Controversial new museum approved in Carmarthenshire
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Kidwelly will have a new museum featuring old world-style cottages after a project which a town council officer said would benefit the town but which had split the community was given the go-ahead.
The new History Shed Experience will feature exhibition space, two pole barns, public toilets and four single-storey cottages replicating life in Wales, America and Patagonia from days gone by. It will be built on land beside Glan-Yr-Afon car park, Bridge Street.
The attraction used to be in Laugharne but had to close. The Kidwelly scheme will be bigger than its predecessor and will be a run by a community interest company (CIC) called the History Shed Experience.
Mark Stephens, estates officer at Kidwelly Town Council, which applied for planning permission, told a county council planning meeting that it would give visitors to Kidwelly Castle an added experience and benefit businesses in the town.
“This project has caused a split in the community, but I am of the opinion that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages,” he said.
Earlier, residents Denise Phillips and Peter Collett outlined their objections, with Mrs Phillips saying public money was being used to support a “commercial enterprise for personal gain” on designated green space.
She said alternative sites had been offered, and that the land at Glan-Yr-Afon was already used for carnivals and festivals.
She said: “It belongs to the people of Kidwelly for the use of residents – it should not be given to support an enterprise.”
She urged the planning committee to reject or defer making a decision and that, in her view, approving the application would be “unconscionable”.
Mr Collett criticised the consultation process from 2019 onwards relating to the project, and claimed the History Shed Experience in Laugharne was “far from universally popular”. He also claimed the town council had spent £7,000 in planning-related costs.
A county council planning officer said the proposed attraction would be served by the existing Glan-Yr-Afon car park, which has 122 spaces but was only 10% full on average. He said 254 of the responses to the application were supportive.
The planning officer said the land was currently designated as a nature reserve, that it was 600m from protected landscapes, and that there would be loss of some open space.
Notwithstanding that, officers recommended the application for approval, subject to a number of conditions and the requirement for a “test of likely significant effect” on the site to be carried out by the authority.
Cllr Gareth Thomas proposed that the committee approved the recommendation, saying he understood some of the objectors’ concerns but that “some people probably disagreed with the building of the castle 1,000 years ago”.
Cllr Michael Thomas said he felt the project was a “win-win”, while Cllr John James asked what alternative open space there was in Kidwelly.
The planning officer said there were play areas near the Glan-Yr-Afon site which “were more than enough for the purposes of this town”.
Committee chairman Cllr Tyssul Evans said he could remember when there was a mart and slaughterhouse at the site and said of the History Shed Experience proposal: “I think this is very exciting for Kidwelly, and for Carmarthenshire as a whole.”
Councillors voted in favour of the application, with one abstention.
Speaking afterwards, History Shed Experience CIC director Tony Jukes said: “It’s going to be an amazing project for the town, which desperately needs it.”
Mr Jukes said costs would be drawn up by a quantity surveyor, and that he anticipated that funding for the delivery of the project would be provided via grants to the town council.
He said he envisaged the attraction to be open in the middle to late 2023 at the earliest, and that the buildings would be owned by the town council.
“The History Shed Experience CIC will only be the tenants,” he said.
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