MP backs Customs House campaign

22 February 2012

ABERAVON MP Hywel Francis has pledged to support the local campaign to save Customs House from demolition.

A picture of Hywel Francis Labour MP for Aberavon standing by a picture in his office

Hywel Francis, MP for Aberavon, supports the campaign to save Customs House. Photo: Ingrid Bousquet

Port Talbot MagNet had asked Dr Francis for a statement last week, following the news that Coastal Housing chief Tim Blanch had said saving the facade of the building would cost £1m and would be impractical.

But in a statement today, the MP said: “I fully support the campaign ‘Hands Off Our Heritage’ to save the two historic buildings Customs House and Royal Buildings.

“I call on Coastal Housing to consider the strong case made by local campaigns which I fully support.  I am writing to Coastal Housing conveying the views of the Campaign.”

Last week, Tim Blanch had written to Peter Black AM about the campaign to save the building.

He said: “I am aware of the concerns about the demolition of this building, and agree that this is an attractive facade.”

“The problem is that it would be enormously more expensive to convert the buildings rather than to build new… we could only justify the additional cost if it were funded by grant, and we are not aware of anyone prepared to fund at least an additional £1 million just to preserve the facade.”

Mr Blanch blamed the hard economic situation for the ‘tough choices’ being made.

“I am afraid that constraints on public funding mean that there will be more difficult choices to make like this one,” he said. “The alternative, insisting on retaining the buildings, would almost certainly result in the buildings being simply left to decay, since it is difficult to think of a viable commercial use for them.”

Campaigners have pointed to other buildings in neighbouring Swansea where historic facades have been preserved in Coastal Housing developments.

 

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Ian Shakeshaft says:

It is a great boost to the efforts to save Custom House to receive the unreserved endorsement of Dr Francis MP, historian, author, academic and son of South Wales miners leader Dai Francis. Few are better qualified than Dr Francis to appreciate the unique role played by Port Talbot Railway and Dock Co and the Talbot family in shaping the fortunes of Port Talbot and its mining hinterland and the livelihoods of generations of workers since.