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HRH The Duchess of Gloucester welcomed to the new Pencoed-Bridgend HQ

22nd September 2016

HRH The Duchess of Gloucester officially opened the new St John Cymru Wales Pencoed-Bridgend Divisional Headquarters on Wednesday 21st September, 2016.

The Chair of the St John Council for Mid Glamorgan, Mr Gareth Chapman, welcomed Her Royal Highness on this special occasion with this speech, giving thanks to all those involved.

"Your Royal Highness, Distinguished Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen, Cadets and Badgers, it is with great pleasure that I stand here today on behalf of the St John Council for Mid Glamorgan to recognise the journey we have all been on to deliver this outstanding facility for Bridgend/Pencoed Division.

Some 10 years ago in my former role as Chair of the St John Council for Bridgend, the number 1 priority in our business plan was to find a new Headquarters building for the then Pencoed Division. Despite searching the area at that time however, no building became available.

As a result of circumstances beyond our control a decision was subsequently taken for the then Bridgend and Pencoed Divisions to move out of their existing locations and they then began to operate from the basement of Hope Street Chapel here in Bridgend.

Although not ideal, the Bridgend/Pencoed Division (as it was now called) continued to thrive.

A search for a new Headquarters continued throughout the years with various options being explored.  However it was not until early in 2015, when the former Social Services building here in Minerva Street owned by Bridgend County Borough Council, was identified as a possible option and things started to take off.

A project group was formed with Llinos and Joy from Bridgend/Pencoed Division, Angie O’Sullivan the County Commissioner of Mid Glamorgan and Brian Fraser, my Vice Chair.

Many meetings and many hours were spent burning the midnight oil bringing together a feasibility study and business plan, identifying funding and exploring partners who would be willing to occupy the building when it was not in use by the Division.

Meetings were also held with Bridgend County Borough Council who were extremely amenable to ensuring that the building continued to be used for benefit of the citizens of Bridgend and wider community whilst also obtaining a much needed capital receipt for a building they no longer required.

Following all this hard work, my Council on behalf of the Division were required to demonstrate and justify to the Prior and Trustees why it was such a good decision for them to purchase the building for the future of Bridgend/Pencoed. This Brian and I were able to do, so here we are today.

Given the journey we have been on, I would therefore like to thank:

The Pastor and members of Hope Street Chapel;

Llinos, Joy, Clive Davies and the Division for all the hard work put in to date;

Angie and her team for the support given throughout this process;

Bridgend County Borough Council for having the confidence and vision to allow the building to remain open for community to use;

The Prior, Trustees, Chief Executive and staff of Priory for the support and guidance given throughout this process;

To our many local businesses, some of whom who are present here today, for their generosity and time spent in facilitating the development of this building;

Our users of the building who occupy the building on a daily basis and provide much needed services within the locality; and finally

Brian Fraser and my Council for having the determination to deliver this project for the Division.

In conclusion therefore, there is always talk of the Big Society and this being something new however here in South Wales and the Valleys we serve, the Big Society has been with us for well over 150 years. Organisations such as ours, have provided a First Aid service run in the local community for the local community, it provides development and citizenship opportunities and training for our young people and this continues here today by the Bridgend/Pencoed Division and as a consequence of the investment in this building we stand in today, will continue to do so for many years ahead.

Your Royal Highness may I therefore thank you for taking the time to join us here today to be a part of this momentous and wonderful occasion. Thank you.

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