Demolition of Guildford Crescent Cancelled

Source: Aiyush Pachnanda

By Rhiannon Humphreys

The Rapport family have decided to withdraw plans to demolish the buildings, following months of campaigning by the local people, primarily led by the group Save Guildford Crescent.

This is as a result of talks with Cardiff Council with regards to the potential regeneration of the area.

The businesses on Guildford Crescent, namely Gwdihw, the Thai House and the Madeira Restaurante, were forced to close in January when the landlords refused to renew their leases, with the view to demolishing the Crescent and using the land for redevelopment.

This caused widespread protest and outrage, resulting in a petition which boasted over 20,000 signatures and a protest march attended by nearly 2,000 people.

The Rapport family agreed to delay the demolition plans by three months, after Cardiff Council intervened and suggested that the terrace be included in a regeneration masterplan, together with other parts of the city.

An application was also made to Cadw to have the Crescent listed, as it is the last remaining historic crescent of its kind in Cardiff, and dates back to when the Bute Docks were built in the mid-19th century.

The Masonic Church, also on the Crescent, is in no danger of being demolished as it was Grade II listed by Cadw in 1975.

The buildings stood empty after the eviction of the local businesses until March, when the terrace was occupied by a group of squatters called the ‘Guildford Peasants’. They describe themselves as an “autonomous direct action group”, and are not affiliated with any other group or organisation.

Their reason for squatting was to restart the campaign that Save Guildford Crescent started and to encourage the people of Cardiff to take on a more active role.

The group stated: “Wales used to have a strong tradition of working-class direct action, but we’ve become very passive. We wanted to inspire people that we [the working class] have a great deal of power.

“We need to remember that we are the class who does everything, so we can change everything”.

In their opinion, the only way of triggering change is by gaining leverage, with the aid of “direct action tactics”, and forcing those in power to “concede at the negotiating table”.

The Guildford Squatters were served with an eviction notice this month, which revealed that the landlords were planning to demolish “steel and wooden structures at the rear of the property”.

These structures made up the beer garden behind Gwdihŵ and can be demolished without applying for planning permission. This notice came despite the fact that campaigners were assured in January by Counciller Huw Thomas that he had confirmation in writing from the landlords that all demolition would be held off for three months. It is understood that the squatters have now been evicted and the Crescent is empty once more.

To the further disappointment of campaigners, Cadw rejected the application for Guildford Crescent to be granted listed status. They stated that their reasoning for this was because “it is not a well preserved or good example of late C19 housing and has suffered from alterations and loss of original fabric”.

“The criteria for listing buildings of this type are strict and only allow the best examples to be listed. Given the overall lack of character and degree of alteration Cadw has concluded that it does not meet the criteria for listing.”

The Save Guildford Crescent campaign plans to appeal Cadw’s decision. When Gair Rhydd asked Cadw for a comment on whether they might alter their decision on the site, they responded: “If new evidence emerges regarding the historic and architectural interest [of Guildford Crescent], then Cadw would reassess.”

However, the Rapports have now cancelled their demolition plans while they focus on talks with Cardiff Council about the Crescent being included in a regeneration masterplan.

In the light of this, Cardiff Council have made a press statement stating that if there is a breakdown between the landlords and the council in the talks regarding the masterplan, the Rapports would have to reapply for demolition.

With regards to the businesses on the Crescent: the Madeira Restaurante has reopened on St. Mary Street as the Ty Madeira Restaurant, however, neither the Thai House nor Gwdihŵ have managed to relocate to a new premises as of yet.

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