The Discovery Centre in Llanelli is a much loved building providing walkers, visitors and the local crow and seagull population with a place to rest, relax, get refreshed and find shelter. Browsing the agenda for the Executive Board meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council for Monday (Oct 23) we were drawn to Item 21 on the agenda, which was listed only as ‘DISCOVERY CENTRE, NORTH DOCK LLANELLI’.
The press and public were excluded from the meeting during that item. The reasons for the exclusion are that the item may contain information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).
The Discovery Centre was in the news recently when reports appeared suggesting that the sand dunes threatened to bury the surrounding pathways.
The centre itself is one of the flagship buildings for the council and features heavily on their Discover Carmarthenshire website complete with a guided walk by Chris Jones the weatherman. http://visit.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/millennium-coastal-park/index.html
Llanelli Online visited the Discovery Centre on Wednesday (Oct 25) to see if we could find anyone who could shed some light on what may or may not be happening at the site.
Our first port of call was the busy ice cream kiosk. We had a look around, had a chat and of course had an ice cream. What we gathered was that if the centre was up for sale nobody had a tutti frutti bit of knowledge about it.
Our next stop was the great glass ship as some locals call it. The Discovery Centre is showcased on the council’s website. We had a look around and had a coffee and a bacon roll and took in the delightful views over the estuary and out to Carmarthen Bay. This really is a wonderful place with huge business potential. Did we say business potential? Now as our readers may be aware, things ain’t been too good along Llanelli’s coastal path regarding business and tenders and such like. You only have to mention the words Pembrey Country Park, Eirian Morris or Stephanie Thomas on social media and it becomes awash with who did what to who and when after who ran off with the you know who from the bobsleigh run who was married to the bloke from the well you get the idea.
What did we glean from our visit to the centre? Well the bacon roll was fantastic and the centre was packed with people enjoying those simple delights such as a cup of tea and a slice of cake, children with grandparents enjoying precious time together for a relatively low cost.
There are plans for the coastal area of Llanelli. The Masterplan is something we can see appearing on literature wherever we go. The old factory near the docks is set to be demolished freeing up some real estate with developmental potential. It certainly has come a long way from when Llanelli Online used to go mulleting along the waterways.
It will it is hoped, be an open and transparent process and anyone and everyone will have the opportunity to bid for or make an offer for whatever the council have planned for the Discovery Centre, which must be such a wonderful surprise because they chose to discuss it all behind closed doors.
Unfortunately we do not have any representatives from Llanelli on the Executive Board and so it may take a while before Llanelli residents will know what exactly is going to happen to a much loved and popular family facility.
We contacted Carmarthenshire County Council and they issued us with the following information:
New restaurant for Llanelli’s Discovery Centre
A new restaurant is on its way to Llanelli’s Discovery Centre offering diners the chance to eat and enjoy Carmarthenshire’s beautiful coastline.
Owners of popular Swansea restaurants Langland Brasserie and Mamma Mia are to take over the lease of the Discovery Centre in an agreement between the present leaseholder and owners Carmarthenshire County Council.
The move will see the current café and staff maintained as part of the plans by the new leaseholder, with an additional restaurant space to make the most of the sea views.
Current facilities at the centre, such as tourist information and public toilets, will also remain but will operate for extended hours.
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for culture, sport and tourism, said: “We were approached by Langland Brasserie and the current leaseholder with a proposal regarding the current lease arrangements at the Discovery Centre.
“Executive Board has agreed the proposal on the basis that it will maintain and enhance the current facilities. The proposals will improve what is currently on offer at the centre, whilst being sympathetic to the surrounding environment and residents.
“We are assured that staff currently employed by the present franchisee will be kept under arrangements with the proposed leaseholder.
“We were pleased that the proposal sought to maintain current facilities such as tourist information, café and toilets, with extended opening hours which will add value to what we are able to provide currently. The proposed leaseholder intends to invest significant money in the building and take over all management and maintenance over the period of the lease which in the long-term will safeguard facilities and save the council around £45,000 a year in running costs.
“This will bring an added dimension to the Millennium Coastal Park at Llanelli, providing local people and visitors a chance to enjoy stunning scenery and a new dining experience at one of our most beautiful locations.”
A representative of the parent company behind Langland Brasserie and Mamma Mia said: “We are pleased to be working with current occupiers operating at Llanelli’s North Dock Discovery Centre, and owners Carmarthenshire County Council, to develop exciting plans that will not only secure the long-term sustainability of this iconic beach-front building, but also to improve facilities.
“Our proposal to lease the building will safeguard public facilities such as the cafe area, tourist information and toilets, and provide a new restaurant with views across the beautiful Carmarthenshire coast.
“Whilst we progress our plans, we wish to reassure neighbouring residents, regular users and new visitors that our proposal seeks to enhance and safeguard this fantastic venue whilst considering its location and surroundings. We also reassure current staff that we will include them in all our plans and will continue our dialogue with the current franchisee to ensure they are kept fully up to date with developments.”