TWO Assembly Members have urged Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning chair to look again at giving a much-loved building protected status.
Regional AM Bethan Jenkins and David Rees, Aberavon’s new AM, spoke this week at a chamber meeting in the Assembly, questioning Heritage Minister Huw Lewis about plans to demolish the historic Royal Buildings and Customs House on Talbot Road.
Following the meeting, Ms Jenkins wrote to planning chair Councillor Stan Mason, saying: “I have been asked by constituents on a number of occasions to bring issues to your local authority, to Cadw and to the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage.
“When myself and your Labour colleague David Rees AM questioned the minister, Huw Lewis AM, on the matter again this week, he was very keen to stress that the local authority may take steps outside of listing buildings to protect them from demolition or other works that would alter their character or diminish their historical importance.”
The proposal to demolish the buildings and replace them with 46 flats and a mixed-use commercial ground floor unit has been the subject of talks between the council and Coastal Housing group since 2006.
In February, planning members made a site visit to the Talbot Road buildings and later approved the application. In March, the decision was reviewed by then Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones, but this attempt to save the buildings failed after historic monuments body Cadw said that its architectural and historical importance was not significant enough “to satisfy the listing criteria”.
But following the comments by Mr Lewis, Ms Jenkins asked planning officers to look again at the issue.
She said: “I am writing to you to look again at the issue of Custom House and Royal Buildings, with a view to giving it a protected status that would save it from being knocked down.”
Ms Jenkins added: “I would ask you to begin discussions witrh Coastal Housing, which owns the site, with a view to finding an alternative location in the town for what is a very important project.
“I am sure you are fully aware of the historical importance of this building.”
The request to have the building listed was submitted to Cadw by Port Talbot resident and campaigner Ian Shakeshaft. Mr Shakeshaft has also started a Facebook campaign in respect of the heritage of the county borough, with 79 people having joined the group so far, adding pictures of days gone by as part of the campaign.
To find out more, search Port Talbot and Neath say NO to demolition on the social networking site.