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Community South Wales Torfaen

Pontypool toilet block demolished and transformed

IMAGES showing how a toilet block in Pontypool will be demolished and transformed into a restaurant as part of a £9 million plan have been released.

An extension, stretching out to the Italian Gardens in Pontypool Park, suspended on steel structures intended to resemble tree trunks and branches cradling its floor to ceiling glass walls, will be added to the Hanbury Road public toilets.

The toilet block will also be demolished and rebuilt to mirror its existing appearance with a new front entrance on Hanbury Road offering a view through to the suspended restaurant floor that will seat between 50 and 60 diners.

The UK Government awarded Torfaen Borough Council £7.6 million from its Levelling Up fund in January towards the Pontypool Cultural Hub Project that also includes the conversion of the nearby Grade II listed St James’ Church into a pop-up cinema, pop-up food and exhibition spaces and enhancements to the Glantorvaen multi-storey car park.

Pictures showing how stainless steel brown mesh panels will replace the existing brown, brick cladding on the car park have also been published.

The intention of revamping the “tired and jaded” car park, according to planning documents submitted on behalf of the authority to its planning department, is to boost natural light and tackle anti-social behaviour which it’s believed deters people from using it, especially at night.

The Cultural Hub project, which is being supported by a further £1.7m of council and private funds, is intended to breath new life into the centre of Pontypool by creating a nighttime economy and it is anticipated projects will be completed by March 2025.

By turning the Hanbury Road toilets into a restaurant it’s hoped it will help attract some of the 290,000 people who visit Pontypool Park every year into the town centre as well as creating a nighttime attraction.

The toilets are a two-storey building – although it appears to be just on the one level from Hanbury Road – that stretches down to the Italian Gardens that were created in around 1850 after Pontypool Park’s then-owner, John Hanbury, visited Italy and brought back plants.

An outdoor dining area will also be created, underneath the extension, with a food serving hatch to bring the part of the building in the park into public use.

The toilet block, which isn’t listed but on Hanbury Road is set next to the Grade II-listed War Memorial Gates, dates from between 1949 and 1971 and a separate public toilets will also provided in the building while new public toilets will be added to the Glantorvaen car park.

The car park will also have disabled parking spaces for the first time and electric vehicle charging spaces while on the third floor roof level parking will be under new canopies used as the base for solar panels.

The number of parking spaces on the third level, which is leased to the Tesco supermarket, will remain unchanged.

London-based real estate consultants GL Hearn is handling the planning applications on behalf of Torfaen council.

It has described the plans for the toilet block as “iconic, yet respectful” and said: “The proposal also maintains high quality public toilet provision for the town centre and this is something that the private sector alone would be reluctant to provide.”

On the car park it says the intention is to make it more attractive and said: “The proposals will help ‘design out crime’ through several measures including a new cascading stair which will remove blind corners and opportunities for anti-social behaviour. The stairway will be glazed providing daylight and will be lit at night. Visitors using the stairs will have clear views in all directions and users will feel safe when moving throughout.”

Internal areas will also be painted in light colours to improve lighting and the proposed cascade staircase is intended as a “user-friendly pedestrian route from the top deck to road level” with the current pedestrian access from the Tesco car park level to Glantorvaen Road described as “steep and feeling unsafe.”.

The plans are currently being considered by Torfaen Borough Council’s planning department and proposals for the renovation of the listed St James’ Church are yet to be published on the planning website.

In February Torfaen’s cabinet approved spending £150,000 on the planning applications, even though it hadn’t at that point signed an agreement with the government on the Levelling Up funding.

But it said tight timescales, with the funding having to be spent by March 2025, meant it would approve the spending which will be recouped once the funding is approved.