Butetown community cafe the Paddle Steamer to be demolished

The Paddle Steamer, on Loudon Square,

Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter

A community cafe in Butetown is set to be demolished for 28 flats after controversial plans were given permission.

The Paddle Steamer, on Loudon Square, can now be knocked down, after Cardiff council received planning permission on Wednesday, January 27.

The council wants to build affordable housing on the site. But the local community hit out against the plans for the loss of the cafe. Requests to relocate the cafe on the ground floor of the planned block of flats were turned down.

But Butetown has a high need for social housing, with hundreds of people in the area on the waiting list. The council’s plans to provide new social housing on the site of the Paddle Steamer will go some way towards reducing the number on that list, creating new homes.

Councillor Saeed Ebrahim, representing the Butetown ward, said: “There are 2,002 applications for housing on the waiting list for Butetown; we are doing all we can to meet this need.

“Many of these individuals have been on the waiting list for a number of years because they only want to live in Butetown. Over 1,400 of those families and sole applications are waiting for either one or two bedroomed accommodation.”

Eight of the planned flats will have one bedroom, while 20 will have two bedrooms.

Cllr Ebrahim added: “While I fully appreciate some residents of Butetown view the Paddle Steamer as an institution in the local community, the proposed development will provide a range of homes and will support the regeneration of a deprived community.”

Daoud Salaman, chairman of South Wales Islamic Centre, said the cafe had a “strong connection” to the Butetown community, and slammed the council for “ignoring” suggestions to include the cafe on the ground floor of the planned flats.

He said: “The Paddle Steamer cafe is a remarkable place that has a strong connection to our community.

“I am disappointed to hear that despite all the signatories and objections to the proposals, you have continued down this path and are ignoring us completely and not find a compromise to relocate the Paddle Steamer inside the new development.

‘Disregard’

“The whole community feels very strongly about the complete disregard for the hundreds of objections calling on Cardiff council to reconsider their actions.

“The Paddle Steamer cafe is a hub for communities living in Butetown and has supported the local area with food parcels during Ramadan and recently the Covid-19 pandemic.”

However, the cafe has been closed for several months now. And several other cafes are near to the Paddle Steamer, as well as the nearby Butetown Community Centre, which also has a cafe.

Councillors on the planning committee were split on whether to approve planning permission to demolish the cafe and build flats, with some wanting to defer the application and encourage the council to find space for the cafe in the new plans.

Five councillors voted in favour of granting permission, with five voting against. As the vote was tied, the chair of the committee Cllr Keith Jones had the casting vote. He voted in favour of knocking down the cafe and building flats there.

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