Hope for the future of Bala centre


Shane Brennan

A “FAILED” Bala building could still be used to give a boost to the local economy.

The Cywain Centre was developed by Antur Penllyn, a community regeneration company set up in 1989 to regenerate the Bala and Penllyn area.

The centre opened in April 2008 but soon ran into difficulties and finally closed in September 2011, by this time the Centre cost the public sector more than £3.4 million.

Despite the closure of the Cywain venture Ray Hind, treasurer of the Bala and Penllyn Tourism Association, feels that the building could still be used to help promote the area.

Mr Hind said: “It is a difficult one. It would be nice to see the building reopened but it would need to find a new role as it wasn't working before. It would need to be in private hands most likely in a tourist capacity.”

A report by the Wales Auditor General into the Cywain Centre criticised the Welsh Government and other public bodies for failing to plan for the centre’s future.
Dwyfor Meirionydd AM, Dafydd Elis Thomas, welcomed the report.

He said: “We shared everything we had on file in the constituency office with the Welsh Auditor Genreal.

“I warmly welcome this report and the Welsh Government statement that the way these projects are carried out has changed.

“What concerns me is that some of the people involved in the project were successful in their own businesses so how did it go so badly wrong?

“The business model meant that there was no clarity about what was trying to be achieved.

“What I want to ensure is the future of the building. The site has been a very successful site for big events such as the Meirionydd Show, national sheep dog trials and the National Eisteddfod.

“We have shown that we can be successful in business so we can do it again with investment in real businesses.”

The centre was intended to hold events and exhibitions. It was also to operate a café and a small retail area, and offer venue hire for meetings and events.

The building has now been handed over to the landlord of the Rhiwlas estate where the building is sited.

The report said: “As at December 2013, the Welsh Government has yet to clarify the exact position regarding ownership of the building. However, it is possible that, at no costs to themselves, the owners of the Rhiwlas estate will ultimately take possession of a building constructed using £3.4 million of public funding."

The report found that all the public sector funders had recognised that the business case was underpinned by unsupported and unrealistic assumptions but despite this approved grant funding.

The report said: “The project was always likely to fail because of flawed income assumptions and a lack of clarity over what the Centre was meant to offer, both of which were not adequately challenged by funders.”

According to the report funders did not monitor the centre’s operations adequately
and were slow to respond to the threat and actual closure of the centre in order to protect the public’s interest in the assets.

See full story in the Free Press

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