Carmarthenshire Council is selling its vast Parc Dewi Sant complex on the outskirts of Carmarthen - which began life in 1865 as the Carmarthenshire, Cardigan and Pembrokeshire County Asylum.

Cabinet members accepted an offer for the 38-acre site, which has 22 buildings and was once a mental health asylum, after going into closed session at a meeting.

A sales brochure from August this year said offers of more than £2.5 million were being invited.

The sale will eliminate maintenance costs of £200,000 per year from the council’s books and reduce its carbon footprint.

A small number of council staff will remain at Parc Dewi Sant in the short term; the remainder will move to other offices.

Subject to contract the sale will be on a long leasehold basis, and enable the council to have an input over any future use of the buildings for at least 25 years.

Other organisations which have a presence at Parc Dewi Sant will retain their tenancy rights.

Cllr Alun Lenny, cabinet member for resources, said: “With our intention to sell Parc Dewi Sant, I would like to reassure all council staff who work from the site that they will be accommodated at appropriate council-owned office spaces elsewhere in the county, and that this will be a gradual process of relocation.” The council’s headquarters is County Hall, Carmarthen.

Cllr Lenny said the acceptance of the purchase offer followed due diligence checks by the council, and that more details would be released in due course.

The sales brochure said opportunities for the Job’s Well Road site included some potential residential use, plus new builds.

Particular consideration, it said, would be given to proposals which supported the Carmarthen town economy.

Parc Dewi Sant began life in 1865 as the Carmarthenshire, Cardigan and Pembrokeshire County Asylum, according to a National Monuments Record of Wales database.

Parc Dewi Sant
Parc Dewi Sant, Carmarthen, which Carmarthen Council is selling (Pic: Richard Youle)

The hilltop hospital expanded and had more than 900 beds by the early 1970s. Thirty years later it was mostly empty.

The database, called Coflein, said the former hospital featured segregated exercise yards, plus infirmary blocks, workshops, a large dining hall, chapel, and a detached hospital for infectious diseases. The main block at Parc Dewi Sant is grade two-listed.

Cllr Lenny visited the former mental health hospital in the 1980s when working as a journalist, and also played there once with a band he was in called Cadno. He reckoned it hadn’t at that point changed very much from its Victorian days.

Cllr Lenny said the vast majority of people being looked after at the hospital transferred out into the community as part of mental health care reforms introduced by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He said support was provided in Carmarthen by the mental health charity, Mind, at a centre on Priory Street, but that the effects of being institutionalised lingered long for some former patients.

“Some of them you would see on street corners – it was very sad,” he said.