New arts and culture centre could safeguard future of Maesteg Town Hall
4 October 2016
A £4m redevelopment could be on the cards for Maesteg Town Hall after the Cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council agreed to look at options for ensuring that the 135 year old Grade II listed building can continue to be used as an all-new arts and culture hub.
The authority is working with Awen Cultural Trust, who run the building on the council’s behalf, to develop plans that could result in a glass atrium being added to the building alongside new performance space, meeting and conference facilities, rooms that can be used by community groups and stronger links forged with the outdoor market and bus station.
The plans will also look at shifting the focus of the current indoor market to the outdoor area, which has already benefitted from a recent £2.5m refurbishment, developing some of the indoor space into an all-new library and resource centre which would include a state of the art children’s library and reading area, and providing full disabled access for the first time in the town hall’s long history.
Cabinet agreed to work with indoor traders, listen to their concerns and liaise with them on the proposals as well as support them in finding alternative accommodation in the event that the redevelopment work goes ahead.
Opened in 1881, Maesteg Town Hall was funded by local miners and designed by Henry Harris of Cardiff to incorporate a large concert hall above an indoor market. It houses a collection of work by the celebrated painter, Christopher Williams, and features a landmark clock tower that is recognised throughout the Llynfi Valley.
But with problems that have already put the hall’s balcony seating out of use and a survey that identified necessary repairs of almost a million pounds, concerns have been raised about the increasing need to carry out extensive repairs to the iconic building’s deteriorating infrastructure in order to keep it open and safe to use.
Council Leader Mel Nott OBE said: “Short-term repairs to address leaks in the roof and issues with dry rot are currently being carried out, but a longer-term solution still needs to be found if Maesteg Town Hall is to remain open for community use and serve the needs of the community for another 100 years.
“The council and Awen Cultural Trust want to use this as an opportunity to safeguard the town hall’s future by accessing funding that will provide Maesteg with a fantastic new community facility, restore the building’s structural integrity and help strengthen the overall regeneration of the town.
“Unfortunately, in order to deliver this major project, the focus of the market would need to be shifted to the outdoor area so that the internal space can be redeveloped, and essential repairs can be carried out on the building.
“I know that this will cause unavoidable disruption, but the fact of the matter is that the building is 135 years old and showing every bit of its age from its roof right down to the drainage system. It requires a vast amount of ongoing maintenance at a time when resources are becoming ever tighter, and keeping it open while work is carried out is not going to be an option.
“If things carry on in this manner and the building’s infrastructure continues to deteriorate, we will soon have to face up to the fact that Maesteg Town Hall may have to close its doors altogether.
“That’s what the proposal is about – finding a way of working with Awen Cultural Trust to attract fresh investment of up to £4m into the building that will have economic benefit, ensure the town hall can be maintained, remain in public use and developed to offer further facilities for the benefit of local people, shoppers and visitors.
“What these facilities ultimately are depends upon whether sufficient funding and planning permissions can be achieved, but we have already been contacted by some of the traders currently based within the indoor market who are interested in relocating to the outdoor area.”
In the event that the plans go ahead, space currently used by the existing library located within Maesteg Sports Centre could be used to offer new or additional facilities, while there is potential for the library at North’s Lane to be sold or incorporated as part of Cwm Calon Day Centre.
Councillor Nott also warned that a lengthy closure of Maesteg Town Hall will be necessary regardless of what work takes place there.
He said: “It should be clearly understood that whatever work is carried out to secure the future of Maesteg Town Hall, a long closure of the entire building will still be necessary. Early estimates suggest that this may need to be as long as 18 months, so we would need to help all of the existing indoor stalls relocate for the duration of the work anyway.
“Options that we would look at to assist with this would include things like finding suitable alternative accommodation, transitional rents, a priority list for future lettings and more.
“Ultimately, it is essential that everyone understands that there is a much bigger issue at stake here than just changing the location of the market. The original town hall would have required the community to embrace change before it could have been built, and the same kind of vision is required now if we are to safeguard its future.”
The council leader also addressed the issue of a recent £25,000 project to provide the town hall with new signage. He said: “Although it was recently completed, the project to provide new signage was approved some time ago.
“Since then, the UK has voted to leave the European Union, and the Welsh European Funding Office has advised authorities to accelerate any plans that they may have which incorporate applications for European funding.
“This has resulted in the new signage being installed just a few weeks before we have had to announce that we are seeking to redevelop the town hall.
“Maesteg will always be a market town. In the event that it does go ahead and the focus is shifted to the outdoor market area, the council and Awen will look to either reposition or retain the signage and graphic panels on site, or incorporate some of them in any new role the town hall may have along with certain other features so that the building’s history and heritage is suitably acknowledged.”
Look out for further details as the proposals develop.