Customs House demolition to go ahead, says AM

24 February 2012

DEMOLITION of Port Talbot’s Customs House now looks inevitable, following a meeting between developers Coastal Housing and Assembly Member Bethan Jenkins this afternoon.

The sun sets on historic Customs House. Photo by Sean Pursey

The sun sets on historic Customs House. Photo by Sean Pursey

She said demolition would start within weeks, and blamed CADW and Neath Port Talbot Council for not safeguarding the buildings earlier in the development process.

In a statement, the Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West said: “I’m grateful that Coastal Housing has taken the time at this late stage to meet with me and answer the concerns that constituents have brought to me.

“Sadly, while Coastal Housing was very sympathetic, I understand its point of view that it is a charity looking to maximise the number of homes it can provide, and they claim that it would have cost millions of pounds of extra money to have saved the buildings.

“Coastal told me that it bought the site with the intention of demolishing Custom House and Royal Buildings, unfortunately, but I am awaiting a list of architectural features that Coastal Housing plans on retaining.

“Coastal Housing expects demolition to begin in a matter of weeks.

“If there is anyone to blame for the passing of these historic buildings, then it must lie with Cadw, which has proved to be intransigent and bureaucratic where this site is concerned, failing to see the bigger picture and taking a by-the-book inflexible approach to the buildings’ features.

“I also believe the council could have done more to have preserved the buildings and given them a better future.

“It is heartbreaking that a building of this importance will soon be lost to Port Talbot. It is now imperative that Cadw is reformed so that it is sympathetic to what people in Wales hold dear, rather than make a decision – which could have saved these buildings – based on relatively abstract matters, like the right type of window.”

The campaign group Hands Off Our Heritage has been trying to save the building, and last week Aberavon MP Hywel Francis pledged his support for the campaign.

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Ian Shakeshaft says:

For Coastal Housing to suggest they are no more than merely a charitable organisation devoted to the provision of homes for the needy exceeds all bounds of credulity. Their interests and income streams are wide-ranging and include subsidiary business relationships such as Pennant Homes, a partnership with Neath Port Talbot Council engaged in the sale of properties.
Any charity should surely be demonstrating a great deal more concern for its greater social responsibilities and obligations than its financial returns.