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Councillors unanimously approve £1.7m investment in Greenmeadow Community Farm

Feeding the Goats at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran
Feeding the Goats at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran

Councillors today approved a £1.7m investment to transform Greenmeadow Community Farm into a ‘premier visitor destination for families in Gwent’

The farm will be closed from a date in Autumn 2022 to Spring 2023 for the work to take place.

Cllr Fiona Cross, executive member for children, families & communities, said: “As executive member, it’s been quite a journey.”

She thanked the officers for going away to find a viable business proposal and presenting councillors with a number of options. She said: “It’s bold and exciting. It allows the farm to stand on its own two feet and be able to invest in itself and services. I want to stress that this is a good plan. It makes me want to go on the zipwire and soft play even!”

She said: “Our local area is rich with this history that we need to hang on to.” Cllr Cross said the new-look attraction would bring tourism and this could “lead off into other directions.”

Cllr Alan Slade, Llantarnam Ward, said he supported the proposal but felt the council had done a “u-turn”. He recalled that in 2019 when council tax was raised 6% the farm’s budget was cut by £200,000.

He said: “Given the magnitude of the u-turn what message does it give for future budget setting?” He said he never felt the £200,000 cut was “realistic unless we were going to close it. It was a  bad choice then. What’s changed. You must have realised the love the farm generates?”

Cllr Cross said the farm used to be in the Social Service portfolio and not “distinctly on its own” so “wasn’t getting as much attention as it needed.” She said this proposal would get the farm “on its feet”.

She said a customer survey was done in 2019 and residents gave the message “that they didn’t want it shut” and the “council voted to keep the farm”. Officers took this information away with a “clear understanding of what to do.”

Cllr Dave Thomas, Llantaranm Ward, asked if the “numbers” in the proposals were achievable?   He was told that the figures in the report were produced by someone with extensive experience of the visitor attraction industry and are “quite conservative”.

Cllr Anthony Hunt, Leader of Torfaen Council, said this could be an opportunity to link up Blaenavon, the World Heritage Site, the farm and the canal “so we get people to travel from further afield to Torfaen.” He asked if there were ideas on how the farm could be made affordable for local families?

Colin Newell, from COR Transformation Management Ltd, prepared the business case. He said that farm users would have a loyalty card and this could be “loaded” with discounts or other offers based on “identified groups of people.”

Cllr Cross added that there would be an opportunity to create a Changing Places toilet on the farm.

Some of the new improvements to the farm

  • Building a new structure to link up the two main barns on the farm and create a single two-storey building to house a new coffee shop, bistro, licensed bar, soft play centre, education centre and function rooms.
  • A new outdoor play area and zip wire/woodland activity.

The farm would aim to attract more private hire bookings, functions and visits from secondary schools. The forecasts are based on the farm being open to the public for 360 days a year instead of the current 326. Visitors would be able to pay to just enter the soft-play centre and not the farm.

The £1,767,500 investment includes £500,000 that was previously set aside in the capital programme.

The vote

All councillors at the meeting agreed with the proposals.

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Councillors unanimously approve £1.7m investment in Greenmeadow Community Farm