Failure to list Cardiff pub raises concerns about Welsh Government’s commitment to built heritage
A decision of the Welsh Government’s heritage body not to give listed protection to a Victorian pub in Cardiff has increased concerns that developers find it too easy to replace characterful buildings with bland structures that have no aesthetic appeal.
There is no immediate threat to the Halfway pub in the city’s Pontcanna district. But Cardiff Civic Society tried to get it listed when Brains brewery implemented a policy that involved selling off many of its pubs,
The Halfway, whose name derives from the fact that it is equidistant from Cardiff Castle and Llandaff Cathedral, lies outside both Pontcanna and Llandaff conservation areas.
In a letter to Nerys Lloyd-Pierce, the Chair of Cardiff Civic Society, an official of Cadw, the Welsh Government’s conservation body, stated: “We have visited the building and have now completed our assessment of it against the listing criteria and, having considered the information available to us, we are of the opinion that it does not meet the high standard needed to be listed at the national level.
“To qualify for listing, candidate buildings must be of nationally significant architectural or historic interest and must satisfy published listing criteria which are intended to ensure that only the very best of our nation’s historic buildings are protected. Where these are met, the Welsh Ministers (in practice Cadw) are under a duty to list but cannot do so otherwise. “Buildings are included for the interest of their architectural design, decoration and craftsmanship, including particular building types and techniques. Similarly, buildings that illustrate important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural or military history are included for their historic interest.
“Age and rarity are also relevant, particularly where buildings are proposed for listing on the strength of their historic interest. “The older a building is and the fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to have historical importance. Most buildings of about 1700 to 1840 are listed, though some selection is necessary. After about 1840, because of the greatly increased number of buildings erected and the much larger numbers that have survived, greater selection is necessary to identify the best examples of particular building types and only buildings of definite quality and character are listed.
“The Halfway was considered – and rejected for listing – in 2001 when the fieldwork for the community resurvey was undertaken. We have reviewed this decision in light of your request, but remain of the opinion that it is not listable.
“A two storey public house … its appearance is mid-late C19 in its present form, though with earlier origins. It retains quite good neo-classical rendered detail to the ground floor exterior, and has some surviving interior features. However, the benchmark for listing public houses of this date and type is set by the Big Windsor, Butetown (Grade II) [now converted into apartments] and the Halfway does not compare favourably.
“I understand that you may be disappointed with our decision, but on the information available there is no basis to list.”
Ms Lloyd-Pierce said: “We are very disappointed that Cadw has refused to list The Halfway pub. On March 1 last year, we launched our campaign to protect Cardiff’s vanishing traditional drinking houses. Our hope was that Cadw would tweak its somewhat limiting guidelines to accommodate protection of the city’s working-class heritage, traditional pubs and much-loved community buildings.
“The stringent requirements for listing exclude much of the fabric of the city from protection. If only grand buildings qualify, then the vital social history of our city will be lost. As more and more of our heritage is replaced by bland, developer-led schemes, a proactive Cadw, working hard to protect the heritage of the people is more necessary than ever. Sadly, the proposed cut of 20% to the organisation’s budget will no doubt make it less able than ever to defend what matters to the people of Cardiff.
“Cadw’s approach to everyday heritage, and the effect of its budget cut, will, of course, have an adverse impact on the whole of Wales, not just Cardiff.”
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