Plans approved for new sixth form college in historic Cardiff buildings
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
Plans to transform two historic buildings in Cardiff as part of a major new sixth form college development have been approved.
The development, which will see the Merchant Place and Corys buildings in Butetown restored and the erection of a new eight-storey building, will provide a permanent new home for Cardiff Sixth Form College.
Both Merchant Place and Corys, dating back to 1881 and 1889 respectively, have been empty for more than two decades.
They will become the teaching space of the new sixth form development, with the new eight-storey build housing science labs, classrooms, an auditorium and an exhibition space.
Speaking at the Cardiff Council planning committee meeting on Thursday February 2, Councillor Michael Michael said: “Watching it dilapidate over the last 20 years has been quite sad.
“We have tried as an authority for years to get something on here without success.
“I think the architects have done an excellent job in trying to marry the new building with the [old buildings].”
Another member of the planning committee, Councillor Garry Hunt, said he wished the usage of the building could be something more inclusive that everyone could enjoy.
However, he added: “It is an acceptable use and it is one that will at least bring the building back into shape. ”
A vacant plot on Pierhead Street has been proposed as the boarding accommodation for the sixth form college. However, a separate planning application is yet to be submitted for this.
The work on Merchant Place will involve the demolition of a two-storey annexe to the rear of the building.
Some objections were made to the development, with one comment from the Victorian Society expressing concern over the potential impact on the historic character of the area.
Whilst welcoming the idea of using the buildings for education, the society added: “It remains that due to its scale the proposed building will negatively affect the setting of the listed buildings and cause some harm by reducing their architectural prominence.
“We urge the applicant to explore options that would see a smaller new building on the site, more sensitively scaled, in response to the existing historic buildings.”
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales said the scheme represented a “commendable economic reuse of a group of buildings that are significant elements in the townscape”.
A report on the application presented to the council’s planning committee states that the new structure would likely not be visible from the other side of Bute Street at pavement level.
In relation to the proposed partial demolition of Merchant Place, the report adds: “The Applicant’s intent has been to retain as much of the existing fabric of the two Grade II listed buildings that remain as possible.
“No demolition is proposed to take place on the principal façades fronting Bute Place and Bute Street, as these have been deemed to have the highest significance.
“The largest area of demolition is the two-storey annexe to the rear of Merchant Place, proposed to facilitate the new build construction, as shown below.
“Whilst this section is original fabric, it is noted to be of low architectural value and that its demolition has been previously consented.”
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What about the adjacent post office building?
Mention of Cory and Sons Ltd prompts me to ask what happened to the exhibits from the no longer extant Maritime Museum?
My understanding is that Cory’s archive was skipped many years ago…