Abergavenny campaigners get council support

AN Abergavenny action group campaigning to secure the future of a former college for community use has won Monmouthshire council backing.

At a meeting held in County Hall, Usk, on Wednesday, the council’s cabinet agreed to back Community Action to Save The Hill’s (CASH) plan with a letter of support to help the group submit an expression of interest to site owners Coleg Gwent by January 15.

Coleg Gwent closed The Hill Education and Conference Centre four years ago as part of a radical shake-up of education across its five campuses, in a bid to save £3.5 million.

CASH want the 20-acre site in Pen y Pound, which includes a mansion, conference centre and 50 bedrooms, to remain an education and community resource for the people of Abergavenny.

The site was put on the market in 2011 but failed to sell and an offer by CASH last year proposing to run day and residential courses was turned down and put back on the market last year.

CASH, a registered not-for-profit community interest company, approached the council in October for support in putting together a business case and has met with the housing provider Melin Homes with a view to part of the site being developed for housing.

The group believe The Hill has the potential to be a national centre of excellence offering life-long learning, training and employment opportunities.

Kellie Beirne, the council’s chief officer for regeneration and culture, said that supporting CASH provides the council with the opportunity to support a bid for community ownership of a much-valued building.

She said: “We have been working with CASH over a period of a couple of months and they have put forward a compelling proposition for the future of The Hill.”

Cllr Dimitri Batrouni asked if the council had considered submitting its own expression of interest to Coleg Gwent if there is a possibility it could provide an income.

Council leader Peter Fox said it would be better to support a community-led approach to secure the future of the building rather than make a heavy financial commitment in the current financial climate: “Our priority is to 21st century schools where we are focusing our capital resources.”

Cllr Phil Hobson said the council has not been asked to consider such a request.

Council chief executive Paul Matthews said it is providing business and commercial expertise freely to CASH: “There are many people that want to find a purposeful future for that building.”

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