New start for Plas Machynlleth
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A packed public meeting at Ysgol Bro Ddyfi last night heard local people's exciting ideas for developing Plas Machynlleth.
Officers of Powys County Council responded with information about the building and promised to consult the community again before taking any final decision about the future of the building and grounds.
Well over a hundred people attended the meeting organized by Machynlleth and District Local Community Forum. It was clear that the building is important not just to the people of Machynlleth but to the rest of the Dyfi Valley as well.
There was a good mix of Welsh and English speakers and several contributors pointed to the opportunity to build community cohesion through activities and facilities at the Plas.
Bro Ddyfi Young Farmers Club and Mach Fringe are two very lively groups full of talented young people and yet their paths don't often cross. Their representatives spoke about their needs for rehearsal, storage and performance space and saw the potential for cross-fertilisation.
The strong interest in community arts was complemented by proposals to help small businesses by providing office and studio spaces.
These would appeal to people who have started businesses in their homes and need to grow, but the spaces could also be arranged to encourage collaboration between enterprises with similar interests.
New media (including video businesses) and creative arts were identified as growth areas in the valley.
There was strong support for continuing the café and the educational aspects of Celtica. Schools value the experience of Celtic and Welsh heritage, as was seen from teachers' letters read out at the meeting.
This represents a known demand that can readily be satisfied without the existing 'walk-through' attraction. It was suggested that many of the artifacts could be kept, even though the future emphasis would be on 'hands-on' activities, workshops and discussions.
The County Council emphasized the need for any initiative to stand on its own feet financially. If a community company came forward with a proposition that would earn enough to cover its on-going costs, the Council would consider providing a lease on favourable terms.
Several people spoke of the need to consider all the Machynlleth public buildings together. It will be important not to compete with the highly-valued Tabernacl, and the Owain Glyndwr Institute and Parliament Building have development plans of their own.
The County Council would like to own fewer properties, but would only consider attempting to sell the Plas after all other options had been well and truly exhausted.
There was sustained applause for speakers who reminded the meeting that Colonel Beaumont had given the property to the people of Machynlleth, even though legal title had passed to the County Council through reorganizations of local government.
A planning meeting was arranged for January 5th, to be held at Ysgol Bro Ddyfi at 7.30. It will be open to all, and is expected to set up specialist groups to develop plans for a multi-purpose centre at the Plas.
Meanwhile, the meeting requested that Celtica be retained until September 2006 instead of closing at the end of March. It was felt that this would help the economy of the town and maintain the attractiveness of the property, even if aspects of the operation had to change. Councillor Gwilym Fychan undertook to relay this request to the County Council.
People with further ideas or who may be able to help but are unable to attend on January 5th should contact Andy Rowland on 01654 703965 or Meic Llewellyn at email@example.com.
Andy Rowland, Chair of Machynlleth & District Local Community Forum 01654 703965
Meic Llewellyn, Voluntary Arts Wales 01650 511778
Machynlleth & District Local Community Forum works alongside the Bro Ddyfi Communities First Partnership in developing the Bro Ddyfi Action Plan.
This summarises what the community thinks is important for the future and connects local people with those responsible for providing resources and services.
The Forum was established as part of the Powys Community Strategy process and is administered by regeneration group ecodyfi.
The elected Chair is Andy Rowland.