Questions have been raised over the future of a memorial hall in Presteigne after it closed in April.
John Fletcher, a Presteigne resident, believes that Powys County Council are 'playing around' and doesn't care about re-opening the Memorial Hall, which usually hosts the monthly farmers market. Since the closure, it has meant that the Farmers Market and other community events can't be held, which has had an impact on the way people work.
"I'm on the local farmer's food committee. They use it once a month and we get a lot of people in there. Other classes use it like pilates and small community events are put on there, too. People are asking when it's opening again. It isn't that people aren't bothered, it's that the council aren't helping."
Presteigne Memorial Hall closed after Powys County Council went to visit the building for a safety inspection, upon invitation by the Memorial Hall Committee. The council found that the hall was lacking in early fire warning detection to protect visitors of the building such as a fire alarm, adequate emergency lighting, non-compliant fire doors, no emergency evacuation plan, and no fire risk assessment. The building closed with immediate effect on the 24th of April 2023.
However, Powys County Council have said that they remain 'committed' to opening the Memorial Hall again and that they will undertake the work required to open it safely. However, in correspondence obtained by The Brecon and Radnor Express, John was told that quotes for a fire alarm and emergency lighting systems would arrive by the 21st of September, but John is yet to hear any updates.
"The council found out that there wasn't a fire certificate with it, and there hasn't been one for the last forty years," John says. "They closed it in April, and nobody can go in there to do anything, which is ridiculous. The council closed it and has taken the keys off everybody. Contractors are meant to be going in there to get quotes. This was meant to be done in July and August, with a quote in September, and we've heard nothing."
John believes that there is nothing wrong with the hall and that it should be open again. "As an ex-fireman, I always look at these things, and I did fire regulation when I was working. There's nothing wrong with the hall. It needs a fire alarm. They're saying the doors need changing because they're not up to standard, but they are. If the fire alarm was fitted in there, everyone could get out if there was a fire. It's ridiculous that way they're carrying on."
John says that he has contacted local councillors, MPs and the council, but he hasn't received an answer. He has said that other members of the committee are unaware of what is going on, despite reassurances that Powys County Council have kept them updated. He's now worried that the building is getting worse without being looked after.
John said: "I have spoken to members of the hall committee and none of them have any knowledge of what is going on with regards to the hall. They only know that an electrician has been to the hall to test the stage lights. I have been told that the inside of the building is seeing mould and smelling of damp and foul smells because there is no air circulating in the hall. Even once a week would help that. The question I have to ask as well is where have PCC been for the past 40-plus years of running this hall? People are asking what is going on. Surely if a fire alarm and lights were fitted the rest could be an ongoing work in hand because it is getting to the stage of deterioration."
Councillor Jake Berriman, Cabinet Member for a Connected Powys for the Liberal Democrats, has been in correspondence with Mr Fletcher. He said: "I am advised that the installation of the fire detection system is taking place on the 17/11/23 and will take 3-4 weeks to complete. However, after this, a resolution still needs to be agreed with the Charities Commission and a new committee to run the hall established. It may well be that a well-timed and well-informed press article could assist the community in this."
Powys County Council said: "There is a meeting between the council and representatives of the memorial hall committee this Thursday. We will be issuing a joint update following that meeting."