Knighton and District Community Centre, a brief History

1984 – 2007

The Community Centre was commissioned by Radnorshire District Council and was formally opened in 1984, and the management responsibility was handed over to a voluntary management committee. The Comm was an important venue for large events including concerts for many years, as well as many leisure classes and groups. Major events became less viable because of the changing legislation on the provision of security.

2008 – 2018

In the 2nd half of 2008 an emergency meeting was called, due to the then KDCC Committee resigning en masse, being no longer prepared to manage the running of the community centre.

The Centre had become very run down and was not administratively, or legally fulfilling its obligations and, more importantly, the finances were all but depleted leaving the centre very vulnerable particularly in relation to its creditors.

A small group agreed to become a caretaker committee, with support from Powys County Council Officers, with a view to looking at the long-term viability of the Centre. This resulted in a short to medium-term business plan to ascertain whether it was feasible. Whilst it was accepted that the centre could limp on, it would only be viable with long term planning.

In early 2009 a new committee was established, and key officer roles filled including Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. Powys County Council agreed to temporarily take over compliance to ensure that the basic health and safety requirements of the infrastructure were maintained – such as the electrics, plumbing (including Legionella) and heating.

Work started immediately on making basic improvements, and a grant was secured to replace all the main kitchen equipment (oven, fridge, microwave and dishwasher). Cleaners were supported with key bits of equipment, including a floor scrubber, to try and keep the building tidy – even though it was in poor physical shape. Licencing arrangements and a Bar Manager were put in place for the bar, and a campaign to attract new rental business and ideas for events and activities took shape.

The then-caretaker, who had been doing just a few hours a week, decided to retire. Only through the hard work and dedication of committee members the buildings future, although still precarious, started to look more hopeful. This required a very hands-on approach from the committee, who had to do much of the day-to-day work themselves on a voluntary basis as there were no resources for paid staff hours. This continued for a couple of years, when it was decided that 8 hours caretaking time could be paid for – the reality was that Chris and Karen Plant were doing in excess of 50 hours a week (on a voluntary basis) to keep the building open, including opening-up and closing the building, setting out the furniture, and on many occasions clearing up after hirers and events.

Sometime later, another grant helped to redevelop what has since become known as the Reynolds Room (named after one of the committee members who sadly passed away during this period). It had been virtually derelict and housed a number of old snooker tables. It was regularly broken-into and vandalised and, more importantly, was not generating a rental income. The renovation of this room, again much of which was done by the committee, was a turning point. The grant also helped replace all the velvet curtains throughout the building.
In 2011 work started on the longer-term plan – another successful grant application supported the appointment of a consultant to work on a Feasibility / Business Plan, who was tasked with consulting key stakeholders, seeking community support and shaping the concept of the ‘community hub’. The Committee received over 60 letters of support from local businesses and key community groups keen to see the building have a future.

A successful bid was submitted to the Big Lottery Fund for a Development Grant (£21k), to engage an architect to redesign the building and secure planning permission. An ambitious design emerged which included the co-location of the library, and various other tenants.
Once planners had given an indication that planning would be granted pending a full application, work started on two key bids – one to the Welsh Government (Community Facilities Grant) and one to the Big Lottery (People and Places). The timing of these bids would be crucial in seeing the programme of work to redesign and renovate the building be realised. Powys County Council also agreed to replace the roof which had been leaking for many years and, when surveyed, was found to have been wrongly built when the building was first erected in 1982. This was another significant step towards seeing the project through to completion.

Once the design had been completed, the cost estimates had soared. The maximum amount from the Welsh Government was £500k, the cost of a new roof alone would be upwards of £100k. The council’s contribution to the library relocation would go some way to the shortfall, but the Committee pinned their hopes for the balance to come from the Lottery bid. Sadly, this was not to be and the Lottery did not approve the full grant. As a result, the design had to be significantly scaled down. Whilst some other small grants, private sponsorship and a contribution from the Army Cadets for their accommodation helped, it was not going to be the full scale exciting project that had originally been hoped. It was devastating news.

Undeterred, the Committee and the architect worked quickly to scale back the project and late in 2016 the Community Centre was temporarily vacated and operations moved into the Drill Hall adjacent to Tuffins (now the Coop). The committee – together with a band of volunteers – manually carried everything from the community centre across the carpark and over the road, to be either stored or arranged in the temporary accommodation – an exhausting exercise. Quite a lot of stuff went in the skip!

The build was going to take almost a year, so keeping the regular rental customers was going to be important for the longer-term sustainability of the Centre, as well as ensuring that regular activities such as the Community Market and the Tuesday Café could continue.

Seeing the Centre being remodelled was exciting and it very soon became apparent that the new spaces and layout would transform the building from a dark, damp uninviting space to a light open facility conducive with user expectation. Unfortunately, the slimmed-down renovation plan meant that proposed additional office and workrooms had to be abandoned, which would have brought in rental income to help the long term sustainability of the Community Centre.

The building opened in the late Autumn of 2017 and an official opening was organised for a few months later. Over £750,000 was raised to transform the building – no mean feat for a small but dedicated committee who cared about their community, had a vision, and saw it through.

2019 – 2022

Since 2019, the Management Committee has built on the sound foundations between 2008 – 2018. As part of the refurbishment the District Library moved from its original premises in West Street to the Community Centre in 2017, and an Administration Officer was appointed in 2018. New services, in partnership with the County Council, PAVO and other voluntary organisations have developed including a Community Hub, Volunteer Centre, Stay and Play, Family Centre, Youth Work Project and Garden Project.

Submitted by Dominique Jones


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