MP calls for ‘levelling-down fund’ to help destroy ‘hideous’ buildings – like Porth’s Bingo hall
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant called for the UK Government to create a “levelling-down fund” to help communities destroy “hideous” old buildings in town centres.
Mr Bryant clearly had one specific building in mind in his comments made to UK Communities minister Neil O’Brien, who was laying out the government’s proposals to regenerate town centres today.
He told the Commons: “The Rhondda is absolutely beautiful, but some of our town centres are let down by hideous old buildings which frankly don’t need any levelling up, they need some levelling down.
“Will he please put in place a levelling-down fund which will allow us to destroy some buildings such as the bingo hall in Hannah Street in Porth?”
It’s difficult to argue the former Top Ten Bingo Hall hasn’t seen better days but even through the weeds and crumbling masonry it’s clear that the Grade II listed building used to be pretty grand.
Formerly Porth’s Central Cinema, it’s thought to have been built between 1919 and 1926, and was originally listed for its special interest as a well-preserved example of an inter-war cinema.
Converted to a Bingo Hall in the 1970s, It closed down for good in 2009 and attempts to sell the building at auction have failed because of the poor condition of both the exterior and interior.
It was last put up for auction in 2018 at a list price of just £18,000 pounds.
Speaking at the time, Rhondda Cynon Taf ward councillor for Porth, Julie Williams, told the Western Mail she wanted to see the building turned into something for the area’s young people.
“The only purpose it serves these days is offering steps for young people to sit on,” she said.
During the same debate, shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy suggested the rest of Cabinet has treated Communities Secretary Michael Gove with “contempt”.
She said: “He couldn’t get money from the Chancellor, he couldn’t visas from the Home Secretary, he couldn’t convince his own former junior minister to stop closures of work and pensions offices in the north.
“He couldn’t even persuade his own civil servants on levelling up to move out of London. For all this nonsense, two-thirds of his civil servants working on levelling up are trying to level us up from the capital.
“At least now he knows what it’s like for the rest of us in the North, Scotland, the Midlands, Wales and the South West, to be treated with total contempt by a bunch of ministers in Whitehall.
“Seriously, what hope has he got of convincing us in this country that he can level us up when he can’t even convince a single one of his colleagues around the Cabinet table.”
Conservative MP Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) branded the Government’s planning reform proposals in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill “unambitious and modest” as he called for yearly building targets.
He called for annual “housing targets” should be set across England to make sure planned new homes are built. Housing is devolved to Wales.
Other Tories stressed the importance of residents having a say over what is built in their areas and making sure new homes meet the latest environmental standards.
Mr Merriman told the Commons: “The 2020 White Paper promised us a once-in-a-generation reform to planning policy. These present proposals appear somewhat unambitious and modest in contrast.”
He added: “Wealden and Rother district councils have issued 10,000 planning permissions which have not been built out, yet they still have to deliver 2,000 new homes between them each year. The developers responsible for building the homes only deliver 1,000 new homes.
“Surely at the very least we can have annual housing targets which take into account those houses not yet built out, so developers build rather than landbank.”
Housing minister Stuart Andrew replied: “The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will improve our planning system and give residents more involvement in local development. The Bill will strengthen and scale up neighbourhood planning and enable the piloting of street votes, supported by new digital tools to give communities more say in the developments that affect them.”
He added: “We have got measures within the Bill that are trying to address build-out rates. This is an important element that we have to tackle… We will do everything we can to ensure that the houses that have got permission are actually built.”
The 2020 Planning for the Future White Paper reportedly proved unpopular with Conservative MPs in traditional Tory-voting areas of the country, with constituents worried it would lead to a huge house building drive.
But some Conservatives still raised concerns with the softer reforms set out in the new Bill.
Conservative MP Henry Smith (Crawley) said: “Homes England are proposing up to 10,000 houses on flood prone green fields… just outside of my constituency, which would put unacceptable pressure on local infrastructure, and yet local people in my constituency – even though they would be most affected – have no say over it.
“How will these planning proposals allow the people of Crawley to say no?”
Wantage MP David Johnston said: “It’s not simply the sheer number of developments in my constituency and the pressure they place on local infrastructure that constituents object to, it’s also the environmental impact of the way the homes are constructed… I would like to see a requirement that homes are built to the latest environmental standard rather than the one at the time permission was granted.”
Mr Andrew replied that improving environmental standards and community engagement were “key elements of our reforms”.
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Bryant…. self publicist and sycophant ectraordinary.
Come on, Cadw! Slap a Grade 2 star on the Bingo Hall!
How about levelling down some of the dozens of thousands of ugly un-needed lego-set-like clone houses built at the orders the the unionist Labour Welsh Government, that are, without a hint of irony, called ‘settlements’?
Y Senedd has not ordered the building of any houses. Councils CAN. Governments don’t. Where do you get your “facts” from? If you are going to hate, base it on actual facts. Don’t be a Boris!
This is not true. The LDP’s are dictated by the Welsh Government, which now incorporates the Planning Inspectorate. They are based on population projection figures. The Councils have some lee-weigh to decide on the these allocations, but the Welsh Government can, and does, and will, reject an LDP if it deems it not in keeping with these figures, and can overturn a decision made by a council. This has happened in Penrhosgarnedd, with Gwynedd Council, where the Council rejected a development, and the Planning Inspectorate (now a part of Welsh Government) overturned the decision. Numerous other examples could be cited.… Read more »
Maybe selfservative Chris Bryant can flip his publically funded house again and again by putting any money made towards Porth’s Bingo hall demolition. He can then crawl any money back as done when he twice flipped his second home claiming mortgage interest & Stamp Duty expenses over a five year period making a tasty £92,000 in profit.
‘leveling Down Fund’, what a great idea. Can I suggest that they start with that monstrosity on the Thames – WASTEMOSTER. I’ll even volunteer to drive a WRECKING BALL, free gratis.
Guess he wants Porth to join Ponty. Bingo Hall torn down for a wooden fence full of tacky council ads. With no plan, leave buildings alone.