Pantycelyn Project Board set deadline for Welsh halls action plan

FOLLOWING the decision to close Pantycelyn for renovations in June, the Pantycelyn Project Board was formed and met for the first time on Friday 11th September. This meeting saw the beginning of work on a design brief for future Welsh-medium accommodation and social space for Aberystwyth students.

Pantycelyn Residence. Credit: Rebecca James

Pantycelyn Residence. Credit: Rebecca James

The resolution that was passed in June emphasised the University’s commitment to the Welsh language and culture, and the provision of dedicated Welsh-medium accommodation. It also set out the University’s plans to reopen Pantycelyn as a Welsh-medium accommodation within 4 years; and, set up the Project Board.

The Board are working towards a deadline of 30th April 2016, and are tasked to come up with a long-term plan, lasting at least 40 years, that will provide “excellent Welsh-medium accommodation and social spaces”.

The primary responsibilities of the group include:

  • Oversight of and advising on the development of a design brief for welsh-medium accommodation.
  • Ensuring that UMCA and the student body, as well as the staff and community are fully consulted in the development of this brief.
  • Test how the brief could be applied to Pantycelyn and the likely costs of doing so – under this they must also consider: a revised University Estate Strategy; demand for Welsh-medium accommodation; structural changes needed in Pantycelyn; the listed-building status and necessary permissions; priorities of the university; and the provision of necessary funding.

The University Council will then be presented the plans for consideration in June 2016.

In the interim Pantycelyn will remain a centre for Welsh language activities. The University’s Centre for Welsh Language Services are in the process of relocating to new offices at Pantycelyn, the building is also to host classes for Welsh learners. UMCA’s office will stay in Pantycelyn and the buildings communal spaces are available to be used by UMCA and its members.

During this meeting the Terms of Reference and membership of the Board were approved.

The Project Board is chaired by Gwerfyl Pierce Jones, Pro-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, other members of the Project Board include members from the Aber Uni Council, independent members, members of the university’s executive, student representatives and university staff. Members include: Lewis Donnelly, Students’ Union President; Hanna Merrigan, President of UMCA; Rebecca Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Chief Operating Officer); and Elin Jones AM.

Gwerfyl Pierce Jones, the Chairmen of the Project Board, was optimistic about the future of Pantycelyn:

“This is a vital step towards realising the University’s intention to reopen Pantycelyn and the Board is fully committed to the task it has been set. Crucially, the Board’s membership includes a cross-section of individuals who will represent the interests of students and staff at the University, and brings together a broad range of experience and expertise to enable us to develop a plan that will give new life to Pantycelyn as a focal point for Welsh medium activities at Aberystwyth University. In particular, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Elin Jones AM and Roger Banner, the two independent members of the Board. Their contributions will be indispensable.”

Hanna Merrigan, President of UMCA – the Aberystwyth Welsh Students’ Union, was keen to highlight that the students would be central to future discussions:

“Following the first meeting of the Pantycelyn Project Board, I am confident that the Board’s membership is strong and the terms of reference comprehensive. The discussions were constructive and I emphasize that the students will be at the centre of the discussions over the coming months. I represent the student voice on the Project Board, and it is encouraging to see that the University welcomes our input. I want to emphasize that the process this year is clearer and more transparent and I hope that members of the Board will be unanimous about the nature of Pantycelyn and what it will provide in future. The steps being taken prove that the University is serious about Pantycelyn this time. I also welcome the appointment of Elin Jones AM to the Board and I’m sure that the students will also welcome her, given her commitment and leading role in the campaign to save Pantycelyn.”