12 February 2007

Like Butetown across the Taff, Grangetown is largely Victorian. It was built to provide housing for workers at Cardiff’s docks and has, by and large, retained a working-class community. This has become increasingly multicultural as migrant dockers have settled here over the years. You get an idea of how ethnically diverse the docks were in J Lee Thompson’s 1959 film Tiger Bay.1

Since the industrial waterfront was redeveloped as Cardiff Bay, with its imposing public buildings and luxury apartments, Grangetown has also started to change and many of its older buildings are being replaced or reused. Local people have, however, been vocal in opposing developments, worried they are being transplanted by newcomers and losing their heritage and community buildings.

The Red House pub on Ferry Road was once a haunt for sailors from around the world. When a developer applied in 2004 to redevelop the site, a petition was signed by 275 people.2 Speaking at the time to the South Wales Echo, a Grangetown resident and campaigner Jason Toby said: “We just want to keep the local heritage — it’s just getting trampled on to make money, and this is money that won’t be going back into the local area.”3

Cardiff council rejected the application, but the Welsh assembly chose to grant permission after the developer lodged an appeal. The pub was flattened in 2005 and Westmark is now building a £15m 10-storey complex of 60 apartments on the site.4

Another loss is the Inn on the River on the Taff Embankment, which is soon to be replaced by social housing. The Edwardian mansion, which had operated as a pub since 1974 hosting regular jazz concerts, closed in 2005. Having since had to deal with four arson attacks, its owner, the brewer Brains, is hoping to sell the site to Taff Housing Association.5

On Pendyris Street, a 334-bedroom block of student flats had been built on the site previousy used by Avana Bakeries.6 The developer Unite was given planning permission for the scheme, in spite of the concerns of many long-standing Grangetown residents that the influx of so many students would change the area’s character.

Plans to demolish the former Grangetown library on Redlaver Street have also met opposition from the local community. The red-brick building, dating from 1900, was closed in August 2006, after a new library was opened off Penarth Road. A petition to save the building from being knocked down and redeveloped was signed by 1,000 Grangetown residents and backed by Liberal Democrat councillors.7

Fiona McAllister, the owner of neighbouring Grange Farm, brought the campaign to the BBC Action Network, writing: “We’ve already lost the Red House to developers — don’t let them destroy another piece of Grangetown’s heritage.”8

A developer has put forward two options to Cardiff council: they would either pay more for the site, demolish the library and put up a new building, or they would pay less to restore and convert it. The council would need the permission of the Welsh assembly to accept the lower tender.

Either way, Grangetown will have lost another community building and gained more flats. (Last edited: 20 May 2008)

Update 20 May 2008:

Construction continues on the Watermark development on the site of Red House pub. It now seems unlikely that the library will be knocked down. Cardiff council has granted permission for a development by Deanville to restore the building and convert it into apartments.

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