Wales

Anger at demolition of building dedicated to Johnny Owen

Photo of Johnny Owen being interviewed in 1979
Image caption Johnny Owen in an interview from 1979

A local community has been angered by the demolition of a building named after boxer Johnny Owen.

The bantamweight champion - nicknamed Matchstick Man - died aged 24 after collapsing in a title fight in 1980.

The community centre on the Gurnos in Merthyr Tydfil was built shortly after his death and named by the public.

Owner, Merthyr Valleys Homes, has apologised but said the level of work and investment needed to keep the building "wasn't feasible".

The boxer's brother, Vivian Owen, said he only found out about the demolition last week, the Local Democracy Reporting Service. says.

Mr Owen said: "I was shocked and taken aback that it was being demolished.

"I did speak with other members of the family and they knew nothing.

"They weren't very happy about it either."

Image caption Johnny Owen training in 1979

Councillor Lee Davies, who represents the Gurnos ward, described the demolition of another community building as "extremely unfortunate".

"As far as I'm aware it was only advertised through social media, which is why the community have recently expressed their feelings," he said.

But Mr Davies added that work was underway to finish the development of a former doctor's surgery into a community centre as well as on a community zone.

The site of the Johnny Owen Centre will be used initially as a car park.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The Johnny Owen Centre before demolition

Merthyr Valleys Homes (MVH) has apologised in a statement and admitted the demolition plan could have been "better communicated" to tenants.

The housing association now owns and manages 4,200 homes after tenants voted to transfer from local council ownership.

"Understandably this has caused some upset within the community to see the iconic building be taken down," it said.

MVH has promised a "full community consultation" over the future use of the site.

Image copyright Anthony Lewis
Image caption The site of the Johnny Owen Centre will be used initially as a car park

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