Ex primary school gets new life as net zero flagship centre – supported by UK Shared Prosperity Fund

The former Cwmgors Primary School building, which closed in 2015, will soon re-open its doors to the local community as energy charity Awel Aman Tawe (AAT) realises ambitions for the building as a Net Zero Community Hub.

The newly renovated facility, now known as Hwb y Gors, has been a labour of love for Awel Aman Tawe, which has been developing its plans for the Hwb since acquiring it in 2018.

The Hwb will offer a community and enterprise space, co-working studios, educational facilities and a community café. A community electric transport scheme will also operate from the facility.

The final phase of the project has been part-funded through two of Neath Port Talbot Council’s UK Shared Prosperity Funds – £185,000 was awarded from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) Valleys and Villages Prosperity Fund and a further £65,000 has been awarded from the UK SPF Third Sector Growth Fund, which is managed by Neath Port Talbot Council for Voluntary Service.

Hwb y Gors will be a flagship centre for decarbonisation and will build firm foundations in the Amman and Swansea Valleys for the Green Economy. The renovated building will aim to achieve Net Zero status through the installation of 90kw solar panels, a 50kw ground source heating system and 20kw of battery storage onsite.

Targeting the business, education and creative sectors, a wide range of activities will be on offer to the local community, including heritage crafts, low carbon and educational programmes, and garden and wildlife projects. Awel Aman Tawe’s monthly repair cafes and fortnightly stitch club will also relocate to the Hwb once it opens. The Hwb will provide a welcoming community space, acting as a warm bank for those struggling to heat their homes, with the inclusion of super-fast wi-fi, events and good company.

Emily Hinshelwood, Creative Director at Awel Aman Tawe said “This is a huge support for Hwb y Gors and our community. We are so excited to be retrofitting such a beloved school building which has over 100 years of memories. During the construction work, we have made it our job to protect those memories and bring the building back into the community with the care that it deserves. We’ve been lucky to work with skilled local contractors, Just in Time, and also with artists, craftspeople and many members of the community who have been involved with creating stained glass, tiles and textiles for the building.”

Cllr. Jeremy Hurley, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Economic Growth at Neath Port Talbot Council said: “It is fantastic to see two of Neath Port Talbot Council’s SPF grants working together to support this exemplar project for the Upper Amman Valley. It is great to see the former primary school building being brought back into use for the local community and I would encourage everyone to use the services on offer at the Hwb when they open in the Spring”.

Gaynor Richards, director of Neath Port Talbot Council for Voluntary Service, said, “Awel Aman Tawe is to be commended for its innovative approach to bringing this valuable community asset back to life. Hwb y Gors showcases how the voluntary sector can support and promote the transition to low-carbon lifestyles for our current and future generations.”