When I visited the Llandudno Arts Society to give a lecture recently, my host Mark Esplen drove me round the town to show me recent developments in which he felt pride, such as the refurbished Railway Station (completed 2014) and the Lifeboat Station (2017).
Driving past the former Tudno Castle Hotel, he remarked that it was about to be demolished after unsuccessful attempts at redevelopment.
There’s more to the story than meets the eye, as I discover from a recent Victorian Society bulletin.
This Grade II listed building, which was originally two hotels, the Tudno Castle and the Temperance, seems not to be datable, and is not credited to a named architect, but it was obviously an integral component of the development of Llandudno as a resort, occupying a prominent site between Mostyn Broadway and Conway Street, closing the vista at the south end of the principal shopping thoroughfare, Mostyn Street.
The reasons for listing, last revised in 2001, are vague: “C19 hotel retaining its character on important free-standing site. Group value with adjacent listed buildings”. It seems nobody took the trouble to recognise its history or its townscape value.
In 2014 planning permission was given, against the strong objections of the Victorian Society, for a retail development and a Premier Inn hotel, retaining only the façade of the building.
The interior, when surveyed by Archaeology Wales, was a mess and had clearly seen better days, but it was intact and the better parts could have been incorporated into a sensitive redevelopment: http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/inside-tudno-castle-llandudno-demolish-13468477.
There is a slide-show of the April demolition which was intended to leave the façade supported by scaffolding at http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/plan-submitted-tear-down-grade-13467581, along with a depressing sketch of the limp proposed replacement.
When demolition began, the contractors noticed “historical movement” [http://demolishdismantle.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/tudno-castle-hotel-demolished-due-to.html] which made it impossible to support the façade for retention.
This euphemism turns out to cover a failure to realise, when the 2014 application was processed, that the walls were not ashlar but rubble, and the Victorian Society is questioning how the developer and the authorities can have failed to survey the building adequately before making their proposal.
Anna Shelley, Conservation Adviser at the Victorian Society, is clearly spitting tacks: “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?” [http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/irresponsible-development-razes-tudno-castle-hotel]
Primarily as a result of watchful care over decades by the landowner, the Mostyn Estate, Llandudno has remained one of the finest and most intact of British seaside resorts, and now its streetscape has a regrettable and unnecessary gap.
Other local authorities have shown a more muscular response to ostensibly fortuitous demolitions: http://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/politics/illegally-demolished-historic-cottages-must-be-rebuilt-brick-by-brick-tower-hamlets-council-orders-1-5209885?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social_Icon&utm_campaign=in_article_social_icons.
The replacement building had better be good.