AG Meek, the 100-year-old family shoe business on Roath’s Albany Road, will be demolished to make way for a convenience store after councillors approved controversial plans this afternoon.
Developers Tudor Jenkins Ltd applied to Cardiff Council for permission to knock down the shop at 97-99 Albany Road, and replace it with a convenience store and three flats.
The plans were greeted with strong opposition, with more than 20 letters of objection submitted to the council and a petition containing 282 signatures, as well as objections from local AM Jenny Rathbone, former leader of the council and Plasnewydd ward member Rodney Berman, and current Plasnewydd ward members Mary McGarry and Sue Lent.
But at a planning committee meeting this afternoon, the plans were approved, leading to the loss of what Coun Lent said was the only remaining Victorian shop front on Albany Road.
Speaking to the committee before the vote, Coun McGarry – who managed to get the decision delayed for a site visit at the last planning committee meeting – outlined concerns including road safety, with four deliveries a day planned for the store.
Planning documents said these deliveries would take place between 6am and 9am on Albany Road. Coun McGarry pointed out that this would be during rush hour when traffic is heavily congested in the area, with cars coming out of side streets would be forced to creep into the road to see round delivery vehicles.
She said: “It is already dangerous as cars try to cross two lanes of traffic, and pedestrians are crossing trying to take their children to school.”
She also raised concerns about the increase in rubbish the development could cause, and said AG Meek was a traditional shoe shop with a Victorian frontage.
“It’s got a history,” she said. “It was hit by shrapnel in the war. It’s the last Victorian shop in that whole area. It would be terrible to lose it.”
Coun Lent – who removed herself from her role on the planning committee to speak on the proposal – said the deliveries on Albany Road would cause “absolute chaos”.
She added: “It just seems like complete vandalism to knock down a perfectly good original building, not to be converting what’s already there. To demolish it is very unpopular locally. It’s the last of the original shops, and it’s a very well used shop. People in the area feel very strongly about it.”
But planning officers told the committee that they had recently spoken to heritage body Cadw, who had said the building was not worthy of listing, and although many committee members were sympathetic, they felt there were no planning reasons to refuse the application.
Deputy chair of the committee Coun Garry Hunt said: “Anybody born and brought up anywhere near this will remember being dragged to this shop and it’s very much a part of all our lives. It’s got character, it’s an important building. This thing about listing is a difficult one – I find it very difficult. I would be looking for any reason to refuse this but I am having some difficulty doing so.
“The design is better than it was. The parking is a difficult isue when it’s not a change of use it’s a change of shop. I do not like this aggressive planning that these shops do – there’s an awful lot of this sort of thing going on.
“The difficulty is in my conscience I cannot find a reason to reject this and I think that’s a terrible shame, but it’s a fact of life.”
Coun Adrian Robson added: “Unfortunately it’s not a conservation area and not recommended by Cadw for listing. I find it difficult in terms of planning reasons to refuse – though I would like to see it stay personally – but can’t find anything planning wise.”
The application was approved, with conditions, with six councillors voting in favour of the development, one against and one abstention. Councillors agreed to ask the applicant to restrict deliveries to 6am-8am, and the developer must contribute £35,000 towards the cost of public realm improvements around the site.
David Meek, of AG Meek, could not be reached for comment tonight. It is understood the business has agreed to leave the premises in September.
What do you think of the committee’s decision to approve the demolition of AG Meek? Should buildings be saved even though they aren’t listed? Let us know in the comments below. Here are some of your reactions on Twitter.
@yourcardiff Communities need to get organised & look out for planning apps so it doesn’t get left so late next time, gutted for Albany Road
— Made in Roath (@madeinroath2012) July 11, 2012
@yourcardiff devastated, glad I photographed it last week
— steven chapple (@stevenchapple) July 11, 2012
— Nicole (@Nicintosh) July 11, 2012
— Simone (@MarvellousMissO) July 11, 2012
@yourcardiff this is an appalling decision-it’s a perfectly usable and beautiful building-it’s viable as it stands. Such a shame
— Sian Evans (@Sian0) July 11, 2012