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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Community hub plan floated for bank building

* Community hub plan: the HSBC bank building in Bridge Street.
If Llangollen’s HSBC bank closes early next year the building it occupies could be used as a community hub housing small businesses, meeting rooms and a café.

The ambitious plan is the brainchild of local man Mike Edwards who was a member of the team which led the bid for Llangollen to win Cittaslow – slow town – status earlier this year.

Mr Edwards (pictured below) says if HSBC is determined to press ahead with the closure against the wishes of local campaigners, the imposing building in Bridge Street could be acquired on behalf of the people of Llangollen as a community facility.

He explained: “If the branch does close, the Welsh Government should demand that HSBC provides the building to the community on a medium term lease at a peppercorn rent.

“Cittaslow Llangollen could then investigate the condition of the property and put together a business plan to convert the building into a business and community support hub.

“This might have, say, a cafe on the ground floor with business space and serviced meeting rooms on the upper floors which could be let out to generate additional income.

“That way it's a project which would be self-funding in the long term because it would be generating income not merely soaking up money.

“There may also be space for a residential unit to be used be a caretaker-type individual who would be responsible for providing day to day support for the hub users.

“Some of the accommodation could be available for the use of local clubs and organisations to meet etc.”

Mr Edwards added: “The hub could be equipped with ITC - internet, printing, photocopying etc - which local independent businesses could use and, if they wanted to meet customers, suppliers or similar, they could use the meeting rooms with full support normally available to larger business who have extensive resources.

“Armed with a convincing business plan we could convince funders, such as the Welsh Government and the Lottery, to back the refurbishment and conversion of the building.”

Mr Edwards says the Llangollen hub could be based on the successful model of Glyn Wylfa Ltd, which is housed in the former estate office overlooking Chirk Aqueduct.

It has been established as a social enterprise and development trust by a committed team of local residents with complementary business and social community skills.

The refurbished building includes a variety of high quality office accommodation, a meeting room for up to 20 delegates plus a café. It also offers an arts and crafts market place at weekends.

* Gill Thomas from the Chamber of Trade and Tourism has sent the following note to llanblogger:

"Just wanted to clarify the situation re customers of HSBC using the post office. This option is only open to personal account holders. Business, Charity and Community account holders will have to travel to Chirk, Ruabon or Wrexham. This is why this decision is so devastating for us and means we will probably have to move to one of the remaining banks in town."

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