Friday, 12 February 2010

Wales needs law to save 'cultural' buildings

From the BBC website - full article here:

Buildings in Wales with a "social or cultural significance" should have new laws to help campaigners protect them, say Assembly Members.

The assembly's petitions committee cited the campaign to save Victorian-era Cardiff pub The Vulcan Hotel as an example of why new powers were needed.

A 5,000-name petition helped the Vulcan land a three-year demolition reprieve.

AMs said heritage body Cadw showed willing to protect it but could not do more without risk of legal challenges.


Christine Chapman, chair of the assembly's petitions committee, said: "It is clear that Cadw showed willing in trying to protect the Vulcan, even asking the campaigners to find out more information and resubmit an application after the first attempt was turned down.

"But it is also clear that Cadw reached the end of its remit and simply couldn't do any more without running the risk of legal challenges on the grounds of the building not meeting specific criteria.

"The committee was told that there is some new heritage protection legislation which would tighten up laws in England and Wales but that that legislation, at the time, had not been allocated a slot for debate in Parliament."

Below is our reaction to the Assembly report:

Today, the National Assembly for Wales’ Petitions Committee released the report ‘Save the Vulcan: Protection of historic buildings’.

The report is a response to a petition of 5,000 signatures calling to save the historic Vulcan Hotel from demolition.

Save the Vulcan campaigner Rachel Thomas said, “We are pleased the Assembly’s Petitions Committee took time to examine our petition. However, this is by no means the end. This is just the beginning of the Vulcan campaign, and our aim is to see the Vulcan thrive for another 157 years.

“The fate of the Vulcan now lies in the hands of the developer Derek Rapport, and we strongly urge Mr Rapport to comment immediately on the future of this Victorian watering hole.

“According to the BBC, pubs in Wales are closing at the rate of five a week. The Vulcan should not be allowed to become a statistic.

“We strongly urge the Welsh Government to act on the report’s recommendations as soon as possible”.

Save the Vulcan campaigner Graham Craig is keen to see strengthened powers for Cardiff Council to prevent the demolition of buildings that meet local listing criteria. Graham said, “The Vulcan must be protected, and listing the building is the best way to do this. We understand why the Vulcan cannot be listed under Cadw’s current criteria, but the Welsh Government and the WLGA must now move swiftly to introduce legislation to protect buildings which are socially and/or culturally important”.

Local architect Jonathan Adams said he could see no reason why the Vulcan could not be incorporated into a future redevelopment of the site, and that it would pose an exciting architectural opportunity.

Save the Vulcan campaigner David Wilton added, “Don’t forget to visit the Vulcan during the 6 Nations. The atmosphere is unrivalled, and the beer’s pretty good too!”

The Vulcan is the only building to survive from the area formally known as Newtown.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Demolish the Vulcan - a response

Needless to say we were a bit shocked to read an article entitled 'Demolish Vulcan, says man who fought to save it' in Friday's Echo. You can read the full article here but this is the gist of it:

A FORMER Save the Vulcan campaigner has called for the pub to be knocked down, claiming it has lost its “heart and soul”.

Former steelworker Alan Grainger has been drinking at the historic watering hole for almost 50 years.

But now he thinks it should be pulled down – just eight months after it won a three-year reprieve.

The self-proclaimed poet claimed “hardcore” locals had been driven out by students and do-gooders who jumped on the “bandwagon” to save the bar.

“I started the campaign off writing letters to the Echo.

“I was agitated because it was going to be demolished,” the 73-year-old said, adding: “For someone like me to say it should be knocked down – that’s the opposite of what I have said before and what I have fought for.

Mr Grainger claims that hardcore locals have been driven out of The Vulcan by “students and do-gooders”. He also says the pub was “almost empty” one Friday night. He can't have it both ways: if students really are driving locals out then where were they that Friday night? The reality is that the vast majority of 'Vulcan virgins' greatly appreciate The Vulcan's regulars – their friendliness and stories of Cardiff past are part of what makes The Vulcan unique.

Mr Grainger claims to have started the campaign to save The Vulcan by writing letters to the Echo. Without doubt the Echo played a vital part in the campaign, spreading the word far and wide. However, letters to the local paper do not in themselves make a campaign. The 'students and do-gooders', as Mr Grainger calls us, spent hours handing out flyers, arranging a public meeting, speaking to local politicians, organising a demo at the Senedd, researching and submitting an application to Cadw, writing to Cardiff celebrities, giving evidence to the Assembly Petitions Committee.

Without the students and do-gooders signing the petition and spreading the word the campaign would not have had the same weight with neither the Echo nor with local politicians. The same students and do-gooders begged for anyone interested to get involved. Not once did Mr Grainger contact the campaign.

Yes, more people from different backgrounds are drinking at The Vulcan than a few years ago. But for The Vulcan to have the best chance of extending its life still further, it needs customers and it needs people who love it. Age and background should be forgotten in the battle to keep one of Cardiff's gems from the bulldozers' grasp.

Rather than claiming The Vulcan has lost its “heart and soul” perhaps Mr Grainger should set about re-locating his own.