Community looks to buy Welsh coastal landmark

The community benefit society wants to take over the Front Street Gun Tower for in Pembroke Dock

Residents in Pembroke Dock, south Wales, have banded together to try to save a local landmark as a community asset.

They have formed a community benefit society, Pembroke Dock Community Assets Ltd, after learning that the Front Street Gun Tower was being put up for public auction.

The offshore Trefoil-plan Gun Tower, built in 1851, was put up for sale last year by the county council with a guide price of £70,000. The three-storey building is prized for its views of the Cleddau River, Pembroke Dock, Neyland and Llanstadwell.

In a blog post for Wales Co-operative Centre the campaign group said: “It’s part of the fabric of the town’s history and is the image you see when you Google our town.

“So, we pulled out all the stops, talked and talked and talked, and eventually managed to persuade the county council to first take the building out of an upcoming auction, and finally, nine months later, they got in touch to confirm that the building would be considered for a community asset transfer.

“The community really got behind the campaign to keep the tower in community ownership, with many, many people signing the petition or registering their interest in community shares to help us buy the building.”

The group have held public events, collected more than 1,000 signatiures through online and paper petitions and have received offers of support from around the world.

They added: “We’ve learnt so much, on such a steep learning curve, and set up a brand new organisation that can hopefully develop to become a central organisation in our town.”

Challenged include tight deadlines and convincing the council they have the right skills to succeed with the venture – and now face a new hurdle in adapting a tourist-based venture to post-Covid world.

“We also need to work on bringing a wider group of people and volunteers on board to help us further develop and deliver our vision,” they added.

“So many people have helped us along the way, from the pub across the way offering to help with cleaning and painting, to people with loads of experience in community asset transfers or historic building

“A huge big up also needs to go out to the county council’s decision makers for listening to our community and adapting their plans when challenged.”

The team have had an initial meeting with Social Business Wales New Start and networking sessions with advisors and supporters, and will develop a detailed business plan through autumn and winter.

Team member Dilys Burrnell attended the ‘Start up with a cuppa’ mutual peer support sessions where people from start-up social enterprises in Wales can meet and discuss ideas, best practice and future collaborations with each other. Another will be held tomorrow (29 July) at 6pm.

Pembroke Dock Community Assets has received business consultancy support and advice from Social Business Wales New Start, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.

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