CAMPAIGNERS battling to re-open a day centre have taken their fight to a venue that has been suggested as an alternative. 

The Melville Theatre in Abergavenny is one of three possible buildings shortlisted as a potential future base in the town for Monmouthshire council’s My Day, My Life support service for adults with learning disabilities. 

But campaigners say it isn’t suitable and staged a protest outside to demonstrate why they believe the service should remain at the Tudor Centre, where it had been based before the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak. 

Day centre protest

The council was due to hold a workshop with service users at the theatre on Tuesday, August 15, which prompted the campaigners to call the rally. Although the meeting was ultimately cancelled, Owen B Lewis from the campaign group said it was important they still gathered to demonstrate their support for the Tudor Centre. 

He said: “We’d organised people to come to the Melville, and we thought it would be counter-productive to change plans last minute. 

“We began our protest outside The Melville Theatre and then marched through town and finished outside Tudor Street.” 

The theatre is being considered along with the Abergavenny Community Centre and the Tudor Centre, which has never re-opened since its temporary closure in March 2020. 

Day centre protest

Since the council announced in November last year it intended to permanently close the Tudor Centre and sell it for housing campaigners have been calling for it to re-open. They forced the council leader to issue an apology in January for announcing the plans without consultation, when it was also promised the centre’s future wouldn’t be decided until after a review of the service had been completed. 

That review found the service should have a base in Abergavenny, and a base in Monmouth, and the council’s cabinet is due to decide next month which two it should chose. 

But Mr Lewis of the campaign group said those who use the service, and other members of the community who remember the centre when it was used by a wider range of the community with other disabilities, consider it the only viable option in Abergavenny. 

They say neither the community centre or the Melville Theatre are truly accessible, while they also point out the Tudor Centre has been specially adapted to suit the needs of people with physical disabilities and has specialist equipment and facilities such as suitable changing rooms. 

Though the council has said it is consulting on the shortlisted centres, and listening to alternative suggestions, Mr Lewis said campaigners are clear the evidence supports re-opening the centre in Tudor Street. 

He said: “We want Monmouthshire County Council to all agree that they have to open up Tudor Street.  They made us wait for a review, the review states clearly what people want and only Tudor Street ticks the boxes.” 

The council’s process has also been questioned by the group which said it believes the need of the wider community with disabilities have been overlooked and Mr Lewis said they want to stress the importance of the Tudor Centre. 

Though its proposed permanent closure was announced as the review of the My Day, My Life service got under way, and that review later supported calls for permanent bases for the service, the building wasn’t under review. 

 Mr Lewis said its value to people in Abergavenny should be recognised: “This isn’t even taking into account vulnerable adults who weren’t part of the My Day My Life scheme but were still Tudor Street service users – such as Emily Chicken, who has a severe disability requiring round-the-clock care and whose mother Sara is actively involved with our campaign.  

“I feel there’s been a deliberate conflation of Tudor Street Day Centre and My Day My Life. Our campaign is about the building, not about the service; these things are not inter-changeable and the language used by the council makes it difficult for us to make our aims clear.” 

At the most recent protest Dave Lewin, who used to attend at Tudor Street, held a banner stating “We want a radio station here” which Mr Lewis said was an example of the type of activities that could be held at the centre should it re-open. 

“Dave used to do a radio show at Able Radio supported by My Day My Life staff when. Dave thinks they could build a radio station at Tudor Street,” said Mr Lewis.

A Monmouthshire County Council spokesperson said it had held a workshop on August 10 and said: “We are continuing to connect with people in receipt of My Day My Life services in the north and central areas of Monmouthshire, to help shape the ongoing development of the service. Service bases in Abergavenny and Monmouth are being considered via an options appraisal.”