CALLS are being made to break the ‘bureaucratic logjam’ being imposed on the Mid Wales Growth deal following the announcement that 14 jobs are at risk at CAT.
On Wednesday evening, the Centre for Alternative Technology, announced that a drop in visitor numbers and rising costs have led the centre to announce the closure of its visitor centre to day visitors, with 14 jobs at risk.
In a statement, CAT said: “This decision has been made due to a number of factors, during a challenging time for the charity sector in the UK.
"The combination of rising running costs, reduced visitor numbers to Wales post-pandemic and funding delays have made it economically inviable to continue operating the visitor centre in its current model — despite CAT’s best efforts to mitigate these factors.
"The closure of the current visitor centre to day visitors will, however, allow CAT to focus on strengthening economically viable aspects of its operations — helping deliver on its mission to create and share practical solutions to tackle the climate and nature emergency.”
CAT was earmarked for a £24.2 million investment in 2021 through the Mid Wales Growth Deal to create an “immersive learning experience” to produce skills for workers needed in the renewable energy, “sustainable” construction, food, land use and tourism.
The investment would provide new and upgraded facilities featured in the plans include teaching spaces, exhibition spaces, additional on-site accommodation, an expanded café, retail spaces, nature trails and walkways, and an enhanced visitor experience.
However, two years on, no funding has yet been released by the mid Wales Growth Deal for any of the proposed projects.
Reacting to the announcement, Plaid Cymru county councillor for Glantwymyn county councillor, Elwyn Vaughan, said the news was ‘disappointing, but not surprising.”
Cllr Vaughan added: “CAT has played a important role for 50 years in highlighting environmental challenges and opportunities and is highly respected.
“It has been working on securing financial investment for a number of years via the Mid Wales Growth Deal, to update and renew the facilities for day visitors.
“It is frustrating therefore that the huge bureaucratic processes placed on the Growth Deal by central Government is not only inhibiting much needed investment but threatening the viability of important facilities such as CAT.
"It is imperative that urgent steps are taken to break the bureaucratic logjam.
“It is also important to emphasise that CAT will continue to be a centre of excellence in the provision of training and degree courses and hence has an important role to play for the future.”
Earlier on Thursday, leaders of Powys and Ceredigion county councils, who facilitate the Mid Wales Growth Deal, reacted to the news.
Councillor Bryan Davies and Councillor James Gibson-Watt, said in a joint statement: “We are naturally concerned about the announcement and the potential impact on individuals and the wider community. We both met with the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Chief Executive of CAT yesterday to offer our full support. CAT is an asset to Mid Wales and its economy – and we will do everything we can to support them through this difficult period.
In respect of the Mid Wales Growth Deal, we are working to understand the situation and anticipated impact on the proposal for funding. At present, no project has received funding from the Growth Deal due to the projects still working on their business cases. Following Government guidance robustly is crucial to ensure that public funds are invested wisely in schemes that are sustainable for the long term.
It would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this time.”