GWENT Theatre in Abergavenny will close in December with the loss of around 40 jobs, after a last-ditch appeal to save it failed.

The Arts Council of Wales upheld its decision to withdraw funding. Gwent Theatre's chairman, Gregg Taylor, said the decision to 'destroy' the company will have a devastating effect on present and new generations of actors, writers and designers in Gwent.

Mr Taylor said he was "disappointed, but not surprised" the decision to withdraw £250,000 annual funding was not overturned.

Newport-born former Torchwood actor, Gareth David-Lloyd joined in the chorus of disapproval. He said: "I know how much the area needs them," calling the theatre "an inspiration and irreplaceable".

The much-loved theatre group has announced it will cease to exist within months.

The Arts Council appointed independent assessors, who failed to uphold the appeal from Gwent Theatre's directors, on the basis the council had followed procedures.

Gwent Theatre in Pen-y-Pound was one of over 30 arts groups in Wales to have its funding cut after an investment review.

Mr Taylor said: "Far from being advocates of the arts, they are cutting public funding to those communities where it is most needed."

In 2009-10, 220 performances were given by the organisation to 14,213 youngsters in 219 schools.

It works with 22,000 children a year. Around 40 professionals, employed as actors, stage managers, administrative staff, scriptwriters, musicians, poets and storytellers will now be issued with redundancy letters, and the theatre will close its doors for the final time in December.

An Assembly spokeswoman confirmed an inquiry into access to the arts in Wales is under way, and Mr Taylor urged people in Gwent to write to the Assembly about this closure.

An Arts Council spokeswoman said: "We're happy to offer whatever help and support we can as they consider their next steps."

Gary Meredith co-founded the organisation in 1976 and is now its artistic director.

He said: "I'm devastated, I cannot understand the reasoning. The Arts Council rushed headlong into cutting companies rather than finding ways for them to survive."