The re-development of the derelict St Paul’s Church in Arcot St Penarth has now been identified by the Vale of Glamorgan Council as what it calls a “key area of challenge”.
The most recent St Paul’s developments are outlined in the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s so-called “Corporate Performance Plan” which is due to be considered next week by the council’s Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee.
The most recent proposals to renovate disused former Methodist church building in Arcot Street were rejected by the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s project board in December 2015 – after 12 months of delays.
The history of the St Paul’s building is as follows:-
- 1863 : The building was originally erected in Arcot St as a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel
- 1882: The chapel was enlarged as congregations swelled.
- 1905 : The chapel caught fire and was gutted – leaving just the exterior walls standing. The Methodists decided not to re-build it and instead built the Albert Road Methodist Church as a replacement.
- 1906: The chapel was re-built as a church by the Anglicans and named “St Paul’s” . In the re-build, several feet in height were chopped off the elaborate finials and pinnacles on the front fascia of the building . The front window was re-modelled and reduced in height – giving the structure its current awkward, ungainly and inelegant appearance.
- 1940: It received bomb damage courtesy of the Luftwaffe
- 1967: It was bought by Penarth Urban District Council for £2,500 – and then handed on to the South Glamorgan County Council.
- 1996 St Paul’s came into the possession of the Vale of Glamorgan County Council and it is made available to Penarth Boxing Club and later Penarth Gym Club.
- 2011 The building is closed for Health and Safety reasons and the Penarth Boxing Club has to leave after 37 years at St Paul’s . The Boxing and Gym Clubs are told they will be able to move back-in once repairs had been completed .
- 2012 The then Conservative administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council allocated £250,000 in the council’s “Capital Programme” to make the building suitable again for use by Penarth Gymnastics Club and Penarth Boxing Club. The money was to be recouped from the Section 106 funding from Crest Nicholson in respect of the Penarth Heights Development. The Labour Party condemns the move as a “pre-election stunt” .
- May 2012 The Labour administration takes over in the Vale of Glamorgan – and puts a hold on the planned renovation of St Paul’s. No maintenance of the building is carried out – it continues to deteriorate. The Capital Programme money is never spent, the Crest Nicholson Section 106 funding is never called in. Nothing is done . The building is under the control of the Vale Council’s so-called “Visible and Leisure Services Committee” which is represented on the Vale ‘cabinet’ by Cllr Gwyn John (Llantwit First Independents) . He represents the tiny party that keeps Labour in power in the Vale Council.
- December 11 2012: The Vale Council announces there is to be a six-week “public consultation” on the future of St Paul’s is to begin in January 2013. Controversially the public consultation is limited only to 3,400 homes St Augustines Ward although the Boxing Club and the Gym Club have members in all wards of Penarth and St Paul’s is seen as an asset for the entire town.
- January 2013 The Vale of Glamorgan Council holds a public consultation in the form of a postal referendum. Local councillors Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts (both Labour St Augustines) urge the use of the hall as a “mixed use community facility” rather than just as a base for the Penarth Boxing Club and Gym Club – but the council appears to leave the final decision to the residents of St Augustine’s Ward in the postal referendum.
- January 2013 The deadline for the return of referendum ballot papers from local voters is extended until March 1st because of bad weather .
- March 1st 2013: The extended deadline for the consultation closes. The Vale Council says it’s “delighted” with the level of public response – but there’s no sign of the results being announced.
- April 16th 2013: The Vale Council announces that the publication of the results of the referendum has been postponed for further month to enable all the key officers and councillors involved to “review the data”.
- May 21st 2013: At long last, the result of the referendum is announced. It is a set-back for the two St Augustine’s Vale Labour councillors. Out of a total of 669 responses 62% of households in St Augustines want to see St Paul’s become a permanent home for the Boxing and Gym Clubs . Only 38%, want the “mixed use community facility” that Cllrs Burnett and Roberts are proposing .
September 20 2013: Councillors Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts both come in for withering criticism from prominent local businessman and Penarth Boxing Club supporter Nick Chandler. He says in a letter on the Penarth Times website “If Councillors Burnett and Roberts had not interfered with the previously agreed Cabinet proposal, the building could be weather-protected by now and work to rehouse both clubs would be well advanced.”..“It appears the councillors and officers have all been sitting on their hands despite an overwhelming vote of confidence being given by the residents for the building to be handed back to both clubs. Crest Nicholson, I gather, also support the venture. This whole debacle is a disgrace and appears to be more about the posturing of elected members and has had very little to do with the people of Penarth and their wishes. “
March 24th 2014 Cllr Gwyn John tells a public meeting in the Paget Rooms in Penarth that St Paul’s Church is what he calls a “huge headache” that had been “dumped” on the incoming Labour administration by the outgoing Conservative administration in 2012. He says the building is in such a poor state he recommends demolishing it and “starting again”.
- October 6th 2014: The Vale of Glamorgan Council announces is has appointed the estate-agents Savills to market the lease of St Paul’s Church.
- January 2015 a group, called “St Paul’s Shared Fitness Space CIC” [“CIC” stands for “Community Interest Company“], puts forward ambitious proposals for turning St Paul’s into “mixed-use community facility“. However the group – a “social enterprise company” fails to come up with an acceptable business plan. The Vale Council’s internal Project Group later formally rejects the scheme .
- December 2015 : The Vale Council’s Project Board is said to be “considering options” for the property. A total of £233,000 already allocated to the project – but yet to be spent – is rolled forward into the Vale’s 2016/17 “Capital Programme”.
Next week an internal report will be considered by members of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee. It says that the “conclusion and development of a scheme for the reuse of St Paul ’s site in Penarth, continues to remain a challenge”.
The report says that a “legal strategy” was to have come to a resolution in October 2016 and a new board meeting has been arranged to determine future of the building.
….There’s no mention of another referendum.