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THE first ever image of a black hole may have been unveiled this week, but a shadow has been cast over plans for a star-gazing observatory at Rhossili.

Swansea Council-run Gower Activity Centres had applied for Visit Wales funding, but the bid has been turned down.

The hope was to create an observatory on Rhossili Down, overlooking Mewslade Bay, which could be used by school groups and hired out to tourists.

The rural spot in the west of the Gower Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has been found to have particularly dark skies – ideal for spotting celestial bodies.

A Visit Wales spokeswoman said 80 projects had been bidding for a £2.2 million pot of money, with 23 successful but not Gower Activity Centres.

She said: “This was a very competitive fund, with many strong bids, the final projects were selected through a panel decision based on a rigorous scoring system assessed against a number of key criteria including the strategic fit with the Welsh Government priorities, evidence of need and value for money.”

A council spokesman said no decisions had been taken on pursuing other funding streams as yet.

Speaking before the bid was submitted, Gower Activity Centres general manager Damian James said: “Our big hope is to create an astro-tourism ‘village’, where schools coming to us could go coasteering and surfing, and also learn about stars and navigation.”

Meanwhile, the council-led Gower AONB Partnership Steering Group is putting together a Dark Sky Community application.

If approved by the International Dark Sky Association, it is hoped Dark Sky Community status would add even more appeal to Gower, and help control light pollution.

The council said a Dark Sky Community application could be submitted later this summer.

Photo: Rhossili from above (Wikimedia / CharlesC)

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