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New lease of life in store for historic buildings with restoration projects

09 Mar 2021 4 minute read
Swanseas Palace Theatre, High Street (pic by Richard Youle)

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter 

Time is not standing still for three listed buildings in Swansea, which are all to be given a new lease of life.

The Palace Theatre and the former Mumbles lifeboat house now have listed building consent for their respective restoration schemes, while planning permission has been given to convert the former Windsor Lodge Hotel into shared living and working space, complete with a gym and cinema for residents.

The revamp of late Georgian villa, in Mount Pleasant, will be aimed at young professionals who will live in 20 en-suite rooms and share ground-floor living areas and a walled garden. The building will also be home to one apartment.

The vacant grade two-listed building was up for sale for a while before it was bought by Bristol-based Higgihaus Ltd, which has carried out three smaller-scale conversion schemes in Mount Pleasant.

The company’s chief executive, Luke Spikes, said he felt the decaying structure with its 21 rooms and servants’ staircase had “good bones”.

He said: “When you walk into the building it’s in poor shape, but you get this feeling that it would be an amazing space to hang out in.”

Mr Spikes said some of the en-suite rooms might end up more like mini-studios with cooking facilities, but that a large communal kitchen would be on the ground floor, along with a sitting room and co-working space.

He said the revamp would take around a year, but needed listed building consent from Welsh heritage body Cadw before work could start.

‘Planning approval’ 

Swansea Council planning officers have granted planning approval though, with six conditions.

Concerns were raised by the Georgian Group, which felt the scheme would adversely affect the character and special architectural interest of the building.

A residents’ group said there would be a lack of parking at the rear for residents  – and this was echoed by a council highways officer, who recommended refusal.

The planning department noted the parking concerns in its report, but said the building would have bike storage space and was within easy walking distance of the city centre, the train station and main bus station.

Officers also felt that amendments by Higgihaus Ltd should address the Georgian Group’s concerns, adding that the project would breathe life into “a rare survivor of a Georgian villa”.

The conversion will turn the building into a house of multiple occupation (HMO), but result in a set threshold of HMO concentration within 50 metres being exceeded. Officers, though, said they felt there were exceptional circumstances in this instance for the proposal to be considered acceptable.

Meanwhile, listed building consent has now been granted for Swansea’s Palace Theatre, which was bought by the council around a year ago.

The authority is now searching for a developer to restore the 133-year-old High Street building to something of its former glory. Last used as a nightclub around 15 years ago, work could start to convert it into office space this summer.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “There’s a long way to go to bring this landmark building to life once more but progress so far has been incredible.”

And a project to transform the former lifeboat house at Mumbles Pier and also add two pavilion buildings also has listed building consent.

The old lifeboat house will become a restaurant, and the pavilion buildings will be retail, bathroom and cafe units.

The private sector scheme is on hold for now.

Speaking in January this year when planning consent was granted by the council for the scheme, a spokesman for Ameco, which owns the pier, said: “We’re delighted to have reached this important approval stage. It has taken a bit of time but we wanted replicate period features and a Victorian theme.”

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