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Neighbour of former workingmen’s hall ‘petrified every time there’s a storm’

29 Sep 2022 4 minute read
The derelict workmen’s hall, Garnant, Carmarthenshire. Picture: Google.

Richard Youle, Local Democracy Reporter

A woman who lives by a derelict workingmen’s hall in the Amman Valley with a hole in the roof is “petrified” every time there’s a storm, according to a councillor.

Cllr Kevin Madge, who said the roof of the Workmen’s Hall in Garnant had blown off before and landed on the woman’s property, asked the leader of Carmarthenshire Council what it was going to do to make the building safe.

The Garnant ward member claimed the building, on Heol Cwmaman, was the county’s biggest fire risk and posed a danger to people living nearby.

Miners and tinplate workers helped fund the hall when it was built in the 1920s. Over the years it hosted operas and concerts, and served as a cinema. More recently, planning permission was sought to create a care home there.

The query was one of three submitted by Cllr Madge about his ward at a meeting of full council.

Council leader Darren Price said the building had new owners and council officers would contact them when their details became known via the Land Registry.

Cllr Price said he had driven past the workingmen’s hall last Sunday, and accepted it was an eyesore.

It was once of many “legacy” workingmen’s halls and institutes across South Wales, he said, which were now in “rack and ruin”, although he added that some had been taken over by groups and were thriving.

The Plaid leader said building control officers had assessed the building’s structural integrity on May 19 and did not deem it to be dangerous at the time.

“Officers will continue to monitor the situation over the next 12 months,” he said.

Cllr Price added that while the issue was important for people in Garnant, if all 75 councillors asked three questions about their ward in full council meetings they would last for days.

In reply, Cllr Madge said he had raised concerns about the workingmen’s hall with officers a number of times and that he had received numerous enquiries from people about the state of the building.

He said the council should serve an enforcement notice on the new owners to get the roof made safe.

Referring to the neighbour whose property had apparently been impacted by a blown-off roof, Cllr Madge said: “I’ve got a lady living on the side who is petrified whenever there is a storm.”

Cllr Kevin Madge by the workmen’s hall, Garnant, Carmarthenshire.

Wider question

Cllr Price said safety issues were absolutely paramount, and that council officers had visited the building some 30 times over the last decade.

He said there was a wider question about the economic regeneration of the Amman Valley, which he said the council was trying to improve, for example by upgrading empty industrial workshops in nearby Glanamman.

Cllr Price said investment in the “awful and abysmal” transport system in the Amman Valley was vital, and that he had said as much during regional discussions about a proposed Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro.

Carmarthenshire, he said, was getting “next to nothing” as things currently stood with the Metro transport concept.

Meanwhile, Cllr Madge also asked when the council planned to open Cwmamman Day Centre for the whole week and reopen the kitchen to provide a meals on wheels service and a weekly pensioners’ lunch club.

In reply, Cllr Jane Tremlett, cabinet member for health and social services, said the day centre’s opening times had been increased from two days a week to three and that it met demand. She added that upgrading the kitchen would cost £150,000.

Cllr Madge said the day centre served the whole of the Amman Valley and it could provide a venue for people with dementia.

Cllr Tremlett said the council would look at individual cases if unmet need was identified, and that the question of investing in the kitchen or not would be part of forthcoming budget discussions.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Madge said he was worried about reports of children breaking into the workingmen’s hall, and added that fires had been lit there.

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