COMMUNITY groups are to be invited to develop to use part of the grounds of an arts centre for an inclusive gardening related project. 

The area at the Melville Centre hasn’t been used since the start of the pandemic when the Greenfingers service suspended its activities. 

Greenfingers was set up in 2007 as an enterprise opportunity for people with learning disabilities and to develop skills in gardening and engage in activities that could help with employment as well as carrying out maintenance and grass cutting at community gardens, particularly Linda Vista Garden, Bailey Park and Castle Meadows in Abergavenny. 

At that time around 20 people were attending for a couple of days a week but Monmouthshire County Council now said its disability services, including My Day, My Life which Greenfingers was a part of, are focused on enabling people to develop and pursue their own interests and social connections in a more individualised way. 

The 662 square metre site, which is less than a quarter of an acre, has a main building, a shed and two poly-tunnels. A report for the council cabinet said it “needs some attention”. 

Green Party cabinet member Cllr Ian Chandler, who has responsibility for social services, said: “This is a very positive inclusive development and located in the same grounds as My Day, My Life base will be, and for the whole community.” 

He said it would be a stipulation of any group or project using the site should that it be inclusive and offer opportunities that benefit the whole community, including those receiving support through My Day, My Life. 

Labour councillor for Llanfoist and Govilon Ben Callard, who will be consulted on which group the site should be transferred to as he is responsible for resources, said he welcomed the plan: “I use the Melville with my children quite often and this area of the garden has looked a little neglected for the last few years.” 

The report said there has been interest from existing gardening groups, food growing/cooking groups and allotment groups. 

The Melville will also be consulted and the council will draw up a clear criteria on what it expects of interested groups.