Zebras’ campaign for crossing funds gets Ffos-y-fran green light

Young people living near an unused Merthyr Tydfil subway under a busy road on a school route have successfully campaigned for its replacement with a pedestrian crossing and better street lighting.

Members of the Gurnos housing estate’s 3G’s Forsythia Youth Project and pupils from Bishop Hedley High School met senior police officers, South Wales Crime Commissioner Alun Michael, Merthyr Tydfil MP Gerald Jones and local politicians in their bid to get support for the closure of the underpass near Prince Charles Hospital.

They produced evidence that both young and older local residents felt unsafe and reluctant to walk through the area in the evening.

The ‘Gurnos Zebras’ project has just been awarded £4,600 from the Ffos-y-fran Community Benefit Fund towards work to seal the underpass, install a zebra crossing and upgrade the lighting.  Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council has agreed to carry out ongoing maintenance.

“The need for the project was identified through young people undertaking a listening campaign, followed by walkabouts of the area and various meetings led by the young people,” said Geraldine Maddison, Youth Theme Lead Officer for 3G’s Development Trust and Forsythia Youth Project manager.  “They were supported throughout the process by 3G’s youth team, Citizens Cymru and Cardiff University.”

The lighting on the path beside the hospital was also an issue, with residents saying they felt unsafe using the path in the evening and some refusing to use it at all because it was so dark, she added.

“The instalment of the zebra crossing will make a real difference to the lives of people living in this part of the Gurnos, providing a safe and accessible place to cross an extremely busy road.”

Geraldine said the project had proved invaluable, with the young people gaining numerous skills and knowledge along the way.  “They learned how to consult with others, how to engage partners to help support the project, how to plan and evaluate a project and how to take part in public speaking.”

The Ffos-y-fran fund is financed through proceeds from the sale of Ffos-y-fran coal by local mining company Miller Argent, which donates £1 to the fund for every ton of coal extracted.

The business celebrated the milestone of extracting five million tonnes of coal from the site, meaning the fund has contributed £5m to benefit a wide range of community groups and causes.

Miller Argent Managing Director Neil Brown said: “It’s important to Miller Argent that the community is able to benefit from our work here in Merthyr Tydfil.  The Ffos-y-fran Community Benefit Fund is our way of doing this.  We’re proud to have contributed to the establishment of so many worthwhile projects within the community and look forward to continuing to do so in the future.”

The Gurnos Zebras also had a meeting with Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Leader Cllr Brendan Toomey, who said he had been very impressed by the young people’s determination and application in seeing through the project.

“The Council has agreed to lend its support in maintaining the crossing and lighting,” he added.  “We’re also delighted to be able to administer the Ffos-y-fran Community Benefit Fund, giving local organisations the chance to obtain money they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”