We have this week written to CRT raising our concerns about the sale of Junction Cottage, Pontymoile. We strongly feel that CRT should consult with the local community before deciding its fate. We also feel that its restoration to re-use should be undertaken by an experienced Conservation Architect and Builder, skilled in traditional construction methods. CRT already has all of the necessary skills available to it and we believe that they should endeavour to raise funds to do this. We are happy to support any grant applications that CRT would make. Our letter to CRT Chief Executive Richard Parry is below. We have also raised our concerns with CRT Trustees and Bwrdd Glandŵr Cymru which is the CRT supervisory board in Wales.
We have today heard back from Richard Parry. Richard has confirmed that they intend to proceed with the sale. Their argument is that the poor condition of the building means that they have to proceed quickly. They believe that private investment whilst under the protection of being a listed building means that the building will survive and will be protected. Previously CRT had potential access to funding under the Adventure Triangle initiative with Torfaen Council. This included development of a Visitor Centre at Pontymoile Basin. We believe that there were funds available that could have been used before we reached this point.
We are grateful for the local support against the sale and petition organised by the Friends of Junction Cottage, Pontymoile Facebook group.
Obviously we are disappointed by this response from CRT as there is no guarantee as to what the building will be used for, or whether it will be open to the public or not.
Our letter to CRT:
Current Sale by Online Auction – Junction Cottage Toll House, Pontymoile Basin, Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.
Junction Cottage, an historic icon which needs to be treated with respect, is held in great affection by canal enthusiasts. Whilst there are many beautiful canal bridges on our canal, there are very few iconic structures, with the exception of Brynich Aqueduct and Junction Cottage. Our Trust’s views on the building are set out here: https://mbact.org.uk/2021/canal-and-river-trust-puts-junction-house-pontymoile-up-for-sale/
You will be aware of the intense public interest in this issue, as witnessed on the Friends of Junction Cottage Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/groups/951236429599517/
We feel that CRT has an obligation to consult with the local community before disposing of an iconic property such as this.
This well-loved building needs to be cared for by a responsible, well-meaning organisation such as CRT.
A restoration would be a complex and costly undertaking, which has not been made clear in the auction details. The building is Listed Grade II and falls within the Canal Conservation Area. Its traditional construction and materials, such as horse-hair plaster and insulation and suspected asbestos/cement-sheets, make for a challenging restoration. These challenges are not highlighted in the sales particulars, and could attract an inexperienced buyer. This is not a job for a typical DIY enthusiast and should be undertaken by an experienced Conservation Architect and Builder, skilled in traditional construction methods.
The building needs expert attention and love. CRT already cares for hundreds of Listed structures and buildings throughout England and Wales. It has the in-house expertise and conservation ethos to care for this building. Any application made by CRT for Heritage Lottery or other grants for the project would be supported by us.
Ideally, the property should be for community use and/or information centre. However, if this is not possible or sustainable, then the next best use would be as a CRT holiday-let. We totally understand CRT’s requirement to maximise income, especially in the light of the worrying government financial settlement. In selling the property, CRT will receive a one-off payment. If the property is renovated and used as a holiday-let, CRT will benefit from an ongoing income stream. The community will also benefit from the local spend.
If CRT are not interested in this, there are a number of other options which need to be investigated:
A separate not-for-profit community company – a Junction Cottage Building Preservation Trust – could be established to renovate the property and manage it, once restored.
Another option would be to approach an existing established Building Preservation Trust, such as The Landmark Trust, which already manages property in Monmouthshire, such as Clytha Castle.
We request that the property is withdrawn from the market, allowing time for the community to investigate these options.
Revd. John Collier, Chairman
Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust
July 19th 2023
Richard Parry, Chief Executive, Canal and River Trust
David Orr CBE, Chair, Canal and River Trust Board of Trustees
Steve Thomas CBE, Chairman, Bwrdd Glandŵr Cymru
Mark Evans, Director, Wales and South West, Canal and River Trust
About the Monmouthshire Brecon & Abergavenny Canals Trust
We are a local South-East-Wales based registered charity, run by volunteers, which campaigns and works to improve and sustainably restore the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal for the benefit of our local community. Along with campaigning for restoration, we undertake on-the-ground works and run a successful interpretation centre at Fourteen Locks, Newport, where we have run an “Education through Restoration” project with 60 local schools in partnership with Newport City Council. We work in partnership with the canal owners, Glandwr Cymru, the Canal and Rivers Trust in Wales, Torfaen County Borough Council, Newport City Council and Caerphilly County Borough Council. Whilst our main base is at Fourteen Locks, we operate two eco-friendly electrically driven Community Boats at Goytre Wharf Llanover, a beautiful location within the Brecon Beacons National Park. The canal is a 200-year old historical, leisure and economic resource, running from Brecon to Newport. About 35 miles at its northern end is navigable and a popular tourist attraction, with the remaining 5 miles from Cwmbran to Newport, and 4 miles from Newport to Cwmcarn, left to be restored. The unrestored section is well placed to serve the local urban communities of Cwmbran, Newport and Risca.
Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canals Trust
Fourteen Locks Canal Centre
Tel. : 01633 892167