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Plans to redevelop iconic department store take significant step forward

21 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Bethany Chapel (Credit: Cardiff Council) / Howells (Credit:

Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter

The redevelopment of an iconic former department store has taken another significant step forward.

Cardiff Council’s planning committee voted unanimously in favour of approving plans to progress with the next stages of transforming the Howells building on St Mary Street.

The next phases of the development will see the former Bethany English Baptist Chapel on site restored and the Wharton Street buildings to the south extended in height.

Some of the buildings surrounding the old chapel, which dates back to 1807, will also be demolished to make way for a new public space.

At the planning committee meeting on Thursday December 21, Cllr Adrian Robson said he liked “a lot of aspects of this development”.

In 1965, the congregation of the Bethany Chapel moved to a new premises in Rhiwbina.

Cllr Robson, who is also one of the ward members for Rhiwbina, said: “I know that the local community of Bethany will be very interested to see the plans.”

Restored chapel

It is not yet known exactly what the restored chapel will be used for, but change of use proposals include operating it for retail, as a restaurant or as a food market.

The Wharton Street building will be turned into a bar, restaurant and 61 studio apartments. There will be a four-storey extension of the roof.

Another member of the planning committee, Cllr Garry Hunt, said: “People talk about the past [in] Cardiff being better somehow.”

Recalling his memories of what streets like The Hayes and Wharton Street used to be like before they were redeveloped, he added: “I remember… they were quite bleak and unwelcoming spaces, particularly after dark.”

The councillor said he understood some of the objections, but did not agree with them, later adding his vote to the approval of the plans.

One point raised by the council’s operational manager for traffic and transportation expressed concerns about the swept path for emergency access for the site, noting that it relies upon the use of on-street parking on Wharton Street.

The operational manager’s point, published in the council’s report on the planning application, states that this is dedicated disabled parking during the daytime and for unloading or loading during the night.

According to the council’s report, South Wales Fire Service had no comments to make in addition to the advice it has already provided in relation to the development.

The fire service also confirmed that they will examine the application in more detail at the building regulations stage.

Council officer, Tim Walter, said: “Although it was flagged by transport colleagues, it is not considered to be an issue of concern for this application.”


The buildings proposed for demolition are the areas of the site described in the council’s report as areas “which make no or limited contribution to the special character of the Grade II* listing”.

A diagram showing the areas of the Howells redevelopment scheme that have been proposed for demolition and the areas proposed for retention.

Phase one of the development relates to the Percy Thomas building on the corner of Wharton Street and St Mary Street.

Permission was granted in 2019 for change of use of the building and in 2023 for a rooftop extension which will allow for a rooftop bar.

Phases four and five of the redevelopment relate to the St Mary Street frontage, the south-east corner building fronting onto The Hayes and the Trinity Street buildings.

These form part of a separate planning application which will be decided at a later date.

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Ap Kenneth
5 months ago

I remember as a child staring through gates at the Bethany Chapel which seemed in the 1960s to be a small garden area before being incorporated into the store. Hope it becomes an interesting area again.

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