Council leader calls for changes to planning system to protect Cardiff’s heritage
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
The leader of Cardiff council has called for changes to the planning system to protect the city’s architectural heritage.
Earlier this week the council received heavy criticism after approving plans to demolish a Victorian pub in Roath.
Developers now have permission to knock down the Roath Park pub on City Road, and it’s unclear what will be built in its place.
Council leader Huw Thomas however said, in a Twitter thread, that people unhappy about the demolition should lobby the Welsh Government to close planning loopholes.
He said: “I’m disappointed and as frustrated as anyone, but let’s be clear—because Cadw didn’t list the building, the council has no grounds to stop demolition. So yes, be angry, but direct your anger in the right direction.”
Several Victorian buildings have been demolished in Cardiff over the past few years, including two restaurants and a music venue on Guildford Crescent, the Vulcan pub on Adam Street, and the Gower pub in Cathays. While these sites and demolition plans belong to property developers, the council often takes the flak from the public.
Criticising the Roath Park plans this week, former city mayor Cllr Dan De’Ath said: “I’m so pissed off that Cardiff council didn’t have the power to stop this. Jo Stevens MP and Plasnewydd councillors are trying to meet with the Roath Park’s owner to ask him to reconsider demolition. It’s not too late for him to change his mind.”
Cllr De’Ath, representing the Roath ward, campaigned against the demolition plans, as well as previous plans last year to knock down the pub and build seven storeys of apartments there. The apartments plans were withdrawn in December when it became clear they were likely to be refused permission.
But a planning loophole means it can be easier for developers to get permission to just knock down buildings without explaining what would be built there instead.
This is also what happened on Guildford Crescent in 2019. If a building isn’t listed by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s heritage body, then developers have ‘permitted development’ for demolition.
Dr Neil Harris, a planning expert at Cardiff University, said: “The demolition is permitted development—basically meaning it is given by virtue of a national instrument, with the council only being able to control how it is demolished. So if you want to change this, then it needs change in secondary legislation by the Welsh Government.”
Roath councillors applied to Cadw to grant the Roath Park pub listed status, which would have protected it, but this application was turned down. Now there are calls for the listing system to be reformed, preventing similar buildings from being knocked down in future.
Cllr Thomas said: “It needs reforming, because as it stands, there’s a lot of urban, working class heritage that gets no protection, and is at risk of being lost. It’s important to note the planning committee was going to reject the developer’s plans for flats on the site. This application to demolish is separate from any planning application—a loophole which in my opinion the Welsh Government should close.
“And because the pub wasn’t granted listed status by Cadw, demolition is permitted development, all the council can influence is the method. Despite accusations to the contrary, my administration cares deeply about Cardiff’s heritage buildings. Cardiff Bay train station and Roath Park House are just two of the buildings we’ve restored in recent years.
“So please, if you’re happy at the Roath Park pub outcome, focus your efforts on lobbying Cadw for a change in policy. Don’t blame those who had no say in the matter, no power to stop it, and who largely share your frustrations.”