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Newtown Becomes a Pioneering Town for Reuse and Repair in Wales

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Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council has joined forces with social enterprise Circular Economy Mid Wales (CEMW) to form a partnership that draws on the pioneering heritage of the town.

The partnership builds on the reuse and repair foundations already laid to create a town-wide movement for change towards a zero waste society and lower carbon economy. Together they make an investment in Newtown’s future as a vibrant and sustainable place to live and work.

The town council, with funding from the Welsh Government’s Circular Economy Fund and the support of CEMW, is enabling £675,000 investment in the town.

A prominent town centre property is being purchased to serve as a community Reuse & Repair Hub, reused and repaired goods will be showcased in prominent public spaces and the infrastructure behind a reuse and repair economy will receive investment.

At the heart of the initiative is the former William Hill betting shop on Broad Street, which is being purchased by CEMW, with the ground floor being refurbished by local tradespeople and converted to an open plan emporium.

The investment aims to help communities promote the country’s shift toward a circular economy by keeping products, materials and goods in circulation for as long as possible, avoiding waste and maximising their life.

There will be space for the sale of goods donated from the Salvage Shed at the town’s Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC), situated on the Dyfryn Estate, room to expand the town’s Repair Cafés that help people keep products alive for longer and an ambition to establish a ‘library of things’ that allow families to borrow instead of buy.

The space also anticipates being home to a zero plastic / refill shop and attempt to improve how small electrical appliances are repaired and reused. There will also be space for holding workshops in anything to do with reuse and repair, from upcycling old clothes to soldering a broken radio back together.

CEMW is keen to hear from anyone interested in these opportunities.

Cllr David Selby, Mayor of Newtown, said:

“The town council is delighted to be working with Welsh Government and Circular Economy Mid Wales on this exciting, innovative project.  The project is bringing back into use an empty town centre shop, providing new jobs and acting as a hub for reuse of materials and products.

“When the town council passed its climate emergency motion, the intention was always that it was important to show action and a way forward for our town.  We welcome this investment in Newtown and look forward to working with CEMW and others in changing our view of waste, reuse, and consumption.  Newtown is now at the forefront of this important national movement.”

The ground floor of the Reuse & Repair Hub will be fitted out using, wherever possible, reused and reclaimed materials and equipment, from reclaimed timber flooring to repurposed lighting and electrical fittings.

CEMW would like to hear from any local tradespeople who have the skills and experience of working with reclaimed materials.

The plan is to have the emporium open this spring as a showcase public space. CEMW will also promote the use of reclaimed and repurposed fixtures and fittings in other public spaces over the coming year, establishing Newtown as an exemplar of how an economy can simultaneously grow and be sustainable.

Last year, Welsh Government invited applications to its Circular Economy Fund, designed to help communities promote the country’s shift toward a circular economy by keeping products, materials and goods in circulation for as long as possible – avoiding waste and maximising their life.

Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council and CEWM seized the opportunity and applied to the Fund.

Town clerk, Ed Humphreys said:

“This is the town council in its enabling role, something that's sometimes overlooked. By enabling others to bring forward proposals and by taking advantage of the opportunity, the town council has been able to lead and channel £675,000 investment from Welsh Government into Newtown Town Centre in a way which helps the community help itself.”

Chris Powell, for Circular Economy Mid Wales, said:

“This is an incredible vote of confidence in the work of CEMW. As a young social enterprise, we have helped bring reuse and repair to public attention by working in partnership with Potters Group to open the Salvage Shed at Newtown’s HWRC, an initiative instigated by Powys County Council.

“This initiative will enable us to expand our capacity, enabling us to divert more valuable resources away from landfill and back into the parts of our community that need them. Having a town centre venue to showcase reuse and repair on the high street forms part of our town’s green recovery from Covid.

He went on to explain: 

“This investment from the Welsh Government also allows us to build on the great work of the SkillShop project. Established in part through funding from the local Arwain LEADER Programme, SkillShop created the ‘makerspace’ adjacent to the Newtown Campus in a partnership with NPTC Group of Colleges.

“The new funding allows us to invest in the community repair facilities and to bring some of these into the heart of Newtown as evening or weekend workshops, open to all.”

By putting all these elements together on the high street, the partnership hopes that Newtown will continue to pioneer reuse and repair in Wales and for it to form a distinct contribution to Wales’ drive to achieve a more circular, more sustainable, economy.

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said:

“I am delighted to see support from the Circular Economy Fund has backed this joint effort by Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council and Circular Economy Mid Wales to invest in Newtown and create the new community Reuse and Repair Hub.

“The intent of the Circular Economy is to keep items and materials in use, and out of waste, as long as possible. As noted in our recently-launched ‘Beyond Recycling’ strategy on the Circular Economy, while Wales is currently the third best recycling nation in the world, keeping items in use through repair, re-use and recycling will help us reach the number one spot and play a vital role in our drive towards becoming a carbon net-zero nation by 2050.

“As well as being an excellent example of some of the work taking place in Wales’ Circular Economy, projects such as these also play a vital role as we support town centres across Wales following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Anyone wishing to be involved in this pioneering initiative is asked to contact Chris at CEMW on [email protected] . There are immediate opportunities for refurbishment tradespeople, for partnerships in reuse and repair and shortly for some staff to support this enterprise.

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