, Cathy Jones, commented that "There is a big enthusiasm in the village to have a central meeting place.
"The Old School is perfect for what we need and the potential is enormous."
Andy Rowland, ecodyfi Manager 01654 703965
Cathy Jones, Cymdeithas Elerch 01970 832868
Sharon Walters, Cymdeithas Elerch 01970 832758