Angry meeting over future of Brecon museum
Senior councillors and officials from Powys County Council faced an angry meeting in Brecon last night over the future of the town’s new museum. More than 200 people crowded into the town’s Castle Hotel with many more refused entry because of lack of space.
They were angry about the County Council’s plans to let a further education college share space in the newly refurbished building. The museum has been closed for eight years and is due to open by the end of this year as a museum, art gallery and library to be called Y Gaer.
It was recently discovered that the Council was in secret negotiations with Neath Port Talbot College to take over part of the new building, including one of the art galleries. Councillor Phyl Davies and other Powys officials faced heckling when they argued that, thanks to austerity, the Council no longer had the funds to open the new building for more than 30 hours per week. The partnership with the college would provide a sustainable future.
But speakers from the floor said the project had been proclaimed by Powys as a regional centre of excellence, providing a community resource and a tourist attraction. This concept would be destroyed by sharing the building with further education students, and in particular compromising the ability to hold art exhibitions.
Co-funders of the project, including the National Heritage Lottery Fund and the Welsh government, are warning they may ask for their money to be returned. Kirsty Williams AM, Education Minister, said the Welsh Government would want to know whether the Council had met the terms and conditions of the £1 million grant provided by the Welsh government. “If not, the government could ask for their funds to be repaid,” she said.
Kirsty Williams added the council should be collaborating with the partners who had put their heart and soul into the project in a way that improves trust. “Coming to Brecon and telling Brecon what they are going to get – that’s what upsets people”.
John Gibbs, Chair of the Brecknock Society and Museum Friends, one of the co-funding partners, called for an early meeting of stakeholders to talk about other ways forward to meet the funding shortfall.
Jane Dodds, the newly elected MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said the process so far had not been as good as it should have been. “Everybody should have the same information so that we can communicate clearly”.
The meeting was chaired by Councillor Matthew Dorrance, who said he would continue to fight the proposals. “We have waited eight years for our museum. We are expecting what was promised”, he said.
Report kindly provided by Glyn Mathias
Images by Fyi:Brecon
Below: AM Kirsty Williams, Education Minister
Below: From left: Councillor Matthew Dorrance, Councillor Rachael Powell, Councillor Phyl Davies, Corporate Director Nigel Brinn, Head Of Service Nina Davies, Councillor Manny Trailor and Councillor David Meredith
Below: John Gibbs
Below: Many were left outside
Below: Leader of Powys County Council Councillor Rosemary Harris
Below: PeterJenkins (right) and Councillor David Meredith (left)
Below: Roger Williams
Below: Mike Gatehouse
Below: Phil Clark
Below: Councillor David Meredith
Below: MP Jane Dodds
Below: Johnny Strings and Councillor John Powell
Below: Artist Sue Hiley Harris
Below: Royal Welsh Regimental Museum's Tim Van Rees
Below: Many residents were turned away
Below: Councillors William Powell and Liam Fitzpatrick
Below: AM Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education