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Welsh Government could offer help to Aberfan community centre at risk of closure

14 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Left: Aberfan Community Centre – Right: The Aberfan Disaster

Emily Price

A minister has opened the way for Welsh Government help to be provided to the Trust responsible for Aberfan’s community centre which is at risk of closure.

Residents in Aberfan raised fears about the future of the village leisure centre when notices were put up in the building stating it would close on April 1st.

The community hub has been described as a “beacon of hope” following its official opening in 1973.

It was built using donations which poured in from around the world following the 1966 coal mining disaster which killed 144 people – including 116 school children.

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and the Wellbeing Trust, which runs the centre, are currently involved in legal negotiations regarding the future management of the centre.

Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for South Wales East, Delyth Jewell raised the issue of the centre’s future with the Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths on Tuesday (March 13).


Speaking in the Chamber she said: “I realise local decisions like this aren’t something the Government can get involved in, but I know residents would appreciate a statement heard in the Senedd about the importance of that community centre and how it stands not only as a witness to that valley’s past, but also as a cornerstone of that community’s future.

“Any statement that the Government could make would be a solace.”

Responding, Lesley Griffiths suggested that assistance could be offered via the minister with responsibility for regeneration, Rebecca Evans.

She said: “I certainly share your concern. I remember, when I was the Minister with responsibility for regeneration, visiting Aberfan to talk about what we could do – I think it was approaching the fiftieth anniversary, if I remember rightly – and to see what help we could give.

“And it may be advisable for, perhaps, the trust – I’m not aware of the situation that you describe – to write to the Minister with responsibility for regeneration to see if there is anything more that we could assist with.


Last week, when news of the centre’s uncertain future broke, the council’s leader, Geraint Thomas, claimed the signs announcing the centre’s closure were a hoax.

He said: “I am appalled that someone would put signs up spreading malicious rumours of a closure and causing so much concern for the staff and community of Aberfan, and it is a matter for Wellbeing Merthyr to investigate where these fake signs have come from.”

However, GMB Wales and South West, says members had been informed that all Merthyr Tydfil leisure sites were being returned to the council and that Aberfan Community Centre would not be included in a deal which had been struck up with a new private provider.

The union said: “At the meeting we asked the council about the future of the Aberfan leisure and they refused to commit to the site remaining open after April 1st.”

Following the council leader’s claim of “fake” signs, news articles were published claiming residents had been “duped”.


In the Senedd, Delyth Jewell said the headlines were “tasteless”.

She said: “This community is still grieving for its lost children. No matter how many years might have passed, it was not the right word to use.”

The Wellbeing Trust says it will continue running the centre until the “managed transfer” to the council is complete.

Merthyr Tydfil Council say they are working “positively and productively” with the Trust to ensure services at all centres are maintained.

Local MP Gerald Jones says he is concerned about the future of leisure facilities across the whole of the the county borough.

He has urged the council to guarantee the future of Aberfan’s much loved leisure centre.

In a letter received by the MP, the council’s deputy chief executive, Alyn Owen, said: “Unfortunately, the situation surrounding the Aberfan Community Centre is complicated as the building is owned by Wellbeing Merthyr.

“We have asked on numerous occasions to have a dialogue with the Wellbeing Merthyr Board regarding Aberfan Community Centre.

“However, due to the fact the board will only communicate via their legal team this has taken time.”


A protest took place outside the community centre on Tuesday (March 12) and a further peaceful protest is planned for April 1.

Speaking to Nation.Cymru, Delyth Jewell said: “It is imperative that the residents should be given certainty their community centre should stay open. This building is far more than bricks and mortar. It was built to help a grieving community to come to terms with the magnitude of their loss.

“The fact that the book of remembrance for the dead was moved there when Bethania Chapel closed shows the importance of the centre. The foundations were made up of a stricken community’s strength in their darkest hour.

“I am appalled how the residents have been treated, whether the signs were fake or not they shouldn’t have been put up. This is no way to treat Aberfan.”

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