Cardiff’s historic buildings at risk of falling into ‘rack and ruin’, warns Civic Society

February 4, 2013 No Comments »

Scores of historic buildings across Cardiff could fall into “rack and ruin” as cuts bite into the budgets of public bodies, the Cardiff Civic Society has warned.

The body’s chairwoman warned in a public meeting that many buildings were falling into disrepair, calling for the creation of a city-wide Building Preservation Trust to protect the buildings.

Nerys Lloyd-Pierce, who was appointed chair last year, challenged people to take personal responsibility for safeguarding up to 1,000 listed buildings’ futures amid a budget squeeze for the city council and heritage body Cadw.

She also criticised the regeneration of Cardiff Bay, which she claimed had channelled money into a “white elephant” Barrage and “tacky” waterfront buildings, rather than restoring historic buildings like the Cardiff Coal Exchange and Cardiff Bay’s train station.

Among those sites also deemed either vulnerable or at risk by the body are Butetown’s Empire Building and Mount Stuart House, Lisvane’s outdoor baptistry and the ruins of old Bishop’s Palace in Llandaff.

Members of the Society were warned that, with austerity hitting public spending, only sources like the Heritage Lottery Fund remain – which can only be accessed by non-governmental groups.

Those in council ownership are broadly deemed safe but the fate of others in private ownership – such as Pentrebane Farmhouse in St Fagans and the Four Elms Centre, is less certain.

The body believes that large publicly-funded schemes are unlikely, but pointed to properly-researched applications from the public to the annual £375m Heritage Lottery Fund as a potential lifeline.

Ms Lloyd-Pierce said: “Too many of Cardiff’s historic buildings lie decaying and neglected.

“Cardiff Bay, for example, has some spectacular buildings such as Cardiff Bay station and the Cardiff Coal Exchange Building.

“Sadly, when the bay area was rejuvenated, all the investment was channelled into the white elephant that is the barrage, and the tacky modern buildings on the waterfront, rather than invested into preserving our heritage buildings.

“Other cities, such as Liverpool, have had greater foresight, and have made their heritage part of the present.

“One way forward to help preserve and regenerate historic buildings is to set up a Building Preservation Trust.

“Around 300 BPTs exist in the UK. Sker House in Kenfig, once derelict, and now beautifully restored, is a fine local example of what can be achieved with a BPT.

“However, there is a cold spot for such an organisation in Cardiff.

“Cardiff Civic Society would be delighted to hear from people who would be willing to help set up a Building Preservation Trust in the city, so that our built heritage can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

Cardiff conservation officer Ross Cannon told the meeting at Chapter that only 4% of the capital’s listed buildings were identified as being at risk in 2011 compared to the Welsh average of 13% – but resources were being squeezed and grants drastically reduced.

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