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Council accused of refusing petition to save Aberfan’s community centre

25 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Aberfan Community Centre in Merthyr Tydfil.

Emily Price

A local council has been accused of refusing to accept a 1,800-name petition by residents to save a leisure centre that was set-up in the aftermath of the 1966 Aberfan Disaster.

Aberfan & Merthyr Vale Community Centre was built for locals following the tragic coal slip disaster which killed 144 people – including 116 school children.

Fears about the future of the leisure centre were raised earlier this month when notices were put up in the building stating it would close on April 1st.

The centre has been described as a “beacon of hope” and news of its possible closure sparked protests from local residents.

Leisure facilities in the borough have been operated by the Wellbeing Merthyr Trust since 2015 – but this contract is due to come to an end.

The trust manages and develops leisure and cultural facilities within Merthyr Tydfil on behalf of the council.

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council plans to appoint an alternative provider but so far there has been no official announcement on who will run the community centre in Aberfan.

The council says it’s faced with several “legal hurdles” because the building is vested in the current trustees and does not automatically revert to the council at the end of the contract.

Merthyr Tydfil Council leader Geraint Thomas, says the council is working with the trust to “ensure the seamless continuation of service” at the centre.

Wellbeing Merthyr says it’s “actively engaged in discussions” with the council.

A petition expressing “strong opposition” to the “proposed privatisation” of Merthyr’s leisure centres was launched by residents and gained over 1,800 signatures.


Representatives from the GMB trade union sought to present the petition to Merthyr Tydfil Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Andrew Barry at a full council meeting last week.

However, the union says the petition was refused.

GMB union rep Matthew Felton said: “Aberfan Leisure Centre is very busy, we’re all really shocked that it could even be considered for closure.

“Staff are obviously worried for their jobs, and the Independent-run council have failed to talk to us. Now their deputy leader refuses to even accept a petition. What have they got to hide?”

Local MP Gerald Jones has written to the council’s monitoring officer to complain about the “undemocratic move”.

He said: “Opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, the leisure centre in Aberfan has been a key focal point for the community, and we’re all deeply worried that it could close, leaving staff and customers in the lurch.

“Residents, supported by the GMB trade union, have collected almost 2,000 names of people who are understandably worried about the centre’s future.

“Citizens have every right to petition their council and it’s deeply concerning that the Independent Deputy Leader would refuse to acknowledge public concerns.

“Councils simply cannot pick and choose what petitions to accept, and I’ve written to the council’s legal officer asking if this behaviour was in line with their constitution.”


Aberfan’s community centre, which boasts a pool, fitness suites, large hall and a cafe, was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.

It was built alongside a special memorial garden using donations which poured in from around the world following the disaster which saw a landslide of coal waste crash into Pantglas Junior School.

Leader of the opposition Labour Group, Councillor Brent Carter accused the council of letting residents down.

“Aberfan Leisure Centre has a special place in our community, not least because of its legacy from the Disaster.

“Residents of Merthyr Tydfil deserve better. Where the Independent-run council have let people down, Labour will step up. I’ve arranged to meet the GMB union to accept the petition and present it on their behalf at the next full council meeting.”

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council says the petition was initially refused due to concerns it might not have complied with the local authority’s policy.

A spokesperson said: “Councillor Barry was concerned that the petition contained inaccuracies and therefore might not comply with the Council’s petitions policy. He was also concerned that residents had misunderstood the position.

“Since this time, Cllr Barry has had further communication with GMB and invited them to engage in an open discussion on the petition and to whom it should be presented.”

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Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
3 months ago

I was alarmed about this when I first heard it, but now I see Labour’s fingerprints all over it I’m think they’re trying to hog the limelight for their own political gain.

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