We issued the following public statement on 22 July following a news release by Powys County Council and the NPTC Group of Colleges
Future positioning and operation of y Gaer, Brecon
This public statement follows the Position Update News Release by Powys County Council and the NPTC Group of Colleges on 17 July 2019. This announced that the two organisations are exploring partnership opportunities for Brecon Beacons College to deliver some of their future programme of further education courses in the soon-to-open y Gaer building.
The Brecknock Society and Museum Friends is an existing local partner to Powys CC in the y Gaer project. The Society is contributing to funding the redevelopment of the Museum and Art Gallery, and it also expects to be involved in the future operation of y Gaer through volunteers working alongside Powys CC staff to deliver museum, art gallery and library services. Along with the Brecknock Art Trust (the other original local funding / operational partner to Powys CC), we were not informed of the Powys CC / NPTC Group discussions until mid-July.
We have now met with Powys CC executive staff and have been briefed in broad terms of the plans that are being explored with the NPTC Group. We have expressed our disappointment at not being consulted earlier on what could be significant changes to the current allocation of space in y Gaer. We have indicated our immediate views and concerns as below.
Our trustees are considering the possible implications for the Society, including the conditions and expectations attached to our own funding and the additional funds we have raised from others for y Gaer. We are consulting with our members, other partners in y Gaer and the community. We expect to maintain a dialogue with Powys CC in its ongoing discussions on possible options with the NPTC Group, and will meet again with Powys CC in early August to discuss emerging proposals. We are pressing for a solution that is acceptable to all the funding partners, including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and retains in y Gaer the key services and features currently planned for our community and its visitors.
We recognise the benefits that some shared use of y Gaer with Brecon Beacons College could bring in terms of the operational budget and staffing for y Gaer at a time when local authority budgets are under severe and increasing pressure. We also recognise the benefits for students in terms of their learning experience, and the social and economic benefits of having more young people in the centre of Brecon.
However, we are very concerned that the principal spaces and key features in the completed y Gaer redevelopment of the Museum and Art Gallery could be compromised. These must remain sufficient to display the significant permanent collections, and to achieve the educational benefits (for example the Victorian school room for school children to learn about history and their heritage) and economic regeneration (for example the Sir John Lloyd gallery for special temporary exhibitions that will attract visitors to our area) promised by y Gaer.
Finally, in planning the future use of y Gaer, all parties must remember that it was conceived as a partnership between Powys CC and the community. Its overall viability depends not only on finances, but also on the recruitment and retention of the group of committed y Gaer volunteers from the local community to assist Powys CC staff in running the museum, art gallery and library.