ABERYSTWYTH Town Council has agreed to spend £240,000 on the restoration of a section of the former church building it acquired last year to act as its base.

St Winefride’s Church and presbytery have stood on Queens Road since 1875; their tall Gothic style buildings welcoming worshippers until it closed in 2012.

It remained untouched and under threat of demolition until Aberystwyth Town Council bought it in 2021 with the aim of restoring and adapting the site to create a “fully accessible cultural and community centre, providing event space, flexible multi-purpose facilities for local groups, a civic space for town events, offices for the council and a functional outdoor space.”

The council later renamed the building Neuadd Gwenfrewi.

The first phase of the project to reinvent the building was to work on the presbytery to use as the council’s offices.

At a meeting before Christmas, town councillors signed off on an estimated £240,000 to restore the presbytery, a price the council “felt to be very reasonable due to the building’s condition.”

Councillors recommended that they “proceed with the restoration as soon as possible as well as the sourcing of funding for the whole development.”

“Council reserves would either be used to fund the restoration or as match funding for the wider restoration project depending on what funding options were available,” a report added.

Aberystwyth Town Council held a community consultation on what to do with the site earlier this year, as plans for its complete restoration – which could cost more than £1m – begin to take shape.

Originally marketed in August 2020 at offers around £250,000 by the diocese, which closed it in favour of revamping a church in Penparcau in a controversial move which caused a long-standing battle between parishioners, the town council ended up paying £360,000 for the building due to the “buoyant market” at the time, using cash reserves it had built up “over a number of years”.

The building is the first to be owned by Aberystwyth Town Council since 1974.

The council said at the time that, with more services being taken on by community councils due to “long-term financial pressures at the county level”, the town council also needs accommodation as it pays “significant rent” for its premises on Baker Street “which are problematic in terms of access and which do not encourage public participation”.

The first year of ownership has seen the council ensuring the building is safe and secure and fixing any structural issues brought about by being laid empty for more than nine years before full renovations can begin.

Clerk to the council Gweneira Raw Rees said the council estimates repair and development work will cost around £1m, which will be “funded by various grants.”

Later plans include rebuilding the garage and former Scout hut as a passive house to be used as a resource for the local community.