The transformation of Merthyr Tydfil town centre is set to continue with a £1.2m award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help preserve its unique character.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council has received initial support for its HLF Townscape Heritage (TH) bid for the Pontmorlais Townscape Heritage Quarter, Continuing the Renaissance project.
The £1.9m initiative joint-funded by HLF, the local authority and Cadw, will see the ongoing refurbishment of a number of historically important buildings – providing new jobs and training opportunities – as part of a vision to create a Heritage Quarter combining arts and culture facilities with niche retailers.
Development funding of £33,300 has also been awarded to help the County Borough Council progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.
“This investment will preserve the unique industrial landscape character of the most significant Welsh town of the Industrial Revolution,” said Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Leader Cllr Brendan Toomey. “Our aim is to preserve the historic buildings in the area and preserve or re-introduce the features that make each building special.”
In 2011, a TH award of £1.58m was given towards the first phase of the project, which saw the restoration of 10 buildings including the Grade II listed St David’s Hall. This area was prioritised as it contains a number of significant listed buildings with a high architectural value, some of which have already benefited from inward investment including the Old Town Hall (Redhouse), Canolfan Soar and the former YMCA.
Cllr Toomey said the Pontmorlais area lacked the economic vitality of the nearby High Street, and small businesses were under severe pressure – compounded by out of town retail parks – which had led to a lack of maintenance and deterioration of the heritage buildings.
“As a result, Pontmorlais should develop a niche function in order to rebuild its vitality,” he added. “The vision is to create a Heritage Quarter where arts, culture, and media will flourish alongside niche retailers that will attract a wide range of visitors from across the region.”
The County Borough Council is developing a partnership with Merthyr College, Tydfil Training and local contractors to provide training in traditional building skills, resulting in students gaining more formal qualifications and work placements on heritage schemes across the region.
“This has proved successful, as evidenced by the progress of our current scheme – and is something that we intend to develop and further implement,” said Cllr Toomey.
Richard Bellamy, Head of HLF Wales, said:
“Historic town centres are the beating heart of communities, so where they fall into disrepair, the community pays a heavy price. Research shows that this can be changed and that even small changes – improving shop fronts or restoring architectural features – can make a real difference.
“Bringing further Pontmorlais buildings back into use will attract new enterprises to the area and assist existing businesses by increasing footfall and job opportunities, which has started to develop following phase one. HLF is pleased to support this worthwhile project.”