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I was outraged to find today that a delegation of councillors from Torfaen County Borough Council have just yesterday, at the rate payer’s expense jetted off to one of UNESCO’s world heritage site for a jolly old outing. ... Using council funds for lavish private transport and to fund entertainment expenses all on their jolly, it’s this sort of excess that makes people despair of local government.

That's how Anthony - being the cheeky git that he is - described a council trip up to Blaenavon yesterday on the bus. The 'entertainment' was actually a cup of tea and a Welsh Cake at the Heritage Centre. (And very nice it was, too.)

The view from the Heritage Centre.

The point of the trip was to see what has been achieved in Blaenavon over the last few years. The town of about 6000 people was made a renewal area in 1999 - that is an area "identified as having poor housing conditions, coupled with social, economic and environmental needs" - and was then designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Since then it has had in the region of £50 million spent on turning the place around and living up to that title.

Blaenavon Primary.

We first visited the Blaenavon Heritage V.C. Primary School which opened in 2012 and cost £15million, replacing two old primary schools and a nursery. It's amazing; all singing, all dancing, and then some. There is a big double height indoor play area called the 'Jungle Gym' right in the middle of the school so, without even mentioning the open plan classrooms, the excellent IT facilities, and the TV studio, you know it's a cool place to be. When we visited Year 6 were doing P.E. in the fully outfitted fitness suite, sandwiched between the dance studio and the basketball court. When I was in primary school indoor P.E. consisted of running around the assembly hall in your vest and knickers. How times have changed...

The Primary Care Resource Centre.

After that we had a quick tour of the Primary Care Resource Centre which opened in 2014. This is opposite the school and incorporates an optician, dentist, health clinic, pharmacy and GP surgery which can accommodate same day appointments. From there it was on to Blaenavon World Heritage Centre for a cup of tea and a peek at the newly rehoused library. We also saw the tourist attractions from the bus: Rhymney Brewery, the Heritage Railway, the Ironworks and, of course, Big Pit. Big Pit was a working coal mine until 1980 and now runs underground tours, to show and tell visitors the history of coal mining. I've been like five times already, and fully intend on using Marianna as an excuse to go at least five times more.

Big Pit.


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