REPLICA cottages from days gone by, open-air theatre space and a museum featuring a Sherman tank and steam engines could be coming to Kidwelly.
The town council has applied for planning permission for the History Shed Experience, which is having to move from its base in Laugharne, to create a new landscaped visitor attraction on land beyond Glan-Yr-Afon car park, off Bridge Street.
Other museum exhibits would include an armoured car, Harley-Davidson motorbike, a replica First World War trench, 20 to 30 mannequins in period costume, and stories of emigration to America.
A pole-barn area would feature live events and potentially a weekly market.
The single-storey replica cottages would have different themes, including one depicting life for Welsh settlers in America in the 1890s.
Toilets would also be provided.
Town council estates manager Mark Stephens said the History Shed Experience team got in touch because of its close connections with the town.
“We looked at different proposals and we narrowed it down to this site,” said Mr Stephens.
“It’s on the outskirts of the town, the car park is next to it, and it’s a stone’s throw from the castle.”
Mr Stephens said the land, which is used by walkers, was a rubbish dump many years ago.
Two public meetings were held, in 2019 and 2020. A planning document submitted as part of the application to Carmarthenshire Council said the 3,000sq m proposal was well received overall.
It added that there were a few environmental and visual impact concerns. In response the design team decreased the museum building’s profile and moved it to the rear of the site where it would be screened from direct view.
The planning statement said the History Shed Experience – a community interest company – would consider medieval displays in the museum and that it was keen to work with community groups.
It was also hopeful of attracting productions companies to film there, as has happened in Laugharne, and has discussed setting up an on-site nature observation project.
Mr Stephens said the town council would have to agree a lease with the group, should planning permission be granted.
He said that “to a person,” town councillors supported the proposal. More than 150 people have contacted the planning department to voice their support for the development.
Mr Stephens said there were one or two objections. He felt the scheme’s visual impact would be quite minimal.
Kidwelly resident and town councillor Julie Bezant commented on the application, saying: “There has been some understandable opposition to these plans by those concerned by its proximity to the nature reserve.
“However, most people who have studied the plans are reassured that not only will the ecology of the site be preserved but the area will be enhanced by the steps being proposed.
“Many Kidwelly inhabitants remember it wasn’t too long ago that this site was literally a dump.
“Most people I have spoken to are desperately keen for this development to take place, recognising the huge benefits that it will bring to town.
“I think the town will be devastated if the History Shed has to go somewhere else.”
We contacted Kidwelly Town Council to ask if they had carried out due diligence on the company and if they were aware the that as of 2020 the company had £157 in assets. We also asked if the Town Council would be funding the project. We asked why the brown field site of the Industrial Museum was not being considered and we asked why a company citing education as their mission statement was getting so much support while the main education facility in Mynyddygarreg, i.e. the primary school, was being closed.
The response from Kidwelly Town Council was:
In response to your email I would answer as follows:
- Funding for the project will be the sole responsibility of History Shed Experience CIC.
- Kidwelly Town Council agreed to pay for the planning application as it attracts a 50% reduction on the planning fee. Full planning application fee would have been £5,520. Actual cost to Town Council was £2,760.
- Yes, due diligence has been carried out on the company.
- As stated in the application details, the site lies outside the conservation area.
- As stated in the application details, the Industrial Museum was considered but due to the distance from the Town Centre and poor access for buses and public transport links, Glan-yr-Afon’s proximity to the town and more importantly, the car park and Castle, favoured this site.
We asked why the same reasoning for keeping the location within walking, bus route and parking was not applied when closing the local school forcing children to travel a number of miles and making them cross a busy bypass. We asked if the Town Council has also submitted this response to the consultation for proposed closure of the school.
Carmarthenshire County Council said that the planning application is still in the consultation stage and it can be seen here: https://carmarthenshire-pr.force.com/en/s/planning-application/a0b5J000000dAwnQAE/pl02491