An exciting new £500,000 project to breathe fresh life into a South Wales community has been given the green light – after winning a major investment boost.
The Parish of Skewen near Neath plans to build an innovative new community centre on the site of the former St Mary’s Church.
It has just secured £300,000 of funding from the Welsh Government, coupled with £194,000 already raised through the sale of assets, which means that work on the project can now start.
The new community building will enable the Parish of Skewen to work in partnership with local groups and organisations within the area to benefit the whole community.
The Revd Chris Coles said, “We realised that it was not a new church that was needed for the site but a resource centre that could answer the needs of the local community.
“What has emerged is a new vision of ‘Church’. We felt that it was no longer enough to expect people to come to Church. The Church must come to the people, because after all that is the message of the Gospel.
“There is a great sense of isolation in this community with many feeling disconnected, but this new centre will provide a place for people to meet and interact with others – it will help put the heart back into the community.”
The centre will cater for groups such as Mothers’ Union, Messy Church, pensioner groups, disability groups, IT groups and local schools. It will include a wildlife garden with raised beds for wheelchair access.
Announcing the funding, Cabinet Secretary Carl Sargeant said, “In applying for these grants community organisations have had to demonstrate how the facilities they offer provide vital community services which help prevent or tackle poverty.”
David Rees AM said: “I fully support the Parish plan to build a community resource in Skewen and I am delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has announced that this fantastic project will get the funds it needs. The people of Skewen and neighbouring communities will now have access to a modern facility that will help revitalise the area.”
Now that £300,000 has been secured from the Welsh Government’s Community Facilities Programme, the project can be put out to tender with work expected to start in the Autumn, with completion due next year.
Revd Coles added, “We have developed partnerships with groups that will be able to use the new St Mary’s to meet community needs, including Age Connect, Communities First, The Credit Union & Digital Communities Wales.
“We are so excited with the news that the Welsh assembly Communities Facilities Programme has offered us a grant of £300,000 to enable us to add to our resources to build a new ‘St Mary’s’.
“This is in no small part due to the tremendous support we have had from David Rees AM, Stephen Kinnock MP, Christina Rees MP and other civic officers and councillors. We are most grateful for their enthusiasm for what we are trying to do.
“But we are not rebuilding a church but a building that will be ‘Church’ to our community, so that together with our partners we can support the vulnerable, the weak, the needy and the lonely.
The new St Mary’s is not a church, or a church hall, it is a hope and a home for our neighbours.
“We have come a long way, there are a few more hurdles to overcome but we do feel that our prayers are being answered,” he added.
Image shows an artist’s impression of the new building.
Note to editors:
The former St Mary’s Church was demolished four years ago as it was no longer fit for purpose. The new building will be built on the site in Compton Road, Skewen.