Baroness Bloomfield with Montgomeryshire MP Craig Williams and Open Newtown chief executive Stuart Owen at Hafan yr Afon on Friday.
Baroness Bloomfield, Wales Office spokesperson in the House of Lords, has praised the achievements of Open Newtown, a community focused development trust, during a visit to Newtown.
Accompanied by Craig Williams, Montgomeryshire MP, Baroness Sater and Russell George, MS for Montgomery, she met Open Newtown’s chief executive Stuart Owen and Mollie George, building manager of Hafan yr Afon, the town’s new riverside community and visitor centre.
Mr Owen gave a presentation about the history of Open Newtown, starting with public engagement to discover what the townspeople would most like to see in their town. Open Newtown is now supported by 30 community organisations.
In 2019, 130 acres of green space and river in Newtown were transferred from Powys County Council to the Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council and sublet to Open Newtown, which secured £1.1 million funding from the National Lottery Community Fund Wales to support projects.
Open Newtown must invest this money by December this year to establish the town as a destination to benefit businesses, local people and the wider community. To unlock the economic potential of the green spaces and river, opportunities are being created for sports, recreation, events, well-being, tourism and the local economy and community.
One of Open Newtown’s successful projects is Hafan yr Afon, described by Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford as a “striking, landmark building” on the banks of the River Severn.
Hafan yr Afon received funding support from the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government, the National Lottery Community Fund Wales, the town council and Powys County Council.
Mr Owen listed an extensive programme of both indoor and outdoor events planned for Newtown in 2023, including a 10K run on May 21.
“I am really impressed by what Open Newtown has achieved,” said Baroness Bloomfield, making her first visit to the town. “This is an example of what you can do when you get the local council on side and everybody pulls together. If you don’t get that, nothing happens.”
Mr Williams said: “It was great to bring my colleagues to Open Newtown to show them what happens when you bring the community and funding together. It was good to talk about what’s next for Newtown because the job is not done yet and Open Newtown has my full support.”
Mr Owen said it was encouraging to receive positive comments from the politicians about Open Newtown’s achievement and future plans.
“The feedback we are receiving about Hafan yr Afon and our other projects is fantastic,” he added. “People have such a great experience when they visit Newtown and they take that away with them.
“Open Newtown has even been described as ‘inspirational’ by community leaders from other parts of Wales, which is lovely to hear.”
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