Abandoned Blaenau Gwent chapel to be turned into Wales’ first 'social supermarket'

AN ABANDONED chapel in Blaenau Gwent will be transformed into Wales’ first 'social supermarket'.

After being restored to its former glory with a £600,000 EU grant, Trinity Chapel on Church Street in Abertillery will house the first Welsh social supermarket, offering cut prices to those on welfare support.

The transformation will be overseen by The Coalfields Regeneration Trust Wales and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and is based on a “community shop” concept developed in South Yorkshire.

Members will be able to shop for goods deemed “unfit for sale” by supermarkets — with up to 75 per cent cut from the retail price — including dented tins or items with incorrect labelling.

Alun Taylor, head of operations at Coalfields Regeneration Trust Wales, believes the project will provide “much needed support to many people.”

He said: “This is a unique and much needed innovative project partnership with Blaenau Gwent local authority which could be replicated across Wales and contribute significantly to reducing the high levels of poverty that still remain in coalfield communities.

“With building due for completion in February 2016, this project has the potential to provide long-lasting social good in a community that has been hit hard by severe welfare cuts.”

Nick Landers, principal projects officer at Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council expressed “delight” at working with CRT Wales to transform the historic site.

He said: “This is an exciting project that will introduce this new social support concept to a Welsh region that really needs it.”

Alongside reduced prices, customers will be able to access benefit advice, credit union information and social support on matters including child care and skills training.

The Welsh Government-backed Communities First programme is also looking to base an office within the building to provide jobs training.

Graham Bartlett, executive member for economy at Blaenau Gwent council, said: “This is an exciting time for Abertillery and I am extremely proud that we are bringing Wales’ first social supermarket to the region.

“Trinity Chapel has previously received a lot of investment, including that from the European Regional Development Fund, and so the completion of this project will make those investments worthwhile and ensure they continue to benefit the community.”

Trinity Chapel was built in 1877 and converted for retail use in 1995. It has been redeveloped under various plans since 2013 and it is currently leased to CRT Wales.

The development will form part of the Abertillery Town Centre Regeneration Programme which is jointly funded by the European Union, Welsh Government and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. 

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