A disused chapel could become the new home of a town’s library services.
Blaenau Gwent Council have secured funds in principle from the Welsh Government, that would enable the Coalfields Regeneration Trust to begin an internal refit of Trinity Chapel, Abertillery, making it the new home for the town’s library.
The spacious chapel on Church Street, currently sits empty despite an exterior refurbishment paid for with more than half a million pounds of EU funding being completed in 2016.
The chapel, built in 1877, was originally converted for retail use 20 years ago and redevelopment work began on the building in 2013.
Previously, it had been used for a number of outlets including a carpet and furniture shop, and looked set to become to a community supermarket where discounts on regular goods would help local people on welfare support.
However, the landmark building could now become the home of Abertillery’s library and educational courses.
The Coalfields Regeneration Trust have submitted a bid for a Community Asset Transfer of both Trinity Chapel and the current Abertillery library building in Castle Street, and if successful would move the library to the nearby building in the town centre.
An art gallery, ATM cash machine, and support hub offering employment and health advice would also be contained within the building.
The trust would then look to turn the former library into a training centre for young people, providing the skills to start businesses and obtain jobs in the local economy.
This would also incorporate a job training advice service, as well as a community shop and café, and double up as a training facility for the promotion of healthy foods and nutrition.
Councillor Dai Davies, the council’s executive member for regeneration, said he welcomes the opportunity to bring the Trinity Chapel site back in to use.
He said: “Trinity Chapel is a landmark building in Abertillery and it’s exciting to be working in a collaboration which could bring this site back into use for the local community.
“As set out in our corporate plan we remain fully committed to the economic future of Blaenau Gwent, and making fairer communities for our residents.
“We welcome the opportunity to work in partnership on schemes that will work to reduce the impact of poverty on our communities by maximising income, and looking at training and skills opportunities in order to improve the future prospects of local people.”
Head of Operations for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust in Wales, Alun Taylor, was also pleased with the news he believes could create many more opportunities for the town in the future.
“The trust is committed to assisting with the regeneration of town centres in former coalfield communities like Abertillery,” he said.
“These new projects will demonstrate how partnership working can achieve the shared ambition to make Valley towns vibrant and prosperous places to live and work, creating new services on the high street, and helping to create local training and job opportunities for the future.”
Local business owner Jamie Dunne works in Church Street Fish Bar just a few doors down from the site, and agrees that this could be a very positive step that makes use of an empty space in the town.
He said: “I definitely think this is a good thing if it goes ahead, as it will make use of a space that is currently going to waste and hopefully generates a bit more life on the high street.
“For business owners here we work really hard to attract people in to the town, and we will of course help with these projects in any way we can.”