Page last updated at 12:13 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 13:13 UK

Merlin row over centre name swap

Colin Morgan as Merlin in the BBC One series
Carmarthen has a longstanding link to the Merlin legend

A shopping centre in a town associated with Arthurian legend has won a fight to rename itself after Merlin.

Conservationists and church leaders had opposed rebranding Greyfriars in Carmarthen, named after a medieval abbey at the site, to Merlin's Walk.

They said the wizard's links with the town were only based on myth or legend.

But site mangers, who now have consent to erect a statue to the wizard, said it would boost trade at a time when a rival centre is preparing to open.

Greyfriars applied to Carmarthenshire Council for planning permission for new bi-lingual signs calling the centre Merlin's Walk, along with two arches over its walkway and a statue of Merlin in the main precinct.

It argued there "were clear links" between the legend and Carmarthen which were already used by the council to promote the town, including its annual Merlin Festival.

John Nash
It gives us a way to market our centre and attract new traders
John Nash, centre manager

But the authority's planning officers recommended councillors refused the application.

They said part of the site was in a conservation area and although it was a historical fact there was once an abbey on the site the tradition connecting Carmarthen with Merlin was "loosely based on myth and legend."

Canon Patrick Thomas, vicar of Christchurch in Carmarthen, said: "In the middle ages the grey friars were the social services of Carmarthen - it was an important religious centre and an important cultural centre.

"It was something concrete and something would be a pity to loose that."

At a meeting on Thursday councillors went against their officers advice and allowed the name change.

Statue of Merlin
Planning permission has now been given for the wooden statue

Councillor Arwel Lloyd said although Carmarthen was strongly linked with Merlin there was nothing physical representing that in the town centre.

"We also have a chance to support existing businesses during this difficult economic climate," he added.

Speaking after the result centre manager John Nash said he was "overjoyed."

He said they had to take action to attract more businesses and customers as the £80m St Catherine's Walk scheme was due to open nearby next year.

"Our traders will be delighted. It gives us a way forward and a way to market our centre and attract new traders," he added.

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