Zip wire planned for £1.7m Cwmbran visitor attraction revamp
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
A zip wire is to be created as part of a £1.7 million plan to transform a council-run farm into a commercially viable visitor attraction.
Greenmeadow Community Farm, in Cwmbran, is to have its council subsidy withdrawn and will instead have to generate its own revenue. It is hoped new facilities and food and drink outlets will help it attract more than 70,000 paying customers a year by 2026 and also become a tourism driver for the wider Torfaen borough.
The attraction, which has operated as a community farm since the early 1980s, will close this autumn for the first stage of its revamp, which will see a children’s indoor soft play area created, with a plan to reopen by the end of May 2023.
Indoor activities are seen as crucial in turning around the fortunes of the loss-making farm and visitor centre as the numbers coming through the gates are currently too dependent on dry, good weather, with valuable school trips also turned off by a lack of attractions and the fear a visit will be lost to the rain as there are no indoor activities available.
Cllr Fiona Cross, Torfaen Borough Council’s cabinet member responsible, said consultants undertook research in 2019 into what visitors wanted from the farm, and the plan has been developed by holiday park operator Colin Newell, who has worked on similar projects with local authorities across the country.
The Labour councillor said: “These are bold and exciting plans that will allow the farm to stand on its own two feet but also invest in itself and also potentially other services.
“Colin has eat, slept and breathed the farm since he has been with us. This is a good plan and it makes me want to go and zip wire and soft play, even.”
During 2018/19 the farm operated at a loss of £298,365, but the council will now spend £500,000 on the initial works to create a soft play area and boost food and drink outlets and the existing café while it will also borrow £1.2 million to complete the overhaul.
It is expected the farm will continue to operate at a loss during before producing a predicted £15,000 profit in the 2024/25 financial year. It is hoped that will then increase to £295,378 by 2025/26 when it will also be able to repay the investment.
Staffing costs will also increase in line with the farm’s new offerings, and it should employ 19 full time staff within three years. Consultation with existing staff and their trade unions is now underway.
The farm will also continue to be used as an education resource, including raising awareness of the environment and food production, while the council will look to develop an automated discount scheme for “low income and hard to reach families” as well as the attraction being used by different council services.
The plan has been unanimously approved by the full council. Independent councillor David Thomas was told the projected income is based on lower footfall than in 2018/19 after he asked what would happen if the farm fails to achieve the predicted income figures.
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