Saving Customs House facade would cost £1m

17 February 2012

SAVING the façade of Customs House would cost more than £1 million, the chief executive of Coastal Housing Group, Tim Blanch, has said.

Customs House. Photo by Sean Pursey

Customs House is slated for demolition. Photo by Sean Pursey

Customs House is one of two historic buildings slated for demolition as part of a development by Coastal Housing, which will replace them with 46 modern flats.

The Port Talbot campaign group Hands Off Our Heritage has lobbied local councillors and Assembly members in an attempt to save the two buildings, Customs House and Royal Buildings, both on Talbot Road.

Assembly Members Bethan Jenkins, Peter Black and Suzy Davis have raised concerns in the Assembly about the proposal in recent months.

Now Coastal Housing chief Tim Blanch has responded to questions from Mr Black, in which he agrees that the façade of Customs House is “attractive” but says the additional expense means saving it would be impractical.

“I am aware of the concerns about the demolition of this building, and agree that this is an attractive facade,” he said in the statement dated February 14.

“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 made no promise to reconsidert the decision to demolish the buildings, but said he was prepared to discuss the issues with campaigners.

“I would welcome a discussion about the scheme and the wider issues involved in some of these choices.”

Meanwhile, the campaigners have urged local people to contact Aberavon MP Hywel Francis to ask him to write to Coastal Housing to put forward their concerns.

Port Talbot MagNet has asked Mr Francis for a statement.

You can write to Hywel Francis MP at Unit 7, Water St Business Centre, Gwyn Terrace, Aberafan, Port Talbot SA12 6LG or email him at Write to Tim Blanch, Chief Executive of Coastal Housing Group, at The Old Post Office, 11 Wind Street, SWANSEA SA1 1DP.

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Ian Shakeshaft says:

Should be stressed that additional sum of £1 million+ in grants that Mr Blanch suggests would need to be claimed to save any part of these buildings is on top of around £3 Million in public subsidy already announced, approximately 50% of the cost of this devastating scheme.
Let’s also bear in mind Coastal Housing has proven ability to modify buildings in its Baron’s court (former Baron’s nightclub) development at Castle St/ College St Swansea, where facades have been retained .We should be asking why Neath Port Talbot councillors were more than happy to accept far lower standards than Swansea.
I urge everyone to write to council planning department to oppose
Coastal Housing’s recent application to use Custom House date stone as a cynical token gesture and an insult to our town.