Grade two-listed building given new life by £4 million restoration project
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
An historic former market hall, which has been empty for over 20 years, has reopened following a £4.16 million restoration project, bringing jobs and office space to Llandeilo.
The Carmarthenshire Council-led project was only £300,000 over budget despite the Covid pandemic, soaring material costs, rising inflation, and the challenges of working with a grade two-listed building.
Speaking at the building’s reopening, Cllr Gareth John, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This is a huge and extremely significant achievement, and credit should go to everybody who has been involved with it.”
The vacant market hall, on the corner of Carmarthen Road and New Road, dates from the 1830s and was home to manufacturing businesses, an auction house and a fire station at various times before closing its doors in 2002. Some original tiles from a slaughterhouse in one of the outbuildings have been retained.
The new-look building, Yr Hen Farchnad – The Old Market – has 17 units for let and a cafe, and will signal a fresh start for occupants including Rhian Davies.
Mrs Davies set up accountancy firm Cyfrifwyr RM Accountants in 2018 and worked from home. During the last four-and-a-half years she has had two children and been diagnosed with cancer.
“I had eight months of chemotherapy and got the all-clear last month,” she said. “It has been a difficult time. The cancer is behind me and this is a fresh start. Now is my time.”
Commuting won’t be a problem as she and her partner Samuel Jacobs live around 50 metres away – and Mr Jacobs is also renting two units at the building.
His firm, MagVenture TMS Systems, supplies specialist equipment to the NHS and private health sector to help treat things like depression, anxiety and psychoactive substance use disorder.
He used to have an office in Reading, Berkshire, before Covid prompted him to work from home. “It’s time to separate work and life,” he said of the move down the road. “It’s an awesome building.”
Lisa Jones is renting the cafe, Diod, which she hopes to have up and running by early August. It’ll be her second Diod premises in Llandeilo, and reckons it’ll employ 10 full and part-time staff.
“It is an opportunity for us to expand and have more space, including outdoor seating,” she said. “I feel there is excitement around this development. The transformation has been amazing. It has been derelict for far too many years, and hopefully it opens up a new area of the town.”
Yr Hen Farchnad will also be home to a barber shop, vegan skin care manufacturer, injury clinic and pilates studio, among other things. All but three of the units have been rented. There is also a central events space and shared meeting rooms.
TRJ director Dafydd Jones described stepping into what was a “dark and dingy” building with algae-covered concrete floors and dead birds lying around. He said: “You think, ‘Oh my God.’ It then took us a long time to sort out the initial designs, and then Covid hit us. The biggest challenge was the listed status.”
His brother and TRJ co-director Owain Jones said the price of steel shot up from £500 to £1,500 per tonne during the project, which provided work for 37 of its employees, 11 of whom achieved formal qualifications in the process. Eight new job opportunities were created, while apprentices also gained valuable experience. Three of the apprentices are now being put through various courses by TRJ.
Two schools – Ysgol Bro Dinefwr and Ysgol Teilo Sant – got involved in the project, with the latter designing a mural depicting the various occupations which were once synonymous with the building.
The Welsh Government and European Union contributed £1.7 million to the project, Carmarthenshire Council £2.4 million. The authority was able to claw back the £300,000 cost overrun from Cardiff Bay.
Jason Jones, the council’s property design and maintenance manager, said: “This was an old listed building which needed care and attention. Between the council, TRJ, conservationists and architects we have been able to bring it back to life and create something the community can take pride in.”
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