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Safety concerns threaten to disfigure one of Wales’s finest buildings

A plan to place a wooden safety barrier inside the quadrangle of the University of Bangor’s Main Arts building has been criticised by the Victorian Society.

The university's planning proposals also include placing hedges on the site's lower terraces to prevent people falling from the edge.

The Main Arts building was designed in 1907 by the architect, Henry T Hare and is listed at Grade I, meaning it's considered to be of exceptional interest; fewer than three per cent of all listed buildings in England and Wales are afforded such a grade.

'Building a barrier and planting hedges will have a serious impact on the design of the quad by removing the open views that the architect intended', said Chris Costelloe, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. 'The idea behind this proposal is that open drops without barriers are unacceptably dangerous, but thousands of miles of cliff-tops, canal towpaths, railway platforms and terraces are unfenced. They do not all need permanent control measures'.

The University of Bangor says the move has been prompted by the findings of a recent 'fall from height' risk assessment carried out at the site. But the Society believes that the proposed solution is both damaging and unnecessary.

'Terraces like those in the inner quad can be found at historic sites all over the country. There is no need to erect a special safety barrier.'

The Society is urging Gwynedd Council to refuse consent for the application.


The University was founded in 1884 after the city of Bangor was chosen as the University's North Wales site. First established at the former Penrhyn Arms Hotel; the present Penrallt site was donated in 1902. Built 1907-11 by Henry T Hare, who was chosen following a competition assessed by Sir Aston Webb and with other entrants including W D Caroe. The Foundation stone was laid by Edward VII on 9 July 1907 and the building opened on 14 June 1911.

Designed around two courtyards, the larger of which was never completed (later enclosed with ranges by Sir Percy Thomas 1966-1970). The entire scheme is linked and focused upon the cathedral-like central tower. The building was described in his obituary as Hare's finest work.

Monday 14 February, 2011

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