A ROW over what to do with Knighton’s former library could reach some form of conclusion on Wednesday with the town council set to decide on its future.

Controversy reigns over the West Street site – the local council has expressed an interest in the building but have been met with furious opposition who feel the purchase would be a waste of public funds.

The local council has expressed an interest in the building previously but had seen bids rebuffed by the county council. They submitted an improved £80,000 bid for the building prior to the Covid-19 pandemic – with tentative plans to use it to open a council office, chamber and a youth-work base, with other rooms available for rent for local groups.

But the leasing of it to outside groups is an issue which has caused most consternation with local residents left angry amid plans the town council want to lease three quarters of the building to a new community bank initiative being developed with Welsh Government support. The worry is that Banc Cambria – which would work like a normal bank, with branches across the country, but owned by its members – doesn’t even have a banking licence yet.

Two previous offers for the old library from private bidders were withdrawn at a late stage.

Town clerk Neil King said a “definitive decision” will be made at a council meeting being held on Wednesday evening (November 18).

“We’ve had five or six different meetings on this matter, it’s been a long 12-month process, and there have been other bids put forward to Powys County Council,” he said.

Besides the ill-feeling of some Knighton residents regarding tentative plans, some accused the town council of ignoring their views and requests to speak and ask questions of Banc Cambria representative Mark Hooper at a specially convened Zoom meeting last Thursday, November 12.

They claimed they were muted and the meeting was abruptly ended.

One resident opposed to the council’s plans is Angie Zelter, who said: “There are grave concerns about what some of us consider to be a waste of public funds by Knighton Town Council.

“There have been numerous attempts to air our grievances and to get the councillors to hear our concerns, answer questions and to hold a public meeting or at least an open discussion, but this has not happened.

“At a recent meeting held for Banc Cambria to tell us what it wanted, the bank admitted it does not even have a banking licence yet and they are not in a position to make a firm offer.

“In this situation surely it is irresponsible to take on the building and the loan given that the business plan relies on the bank taking over part of the building?

“The bank is a private company and many of us do not think it is right to put public funds into helping a private business.

“Our councillors are there to represent our views but many of us feel we are not being adequately represented.”

Another, John Goodband, says a petition signed by 67 town residents opposing the town council’s plan, was presented to them last December.

He said residents fear an increase in their council tax precepts should the purchase go ahead and he criticised the town council for advertising an open meeting that no-one was allowed to comment on.

“What actually took place was a staged event where most of us were muted, and where anyone asking potentially controversial questions was censored,” said Mr Goodband.

Mr King hit back, stating that the town council were not allowed to hold a public meeting on the matter. “We had taken legal advice and were told we couldn’t have a public meeting at the moment,” he said.

“The monitoring officer and One Voice Wales (the principal organisation for community and town councils in Wales) say this is due to a large proportion of people in Knighton not having access to Zoom. We can’t have a fully-fledged meeting so last week’s was just information provided by Banc Cambria.”