Future of former church building to be decided

FITNESS SPACE: A social enterprise hope to transform St Paul's Church into a shared fitness space like this

FUTURE: St Paul's Church has been empty since Penarth Boxing Club were forced to leave it three years ago (4707771)

First published in News

THE FUTURE of St Paul's Church is set to become clearer after the Vale Council announced it planned to market the building for community or recreational uses.

A report recommending that the building be marketed to “community groups, social enterprises, developers or any other third party” will go before a community cabinet meeting in Penarth on Monday, March 24.

A social enterprise group led by Penarthians Dr Paul Williams and former professional rugby player Michael Poole is hoping to transform the building into a multi-functional sports facility

Dr Williams said they are in the early stages of formulating a business plan to submit to the Vale Council and that they were looking to the Wales Co-Operative Centre for further support and funding.

Dr Williams said they already had “a couple of likeminded people” interested in transforming the empty building into a shared fitness space that would offer a wide range of services to the community.

He added: "We are proposing something that won't make a profit but will feed itself and be sustainable and provide other services in the building.

"The potential there is massive, it just needs the time and experts in setting up a community enterprise

"We are in the infancy of setting up the company and we have the vision and a presentation in place ready to go.”

He added that they were currently looking into funding programmes to get their proposals off the ground.

“We need to sit down with the council and Welsh Co-Operative Centre and form a limited company," he said.

“We want to gauge a feeling of interest.”

He added that the group can be contacted on twitter, @st_paulspenarth, or Facebook by searching for ‘St Paul’s Church Penarth’.

Both Penarth Amateur Boxing Club and Penarth Gymnastics Club had been hoping to move into the Arcot Street building, but after they failed to reach an agreement over repairs and maintenance the Vale Council announced that it would be considering “further options for the site”.

The Vale Council is now planning on marketing it for community/recreational uses and inviting third parties to come forward with proposals for the premises.

A Vale Council spokesman said that this approach would also allow Penarth Boxing Club and Penarth Gymnastics Club to come forward with proposals and that “a potential developer may be able to work with the two clubs or with other community groups to bring forward proposals for the use of the premises”.

Rob Thomas, the director of development services, said: “At this stage it is considered that proposals from third parties will need to be financially viable, but will also be judged by the council on the basis of the amount and quality of floor space delivered for community/recreational uses.

“Following marketing the intention is to report the outcome of that marketing exercise to a future cabinet in order to determine the most appropriate way forward.

“It is anticipated that a formal marketing exercise will be carried out by the council via property agents in the near future.”

Councillor Gwyn John, cabinet member for leisure, parks, culture and sport development, said: “The council is keen to receive proposals from the boxing club, gymnastics club and from other community groups, social enterprises, developers or any other third party with the ability to help deliver a financially viable future for St Paul’s Church.

“This is an opportunity for organisations and individuals, either on their own or together, to help deliver a scheme that includes floor space for potentially a broad range of community activities and uses. I look forward in anticipation to the council receiving imaginative, financially sustainable proposals.”

The Vale Council community cabinet meeting will be held at the Paget Rooms on Monday, March 24, from 6pm onwards. The public are invited to attend and will be able to ask questions to cabinet members after the meeting.

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