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Calls for public meeting over Open Newtown plans

Created on 09/10/2019 @ 08:15
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Calls have been made for Open Newtown to hold a public meeting to discuss their plans for the former Radio Hafren building.

Open Newtown, a land trust set up to regenerate land on a 99 year lease from Powys County Council, is being criticised for its handling of the application for a £1.5 million “destination riverside recreational hub” at the former Radio Hafren building.

During the last few weeks, new revised plans have been submitted to Powys County Council which see the seating numbers for the cafe at the site reduced from 178 seats to 25.

Businesses including cafes in Newtown town centre fear that the venue will take people away.

They have met with representatives of Open Newtown and believe there is a need for more openness and transparency.

The Local Democracy Service has met with concerned businesses to discuss the project.

A spokesman for the group said: “Open Newtown believes that everyone should be supportive without question.

“We know comments that question or object to the plans are deleted from their Facebook page while they continue to say everyone is supportive.

“When you ask questions of what studies have been done – what evidence is there that this would be a good thing? We don’t get answers.

“We’ve seen the changes in the plans – but what guarantees are there that the picnic area won’t be used by cafe customers?

“What we need here is an asset to attract people here – something different to entice people to come or stop when they are driving through.

“Bring added value- another cafe will just redistribute the business that’s already here.

“We need a public meeting to discuss this fully.”
Adam Kennerley, is an Open Newtown director and is jointly responsible for the planning and funding applications.

Mr Kennerley, explained: “The proposed riverside venue is planned as a community asset for Newtown, helping to open up and sustain the town’s green spaces for future generations, make full use of the planned new play park and give new access to cycling and canoeing opportunities for all.

“The building will  be home to a new tourist information facility, the base for a programme of well-being workshops and a food cafe offering new opportunities for the whole of Newtown. And how Newtown retains and gains economic spend.”

“For several months, Open Newtown has had an online questionnaire open and been at a wide range of public events, including one-to-one meetings with businesses and a pop up display within the town centre.

“Of over 200 written responses there is overwhelming support and enthusiasm.

“Where specific concerns have been raised regarding the size of the cafe and its potential effect on similar businesses within the retail centre of the town, Open Newtown has listened and acknowledged these concerns with a new set of plans.

“If successful the riverside venue will be open by summer 2021.”
In January this year, Open Newtown, received  tenure of around 130 acres of land from Powys County Council to be held in a community land trust for 99 years.

The deal saw PCC hand over the lease to Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council who sub-contracted the land over to Open Newtown.

In 2018, Open Newtown received  £1.1 million from the Big Lottery for the land transfer.

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service



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