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Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

Hello, everyone.

Please sign my petition:

Alternatively, voice your concerns to Butetown Councillor Ali Ahmed:

There is also a Facebook page.

Sign, share and spread the word!

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

Hi Mike,

Out of curiosity, what do you intend to happen to the York Hotel if it isn't demolished ?

As much as I dislike buildings being demolished if they have some character I also dislike seeing a building remaining if it isn't occupied and remains that way for 20 years or so.

What are your thoughts on that ?

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

I hope it is demolished also, its so unsightly and means that another piece of land will be developed into something useful.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

The new development has been granted planning permission in any case, has it not? So it seems somewhat pointless to me.

I understand the desire to preserve older buildings, especially if they are of architectural merit (and that includes even fairly 'basic' buildings if they are good examples of the local historical venacular style). But, thats balanced against the need for the buildings to still serve some kind of use. The fact of the matter is that the York Hotel is a wreck, would be expensive to do up, and is then unlikely to meet modern occupier requirements. It won't be offices. I can't see it as a hotel or restaurant. And its not the kind of building worthy of public money to then stand as a monument to mid-late 19th century low quality commercial buildings.

So I think, in this case, demolish it, and get something useful there.

I've taken a quick look at the petition: its basically bemoaning the destruction of more of our "heritage" and asserting that "surely something can be done" with the existing building. I think sometimes that is true. But in this instance, planning committee made the right decision. As for "little or no public consultation", this always gets on my nerves. We make an effort to spend 2 minutes a week skimming through planning apps. Its not hard. The Echo now features things in planning committee. And the council publicises these things with notices and letters. For major schemes there is a real effort to consult. For smaller schemes the info is there with a little effort ( or if you live nearby. Do we expect the council to waste thousands consulting on every small development (like this one)? In an era where we probably have 5 or 6 more years of local government spending cuts, get real.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

At the very least it would be good to keep the facade but as for the rest of the building intergrate it into the new development! When it happens?!?!

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

Walked passed it the other day. Have to say, even though it may not be the most amazing of buildings but it does have some nice features such as the heads on the wall. Would be a shame to lose it but that's what Cardiff is like. Bulldozes and destroys all of its history. One of the most important buildings in Cardiff's history is left to sit and rot in Mount Stewart Square and there were even plans to demolish the Pierhead building. Cardiff is fast turning into an American style anywheresville-by-the-sea filled with generic and uninspiring drivel.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

Have to say that those "American style anywheresville-by-the-sea" places are genuinely good places to live and have their own distinct character and styles. I'm not keen on seen old buildings beign demolished but i cant see the York hotel having a future life in the city. If its demolition means the redevelopment of teh customs house then i say thats a good trade off. Petitions like this should have been raised before the Marriott was built and the pretty canal buildings were destroyed, and the character of the area removed.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

I don't think its fair to say that Cardiff "Bulldozes and destroys all of its history". There certainly plans on the table which would have destroyed much more of the city centre and surrounding districts, and we have lost a fair bit. But I am not clear that we have lost more than comparable cities.

We have lost some interesting buildings. The old Capitol theatre; some of the architectural flourishes on buildings around Westgate / St Mary street junction; a few old churches. And we lost a lot of potentially very interesting stuff during the clear outs of Newtown and particularly Butetown. But similar "slum clearances" were very much of the time, and we managed to avoid many of the worst excesses of redevelopment that some other cities did. Its also important to recognise that a lot of Victorian Cardiff was rather shoddily built. It was always a rather gritty town and that was reflected in a lot of the architecture being functional at best. I don't moan the loss of historic streets when they built St Davids and the CIA area, for instance. A lot of that stuff was crap! We knocked down a fair few old Victorian villas to build the office buildings on Newport Road, but I think it was worthwhile as we still have a lot of that late 19th residential (now professional) stock around the city, and Newport Road was for a long time the office district of town.

I also think in this instance, facade retainment just isn't feasible. Its a very 'heavy' facade, and not one I imagine appeals to many occupiers. It also would look weird to have a two/three story retained facade in dark brick, and then a 4 / 5 story building behind it. And retaining the old building behind is a non-starter: it would need to be completely gutted, all internal walls gone, somehow they'd need to get modern insulation, electrics, fire-optics in etc. Its just much more economical to start again. And I'm sorry, but money matters. If people care about the York Hotel so much, lets have a donation to fund the higher costs or pay for the lower income the owner would receive.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

There are a lot of buildings around the city which were destroyed and don't really bring anything to the city. The ruined monastery where the Pearl Tower now stands, Westgate Street fire station and Queens Street Station another both replaced with brutal blocks. Although, just because a building is old shouldn't necessarily guarantee its safety. It would look a bit odd with the brinks, but you can paint bricks. Custom House would make a good venue but you need somebody with some money to do it. There is plenty of land in Cardiff for offices and plenty of unused ones to boot.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

Yes, there is other land offices could be built. And there are empty offices. But there is a developer who thinks that a conversion of Custom House and a new build here will be more attractive to occupiers than those other options. Close to two stations, very close to the shops, brand spanking new but with a bit of character from Custom House.

"We" (society) seems to have forgotten that an economy and city needs to be dynamic. We complain about building new houses in Cardiff, Cambridgeshire, parts of London, when there are "empty houses" or "lots of space" in the Valleys or parts of the North of England. We comment that there are "lots of empty offices" or "lots of unused factories" when a new office building or factory is planned - e.g. the Admiral Building, the York Hotel. Well the fact of the matter is that people don't want to live in the Valleys or run down bits of Liverpool, they want to live in Cardiff or Cambridge or London. And occupiers don't want to go into old sub-standard stock or pay a fortune doing it up. They want something new, something well located, something meeting modern requirements and work practises.

A lot of empty grade B and C offices will never be used as offices again. They might be given a new lease of life as hotels, student accomodation, education facilities, at some point in the future, flats/apartments. Similarly empty shops in secondary locations are unlikely to be shops again. Some may be able to be A3. Some might be converted back to residential. At the same time we might see demand for new offices or shops in other locations even when existing ones stand empty. One reason I'm not keen on the "zoning" that Cardiff council seems keen on is that it prevents this dynamism from happening. The "small professional offices" district north of Queen St which prevents conversions of offices to student accomodation. Or prevents empty shops being converted to cafes or restaurants. Dynamism that previously reshaped our city and led to places like City Road, Cowbridge Road, Windsor Place growing up in the first place. But that we now stop. Or on a bigger scale, the dynamism that led the Valleys to become the powerhouse of 1880 - 1914, but which now prevents our cities and affluent areas fulfilling their potential.

I don't want an historic Cardiff preserved in aspic which then struggles economically because firms cannot find the centrally located offices they want. Or that has a bunch of decaying buildings "saved" from demolition but which then find themselves without a use.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

Thankfully Custom House is being kept and restored, as it is a listed building.

The York Hotel is not in the best of conditions, but with a bit of imagination and TLC anything is possible.

It is a rather plain building, but with some nice touches. However, it is the gateway to Butetown. There are very few remaining buildings from this era, as the Council were a bit heavyhanded in the development of that area. Butetown was a bustling place with a strong community spirit, which was made into a slum by the Council.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

'A bit of imagination and TLC'.....And a boat load of money. Maybe the people signing the petition would like to put that money up?

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

Mike Lewis
Thankfully Custom House is being kept and restored, as it is a listed building.

The York Hotel is not in the best of conditions, but with a bit of imagination and TLC anything is possible.

It is a rather plain building, but with some nice touches. However, it is the gateway to Butetown. There are very few remaining buildings from this era, as the Council were a bit heavyhanded in the development of that area. Butetown was a bustling place with a strong community spirit, which was made into a slum by the Council.

Reopening the York would be good as it may act as a link between St Mary St and Callaghan Sq.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

I don't think a 'boat load of money' is necessary. There are plans to build a rather boring office block in its place. Surely the facade can be retained at least, a la Altolusso?

The York Hotel had very beautiful stained glass windows, but I don't know whether they're still intact.

If those walls could talk... It's a part of our history and heritage. It's nothing to be scoffed at. I am all for change and I have nothing against modern architecture, unless it's rubbish, but why can't the two sit side-by-side? One of the best examples of this is the aforementioned Altolusso.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

I also like Alto Lusso but I know a few people think that the retained stone facade just looks oncongruous, and that it prevented bringing some ground floor activity making Bute Terrace even less footfall-friendly.

I do think history is important, but I think it has to be carefully considered in the context of today's requirements for buildings. I don't think the facade of the York Hotel is special enough to potentially make a viable office building unviable. Indeed, I increasingly think that if the council/CADW etc are going to make decisions that impose significant extra costs on private owners or developers, they should cough up a good chunk of the money needed. We have S106s to get money off developers to pay for extra transport etc. If the council imposes expensive conditions that aren't required for health and safety and basic urban design principles, wouldn't it be fair to be reciprocal. Perhaps then councils, and voters, would think twice about prioritising "heritage" over "development".

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

If the retained facade on Altolusso had been considered from the start then the whole design of the tower could have been related to it - probably resultign in less of a hideous dated building. Instead it was tagged on at the every end resulting in a horrible compromise where no-one wins.

sadly this is the fault of the developer who clearly didn't have a clue about design quality or achitecture and just wanted to get the building done and the profits in his pocket.

As for the York hotel... It shouldnt be demolished. Being occupied isn't the only consideration in whether a building is worthwhile. Over its long life any building that lasts a hundred or more years will have a few years where it is underused or vacant. If we demolished every building like this, Europe's cities would have no character at all. Wait, a use will be found, unless its too late now.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

And Peter.. I'm saying that if "the public" or "the council" or "group XYZ" want to keep a building that costs money to maintain but doesn't generate income for the owner.. then they should pay the owner to do that. The owner shouldn't be made to pay for other people's preferences to keep the building. And I don't think the general taxpayer should either given the massive cuts to local government spending that are ongoing and will continue for at least 4 more years.

I never said we should demolish every old building without an obvious use. New uses can be found. But this doesn't seem an obvious candidate for that. It is rather small, pokey, and I struggle to think what could use it in its current form. Certainly not modern offices, hotels or even restaurants. And I can't see the public sector having money for something here anytime soon.

The building has been empty for years and years. If it had just become empty I would have more sympathy, but the fact we've not seen people want to develop it suggests that it won't be viable.

Knock it down. Put up something useful. And that does not mean I would support knocking EVERY old building down. Its a case-by-case basis. Just as developers and investers think about things.

Re: Stop the demolition of the York Hotel

As if it was a simple as that. Often buildings are left empty and are allowed to deteriorate so that a owner can demolish and get planning permission for some replacement project with all the neighbours glad to be rid of an eyesore. Sometimes just sitting on a deteriorating asset can result in an increased value when a property bubble is in full swing. Sometimes the owner just does not have the capital or access to capital to finance an alternative use or just has no interest in doing anything with the asset. Our cities and towns all have such buildings or empty plots of land.

Personally I think such buildings and empty land is a good arguement for a land value tax that gives a definite push to make productive use of land and buildings.

Now I have very little knowledge of the planning system but I would have thought that if it was deemed by the community or council that for arguments sake that it was worth preserving the facade of the York then some prid pro quo could be be introduced to reduce S106 payments or lessen some other condition.

You are probably right in assuming that the fabric of the building is too far gone to be rescued and assuming it is a warren of tiny rooms I find it hard to conjure up an alternative use. Probably a good reason that I am not an architect!