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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Skates backs community hub plan

A plan to use the building in Bridge Street as a community hub if the HSBC bank moves out next year has won the backing of Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates.

And he says he will put the idea to bank chiefs when he meets them next week to discuss their proposal to axe the branch next February.

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

Mr Edwards says if HSBC is determined to press ahead with the closure against the wishes of local campaigners, the bank building could be acquired on behalf of the people of Llangollen as a community facility housing small businesses, meeting rooms and a café.

Asked by llanblogger for his views on the idea, Mr Skates said: "I'm very pleased Mike is putting together a business case for using the building as a community facility and I will be putting this suggestion direct to HSBC when I meet bank officials next week on December 5.

"If they don't reverse their decision it is vital that Llangollen is not left with a vacant building or something that fails to add value to the town's economy and community well-being."

Explaining his idea, Mr Edwards said: “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 sees the Llangollen community hub being modelled on a similar scheme now successfully at Glyn in Chirk and housed in the former estate office overlooking Chirk Aqueduct.

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