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Irresponsible development razes Tudno Castle Hotel

The Grade II-listed Tudno Castle Hotel in Llandudno is set to be completely demolished after botched planning has left it structurally unstable.

Tudno Castle Hotel in Llandudno, taken May 2017

In 2014, planning permission was granted – despite strong objections from the Victorian Society – for the demolition of the building between Mostyn Broadway and Conway Road, behind a retained façade and the erection of a new hotel and extension. When work began, it was discovered that the façade was not ashlar stone, but rather poorly bonded, random rubble stone.

It is baffling that so fundamental a defect – one which would literally make-or-break the scheme - was not discovered prior to the granting of approval. And to make matters worse, despite the discovery, demolition continued to the point that façade retention is no longer considered viable. The developer has subsequently applied to completely demolish the façades, and with them all that remains of the listed building.

The Victorian Society objected to the original application for partial demolition in 2014 as we deemed it to be lacking in almost all areas. While that scheme would have resulted in the substantial loss of one of Llandudno’s prime Victorian buildings, it would at least have preserved a vestige of it in the retained façade. The questionable process of the last three years has now left the fragmentary remains of the building bordering on collapse.

Anna Shelley, Conservation Adviser at the Victorian Society, said: “The complete demolition of the Tudno Castle Hotel was entirely avoidable, and the plans could have been revised and reconsidered at various stages in the assessment process. All those responsible – particularly developer and Local Authority – should take a good hard look at themselves. How has this been allowed to happen?”

The new application for total demolition proposes the rebuilding of the façade ‘like-for-like’, though even here the details are seriously lacking in terms of design quality and the proposed materiality. It is essential that conservation architects with experience and expertise are brought on board to assist in salvaging this sorry state of affairs. The construction of a faithful and historically sensitive new façade is the only thing that could now make good at least some of the harm caused by the sustained disregard for this heritage asset.

It is now altogether too late for the Tudno Castle Hotel. However, the Authority must learn the stark lessons of this embarrassing case in order to ensure that they are not repeated elsewhere. Façade retention schemes are rarely desirable, particularly where listed buildings are concerned. But where they are put forward they need to be able to clearly demonstrate that the building’s structure is capable of such invasive works.

Llandudno is justly famed as a peerless and astonishingly well preserved Victorian seaside resort.  The sad fate of the Tudno Castle Hotel has resulted in irreversibly diminishing its interest.

Friday 3 November

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