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Rest Bay hotel and charity shops

This is an article for the Glamorgan Gazette

The potential closure of the Rest Bay Convalescent Hotel in Porthcawl has naturally raised a number of concerns. This is a Grade 2 listed building that has provided respite care and community facilities for hundreds of people.

I recently met with the chair of the Trust who runs the facility so that I could understand the reasons for their decision. Naturally, I want to do anything I can to keep it open but in the event that it does close and is sold off to be converted to apartments then I would like to see everything possible done to ensure that some community facilities are maintained on that site and that any surplus funds held by the Trust are used within Porthcawl in pursuance of their charitable aims.

In this regard I believe that Bridgend Council should use its planning powers to ensure if the building is sold then any new planning application that comes in contains conditions that replacement community facilities are provided. Organisations like Healing the Wounds, a charity that helps former armed forces personnel suffering from PTSD and local groups such as U3A who meet in the Rest Bay Hotel, should not be made homeless.

I hope that officers and Councillors will be pro-active in working with the Trust and any potential new owners in ensuring that this happens.

A few weeks ago I visited one of the British Heart Foundation Cymru's Furniture & Electrical store to learn more about how proposed changes to business rates will lead to a loss of income for the charity and more empty shops on high streets across Wales.

A recent report commissioned by Welsh Government Business and Enterprise Minister calls for cuts to the rate relief given to charity shops in Wales. British Heart Foundation Cymru shop staff and volunteers told me that those changes would mean substantial hikes in business rates and threaten their shop's survival.

Donated goods such as sofas and fridges to these Furniture and Electrical stores are the lifeblood of the fight against heart disease. Donations to Swansea shop for example, have recently helped provide 3 specialist heart nurses, an Echocardigraph machine at Morriston Hospital, and 67 life-saving defibrillator machines to help in the fight against heart disease

My concern is these proposals could have a devastating effect on this work and lead to more empty shop units on our high streets. I understand 130 paid jobs and 1800 volunteer posts could be lost across Wales. There will also be less money for good causes.

Charity shops have an important role to play in our society. I know of several that are providing training opportunities. I am urging the Minister to reject these proposals.

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