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Time to 'de-list' the eyesores, claims city AM

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: August 15, 2013

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A SWANSEA AM said it was time to consider "de-listing" eyesore buildings in the city and throughout Wales.

However, the member for the city's east, Mike Hedges stressed that while buildings like the "iconic" grade one-listed Tabernacle Chapel on nearby Woodfield Street must be protected at all costs, others could be taken down.

The call followed an incident at the listed, but derelict, Danbert House in Morriston at this week when firefighters were called to secure boards on the building.

Mr Hedges said he and AM Peter Black had also looked into de-listing Libanus Chapel in Cwmbwrla following a fire to make the process of demolishing it easier. Mr Black, also a Swansea councillor, said the authority took that down due to its dangerous condition following the 2012 blaze before any de-listing.

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Welsh Government heritage body Cadw lists buildings while councils have the responsibility of keeping publicly-owned ones up to scratch. Several listed buildings in Swansea, like Danbert House and the Palace Theatre in High Street, are privately-owned.

Mr Black said a council can serve notices on owners to repair and maintain them but, if unsuccessful, can be left to fund the work itself and then spend more time and money chasing up reimbursement.

"Unless you have a budget assigned for this, these listed buildings fall apart," he said.

There are 515 listed buildings in Swansea, with around 40 deemed "at risk". The council said it was aiming to tackle this at-risk issue with a new strategy currently being drafted.

Finding a viable use for listed buildings was key, said Mr Black. He reckoned the former Carlton Cinema, now occupied by Waterstones, on Oxford Street, and the Dylan Thomas Centre, Somerset Place, were perfect examples of this.

Mr Hedges said he had sympathy for people living in Morriston after fire fighters were called to take down fascia boards at the grade two-listed Danbert House on Tuesday.

"People need to decide what we really need to save," said the Swansea East AM.

His view was that Danbert House, built for the son of a tinplate boss in the 1800s, did not have a viable future.

"You might as well take it down," he said. "It is not a Sketty Hall or a Dyffryn Gardens (Vale of Glamorgan). I have huge sympathy for residents there."

Fire fighters responded to a request for help by Swansea Council officers on Tuesday at Danbert House, on the corner of Morfydd Street and Market Street.

"Is this the best use of resources?" said Mr Hedges.

Joyce Pompei, of Donato Pompei hair salon, Morfydd Street, described Danbert House as "Europe's biggest pigeon loft". She said it was used by the former Department of Social Security until around a decade ago, but had since been stripped of anything of value.

"It really is appalling," she said. "People use it as a toilet.

"It is so sad, but it has to come down. My house is opposite. There is no way I can sell it."

A council spokesman said it was in discussions with the owners of Danbert House and the Palace Theatre about the need for urgent works to stop further deterioration, and how they can be brought into use.

"Our listed buildings need to be preserved because they're important features of Swansea's heritage," he said. "We don't have the authority to demolish buildings of this nature or to force owners to bring them back into use, but we're looking into what more we can do to help prevent further decay and ensure their future preservation. Neither Danbert House nor Palace Theatre are unsafe at present."

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