THE future of Newport Tourist Information Centre hangs in the balance when its future is debated at this week’s meeting of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Three options have been drawn up– but the preferred one is to close the centre on Long Street and sell the building, much to the fury of local campaigners who are calling on local residents to lobby authority members and politicians before the meeting on Wednesday (September 27).

A consultation has been held over the past 12 months but it now appears the authority favours shutting the centre.

Two community-led proposals have been put forward, the first by the Newport Visitor Centre Action Group to work with the park authority and the Newport Library Working Group to share space within the existing building and to provide volunteer support to help reduce running costs.

A second proposal by Newport Town Council is to lease the TIC building at a peppercorn rent and to work with park authority and the Newport Library Working Group, as joint tenants of the building, to deliver a range of visitor and community services ‘under one roof’.

But the authority has now come up with a third option to deliver a joint library and tourism service at the existing library premises in Bridge Street, closing the Long Street building.

A report says: “The potential closure of any facility is a difficult decision but there are clear financial and operational benefits in pursuing this option.

“Co-locating visitor and library services in the Bridge Street facility will generate savings for PCNPA while supporting both Pembrokeshire County Council and the Newport Library Working Group (NLWG) via an on-going financial contribution from the Authority.

“In addition, this is the only option ‘on the table’ that would unlock the potential sale and/or conversion of the Newport TIC building which could generate a significant capital receipt, in turn, allowing the authority to invest in new ways of delivering tourism services.”

Sandra Bayes, of Newport Visitor Centre Action Group said: “There have been 11 months of so-called community engagement by the National Park, during which residents were asked by the Authority to produce proposals to ‘change the way information services were delivered in Newport’ and to reduce costs in order that the National Park could ‘invest in a package of new initiatives aimed at supporting the growth of the wider visitor economy in Pembrokeshire’.

“At the last minute, National Park officers have rejected the community’s plans and come up with their own which they claim is also the result of consultation but is absolutely not.

“It seems that the National Park officers continue to believe that a combination of new technology and leaflets can replace personal assistance in Newport Visitor Centre – even though their own figures show a steady increase in its usage year by year. Surely, if people did not need or want the interpretative help of the skilled staff, then we would see a drop off in numbers?

“The town has put a huge amount of effort into producing proposals which will substantially reduce the cost of the service based in Newport to the Park, even though it costs very little compared to other centres already.

“Why have those efforts been ignored while officers have decided to close the centre on the grounds it is not needed because their, as yet unproven ‘alternative means of delivery’, can take over?”

“The only hope is that a public outcry will persuade National Park Members to take up one of the community’s proposals instead,” she added, while urging campaigners to lobby authority members before the meeting.