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First Minister describes Hafan Yr Afon as a “landmark” building for Newtown

First Minister Mark Drakeford with Stuart Owen from Open Newtown on the first floor balcony at Hafan Yr Afon.

First Minister Mark Drakeford praised a new community and visitor centre and the enthusiasm and commitment of the people behind it during a visit to Newtown on Tuesday.

Describing Hafan Yr Afon as a “striking, landmark building”, Mr Drakeford said he was impressed by its riverside, town centre location and the use of quality, sustainable materials in its construction.

The new centre, located on the banks of the River Severn alongside Back Lane car park, forms an attractive gateway to Newtown’s green and blue spaces.

First Minister Mark Drakeford with Stuart Owen and Gary Mitchell from Open Newtown and the team who will be running Hafan Yr Afon community and visitor centre.

Hafan Yr Afon, which is due to open to the public later this month, has been built by community focused development trust Open Newtown with funding and support from the Welsh Government, National Lottery Community Fund Wales, Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council and Powys County Council.

Whilst viewing the River Severn and town centre from the building’s first floor balcony, Mr Drakeford said: “It looks like a landmark building. Even in the brief time I have been walking round, you are really struck by the quality of the craftsmanship, the fantastic access to natural light and the way it is built out of sustainable materials.

“That is something that is going to make the building somewhere people will want to visit and it will quickly establish itself as an important facility right in the centre of town.

“Town centres are very important to people and they give strong messages about the worthiness of where they live. This new building is part of our town centre regeneration plans across Wales but it also manages to combine a whole load of things that are to do with sustainability, active travel and making places fit for the future.

“What is striking here is the fact that the building fulfils a series of different purposes. Being close to the bus station, cycle store on Cycle Route 81 and the new health and wellbeing centre, it has a lot going for it.

“I have been impressed by the enthusiasm of the people that I have met today and their commitment to make it happen. The building is wonderful but if you don’t have the people to go alongside it then buildings don’t do the trick by themselves.

“Newtown is a brilliant example of creative people working co-operatively to get things done.”

Newtown’s Mayor Councillor John Byrne said he hopes that Hafan Yr Afon’s town centre location will help to attract more people and facilities to the town.

“It’s a very impressive building and a good example of the collaboration and progressive work between the town council, Welsh Government and Open Newtown.

“It really makes the most of the views and the locality of the riverbank will create opportunities for canoeists.”

Stuart Owen from Open Newtown said: “We were delighted to welcome the First Minister to Hafan Yr Afon and to get such positive feedback from him about this  major development for Newtown.

“We are very excited about the potential of this environmentally sustainable building. It will help Open Newtown continue to deliver its ethos of wellbeing, kindness, sanctuary, inclusiveness and biodiversity, whilst promoting outdoor activities.

“We are passionate about involving young people, supporting a community youth cafe and will continue to deliver and support local events.”