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Team appointed to restore Cardiff’s Coal Exchange

23 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Coal Exchange. Image by Martin Shipton

Martin Shipton 

The company that owns Cardiff’s iconic Coal Exchange has started to appoint the team that will hopefully restore it to its former glory.

The north side of the Victorian Grade 2* listed building in the city’s Butetown district has partially collapsed and the hotel that was operating in the building as a whole has closed temporarily.

Eden Grove Developments Limited, whose sole director is former Cardiff Labour councillor Ashley Govier, repossessed the property from a leaseholder on December 27 after prohibition notices were served by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and investors who had bought individual rooms in the hotel complained that they were not receiving revenue payments they were entitled to.

A statement issued by Eden Grove Developments said: “An all Cardiff-based team has been appointed with Burroughs overseeing engineering review and project management requirements, Austin Smith Lord being the appointed architect and with Harrison Clark Rickerbys providing legal advice and support.

“Since acquiring the freehold of The Coal Exchange Hotel, our commitment has been to do our best to ensure we find a viable way forward for the site. This phase of the project will focus on four potential options: restoration and refurbishment of the existing north side; restoration and refurbishment of the existing north side with a conversion mansard or dormer structure to the roof line; facade retention with a new internal structure on the north side; or demolition of the existing structure on the north side and the construction of a new building.”

Local community

The company said it was planning to engage with the local community about the development. One resident, Philip Kirby, said: “We have been looking at this eyesore for so long. It’s been damaging to our community so I am encouraged that something is finally going to begin.”

Rhys Langley of Harrison Clark Rickerbys, said “The Cardiff real estate team is delighted to be acting on this project. We are looking forward to helping deliver our client’s vision for this historically important asset.”

The hotel’s former operating company, run by Eastbourne businessman Anil Rae, is applying for voluntary liquidation.

An Eden Grove Developments spokesperson said: “We have been making good progress on the proposed development of the site with the full report to be ready for consultation at the end of February. However, the events over the last week have meant that we are looking at new options with respect to the operating hotel. We hope to make an announcement in the coming weeks over the new operating business which will reopen the hotel. We are continuing to support staff affected by the previous operator entering administration as well as those customers with bookings.”

HMRC

Nation.Cymru has previously revealed how the hotel operating company was running up debts with HMRC as well as keeping revenue to which it was not entitled. Documents we have seen show that last year HMRC was pursuing the Exchange Hotel for unpaid VAT totalling more than £160k and unpaid employer national insurance contributions of more than £132k.

A further document showed that in April 2023 an insurance policy on the building was cancelled because the insurer had not been made aware that it was in a poor state of repair.

We saw evidence of many thousands of pounds being transferred to Mr Rai’s company.

Following confirmation that the operating company was being liquidated, Mr Govier told us: “We are actively seeking a new operator for the hotel and are confident that it will reopen. There may not be jobs for all of those who worked for the former operator, but there will be for some of them.

“The former operator is trying to lay the blame for the closure of the hotel on us but, as Nation.Cymru has reported, the company already had significant debts.

“Our first priority has to be to ensure the building is safe, and we’ll be appointing engineers to get the appropriate work done. It may take six weeks or so to do that.”

The Coal Exchange is the third of Mr Rai’s firms to have been put into liquidation.

Public records show that in 2013, his company Focus Wealth Ltd was put into liquidation with a net deficiency of more than £276,000. Of that, more than £83,000 was due to the Inland Revenue.

In 2021, his company Focus Wealth Consultancy Ltd was liquidated with an estimated deficiency of more than £171,000, including more than £41,000 owed to HMRC in respect of PAYE payments and £80,000 in corporation tax.

In addition, Mr Rai was previously a designated member of Focus Wealth Management LLP, whose licence to operate was revoked by the Financial Conduct Authority in 2015 after the firm failed to meet its financial commitments.

Focus Wealth Management LLP was struck off the Companies House register in 2019 after failing to file its accounts.


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Frank
Frank
1 month ago

How many millions of pounds will the taxpayer get ripped off on this job? On top of all that there will be the usual fees paid to WG mates for advice and legal costs, expenses, endless meetings, consultations, dining out and any more luxuries the politicians can think up.

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