PROPOSALS to transform a much-loved school building into an arts and crafts centre have been put forward by Torfaen councillors.

Abersychan’s Victoria Village Primary School and the nearby Brynteg Nursery have been at the centre of a long-running campaign to prevent their closure, due to happen in summer 2018.

Torfaen council’s cabinet met last week to discuss offering the site to the area’s three social landlords – Bron Afon, Melin Homes and Pobl – and then, the open market if no interest was shown.

But the cabinet deferred the decision to allow time for more discussions as an alternative idea to use Victoria Village Primary as a craft centre was raised by the Abersychan branch of Torfaen’s Labour group.

Now, a proposal has been drafted by community councillor for Garndiffaith and Varteg Lynda Clarkson, is asking Torfaen council to consider using the building to host workshops for small businesses and to attract tourism to the Abersychan area.

Ms Clarkson said: “There are many small artisan businesses locally who would struggle to finance retail space therefore operate from home.

“A venue such as this may offer the opportunity to extend their reach, offering goods to local residents and visitors alike.”

The proposal also follows calls by Abersychan ward councillors Giles Davies and Chris Tew to retain the primary school building for community use.

The draft proposal is asking for Torfaen council’s support to adapt the building to host small businesses selling crafts, produce, antiques, vintage items and potentially to host artist studios.

This would be a open, market-style stall model which could be promoted to bus operators taking tourist parties to the Blaenavon World Heritage Site.

The primary school’s position alongside the A4043 and its close distance to the Blaenavon tourist destination would be a key factor in its success, the proposal adds.

Ms Clarkson said: “It would also be an ideal opportunity for start ups – a small business retail centre, perhaps local food producers and stalls.

“Running on a cooperative or rental space basis, new enterprises would be able to price up their goods and staff the outlet on a rotational basis, sharing the risks of investing in a physical shop and keeping overheads to a minimum.”

The proposal states this would help keep “staffing costs at nil” while leaving businesses free for family commitments and to produce their goods.

The community councillor added one of the school’s classrooms could even be remodelled as a “school from the past” with added exhibits showcasing Abersychan’s industrial heritage.

In terms of funding, the Abersychan Labour branch also outlined available funding streams.

These include Welsh Government’s Tourism Amenity Investment Support alongside funding for individual businesses via the Micro Small Business Fund.

As previously reported, Torfaen council’s cabinet approved the closure of Abersychan’s Victoria Village Primary and Brynteg Nursery in February 2016 as part of the 21st Century Schools scheme.

At the time, parents and pupils gathered outside the offices with banners of ‘Save Our School’ and other messages of opposition.

Abersychan councillor Giles Davies, said: “I fought hard to keep this school open in the last session but it would be good to see this great building put to a use that would benefit the people of my ward.”

The group behind the proposals added if the plans were to go ahead, they would need Torfaen council officers support in initial phases.

With council backing, they argue, the project would fall into the remit of regeneration and Welsh Government policy while creating “income and opportunity” for businesses and “immense value” to the community.

Torfaen’s MP Nick Thomas-Symonds welcomed Torfaen cabinet’s choice to defer the decision on the school.

“I hope that the time will now be utilised to arrive at a positive solution for all concerned,” he said.

Torfaen AM, Lynne Neagle, added: “Victoria Village Primary School is a significant and beautiful building.

“I am glad to see that decisions about its future are not being rushed into.”

Torfaen council were contacted for comment.