Members of Penarth Town Council’s planning committee – who heard there are already more than 40 hairdressers in Penarth – this week decided to support a “change of use” of premises in Royal Buildings for yet one more.
The premises – at 2 Royal Buildings – had been converted for use as a photographic studio in 2006, on condition that it not be used for any other form of business. However, now – ten years on – an application had been made to operate the premises as a hair salon.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) in the chair, said this was a “fairly significant location in the Conservation Area site” and was next door to the Etc… restaurant.
Cllr Mark Wilson said the site was actually in “Gwyn’s Ward” [the ward of Cllr Gwyn Roberts Labour St Augustines]
Cllr Roberts however asserted that the borderline between the two wards “runs along the centre of Stanwell Road” and the premises were actually not in St Augustine’s Ward but in either Plymouth Ward or Stanwell Ward – he wasn’t sure which.
This assertion prompted considerable discussion . Veteran councillor Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) settled the matter by declaring the premises were in his ward – Plymouth Ward. “I know my ward” – he said.
Cllr Roberts said that the application was for change of use and entailed no change to the exterior of the building. The premises had been empty for some time.
Referring to Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell), Cllr Roberts said “I know Mark will tell us how many hairdressers there are in Penarth” – but said he would rather see the premises as operating commercial business than being left empty . He would raise no objection to the change.
Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) said he totally agreed. It was a difficult site – sensitive to the Conservation Area. He noted there were two similar businesses “successfully trading” nearby . He said he would support the application .
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) considered that Cllr Rapier had “just said it all”.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) said that in the ward that he represented – [the other side of Royal Buildings] “We have 3 hairdressers already. We have over 40 in Penarth – nevertheless we’ve got a concentration of hairdressers in this area and it would be ludicrous if we said ‘no’ to this one“.
Cllr Wilson added that more customer footfall might help make the area even more viable than it already was and “hopefully, that would be good news” . It was better to have the new businesses than have an empty shop-front in what he called “a premier part of Penarth” .
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said that “as usual” he took a slightly different view from that of his “colleagues”. “I take the view that a diversity of different types and classes of shops is important in a town” he said .
Cllr Ernest said he believed the condition imposed on the photographic studio had been applied to ensure that there was a range of shops in Royal Buildings which he described as “a very,very nice shopping area which has been long-established in the town “. Once, there had been fishmongers, grocers, poulterers there – but those classes had been “condensed down and down” . Cllr Ernest thought the planning committee should try to ensure that there was “diversification” both in Royal Buildings and in Cornerswell Road. Cllr Ernest said that if there was a vote then doubtless he would be outvoted – but that did not stop him making the point.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell ) said he was “fascinated that a Conservative was advocating a planned economy”.
Across the table, Cllr Ian Courtney (Labour Cornerswell) said he wanted to pick up Cllr Ernest’s point and said – to laughter – “sat opposite you and being able to study your quiff I can see that you are a student of hairdressers . You must have had a lot of experience of hairdressers in Penarth” .
However, Cllr Courtney declared that “ We have to let the free market operate – so I’m inclined to take the view of the chair”. He even envisaged Penarth becoming “ hairdressers’ quarter” or what he called a “centre of excellence and a concentration of economic activity” .
Cllr Rosemary Cook (Labour St Augustines) said the premises had been empty for well over a year and ” I, for one, would be delighted to see them being used”.
Drawing the discussion to a conclusion, Cllr Thomas said that “with the exception of Comrade Ernest” the consensus was that the committee supported the lifting of the condition imposed in the planning permission.
The final decision will be made by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.