MBACT is extremely concerned that CRT (Glandŵr Cymru (the Canal and River Trust in Wales)) have placed Junction House at Pontymoile Basin, Pontypool, on the market.
Junction House is a Grade II Listed Building, located within the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal Conservation Area. The property was built as a Toll House at the junction of the Monmouthshire Canal and the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal, made necessary here because of the transfer of cargo from one canal to the other. Whilst the canals were joined in1812, it was not until the separate companies were amalgamated in 1865 that standard tolls would have been charged to all users.
The canal junction here was designed by William Crosley, Engineer to the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal, who may have also designed the associated Toll House. In its character it is very similar to the Turnpike Toll Houses of the period. It was Listed as “… a good example of a canal Toll-House, and a important surviving relic of the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal.”
Since ceasing its use as a Toll House, it has primarily been used as living accommodation, with long periods of vacancy during which the property suffered some vandalism. For a period during the 1980s, the property was leased by the Pontypool Heritage Centre who ran a small museum there.
This iconic property, a prominent feature at Pontymoile Basin, is of considerable historic and visual importance, and should be cherished, and protected for this and future generations to enjoy.
Today, sadly the building looks forgotten and neglected by its owners, being boarded-up, hiding behind the overgrown hedge which is obscuring its fine shape.
In order to give the building a secure future, it not only needs to be repaired and restored, but used. CRT has commenced improvements to facilities at Pontymoile Basin as part of the Adventure Triangle Project, which incorporate a new Visitor Centre / Cafe. We believe that Junction House should be incorporated into the overall vision for the site.
Whilst some comfort can be taken from the fact that the building is Listed and lies within a Conservation Area, meaning that any owner would require the consent of Torfaen CBC for its demolition or any alteration to its character, it is not unknown for an unscrupulous developer to flout these regulations. Therefore, our aspiration is for the property to remain in public ownership, whether with CRT, a Building Preservation Trust, or ourselves if we can secure funding. In any event, we would wish to see our local community benefiting from its use.
We are disappointed that the Canal and River Trust did not consult the local community, including ourselves, on their proposal before putting this iconic property on the market. We have approached them for a meeting to discuss the options, to which they have agreed. We anticipate that this will take place in the coming weeks. In the meantime, following our initial representations to them, we are pleased to report that they have taken the property off the market.
We are grateful for the support of local residents and users of the canal who also contacted CRT. In particular, Phil Hughes who sits on the CRT Advisory Board for Wales, for also championing this cause.
We will keep our Members informed of progress.