Former Social Welfare Centre in Blaengwynfi to be taken over and renamed by residents
A FORMER council-run welfare hall that was facing the axe is instead heading for a brighter future after residents agreed to take it over.
Neath Port Talbot Council decided just over two years ago that it could no longer afford to keep running the Social Welfare Centre in Blaengwynfi.
However, because of protests, the council agreed to work with local community groups to see if they wanted to take over its running rather than allow it to close.
Following a series of meetings, the villagers of Abergwynfi and Blaengwynfi agreed to set up a community-based social enterprise.
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It will take over the building in Jersey Road on Tuesday, April 2, when it will be renamed the Gwynfi Miners Community Hall.
Company secretary Jane Jones said: "The hall was built and supported by local miners from the turn of the last century. Their pennies kept the hall going until the local collieries closed.
"Just over 150 local residents have become members of the new company and we hope to expand on that once the hall is open under community control.
"We will be calling it the Gwynfi Miners Community Hall once it comes under community control to reflect both the heritage of our past and our plans for the future."
The hall was originally opened in 1901 and is still used for a range of activities.
The board of directors has plans to continue existing services at the hall, including a library, book club meeting area, gym, boxing club, meeting rooms, youth activities, coffee morning and a pensioners' morning.
An early priority will be to explore ways of expanding the range of activities available.
This will partly involve reopening the lower floor, which has been closed for four or more years since it was affected by flooding.
Director and Neath Port Talbot councillor Ralph Thomas said: "The Social Welfare Centre is crucial to the villages of Aber-Blaengwynfi.
"Since becoming a director, following my election last year, I have been very impressed at how the community has rallied together to set up a social enterprise to take over control.
"We realise that we will have a struggle on our hands to survive but we will not fail because of a lack of commitment or effort.
"I hope April 2 will mark a new chapter in the life of Gwynfi Miners' Community Hall."