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Politics South Wales Torfaen

Plans to transform public toilet block into cafe and restaurant redrawn

This is how converted toilet block could look from Hanbury Road (Pic: Torfaen County Borough Council)

PLANS to transform a public toilet block into a café and restaurant using Levelling Up funds have had to be redrawn. 

The scheme, given planning permission in May, is part of a £9.3 million redevelopment intended to breathe new life into Pontypool and create a nighttime economy, supported by £7.6 million from the UK Government’s Levelling Up fund.   

The current Hanbury Road toilet block will be converted to a café and restaurant and a large extension, with floor to ceiling windows, supported by three steel columns designed to resemble tree trunks with branches cradling a curved dining area, which will stretch out into the Italian Gardens in Pontypool Park from the back of the building. 

An image showing the extension that will over hang part of the Italian Gardens (Pic: Torfaen County Borough Council)

That extension will be retained under the redrawn plans but an indoor dining area on the ground floor of the building, which would be accessed from the park, has had to be dropped. 

Torfaen Borough Council planning officer Mia McAndrew told its planning committee since it approved the plans, submitted by the council, in May structural issues had been identified. 

“The building is built into a bank and it supports the road and it’s been discovered now it couldn’t be done without completely demolishing and rebuilding so the applicants went back to the drawing board.” 

She said at the ground level, in the Italian Gardens, there will still be a café kiosk to serve outside tables but an indoor dining area has had to be scrapped. The space will instead be used for storage areas and a plant room with a retaining structure to support the building built around it. A mezzanine level above it will provide storage, lockers and a staff toilet. 

Alterations will also be made to the current toilet building with the entrance to what is currently the women’s toilets to be filled with glass blocks, other windows would be retained and used for the side of the building, while the entrance will be from the current door to the male toilets. 

Ms McAndrew said: “What is currently the women’s toilets would be dismantled carefully, stored and then rebuilt. Most of the building will be retained.” 

An image showing how the development could look from Pontypool Park (Pic: Torfaen County Borough Council)

The current steps to the side of the building, that are listed, would be slightly redirected and a tree next to them will be retained but two Cypress trees alongside the building will have to be felled so work can take place. 

Two trees will be added to the Italian Gardens but six are required to compensate for the loss but they will be planted in the orchard of Pontypool Park to maintain the open nature of the gardens. 

The Italian Gardens at Pontypool Park (Pic: LDRS)

Pontypool Labour councillor Gaynor James described the plans as “very exciting” for Pontypool and said: “I love the idea of the Italian Gardens being left open.” 

Pontnewydd Labour member Stuart Ashley suggested “something Italianate” should be planted in the gardens: “Something that would look in keeping with the gardens. I don’t know what the ecololgy officer would think about it?” 

Ms McAndrew said the comments would be noted but the planning department was satisfied the plans could be approved. 

Two accessible public toilets will retained on Hanbury Road while glass box windows between the existing doorways will be replaced with larger steel framed windows to provide a view through the café restaurant to the Italian Gardens.

Councillors also approved listed building consent due to the alteration to the steps and impact on the Memorial Gates at the park. Welsh Government heritage body Cadw has 28 days to consider the application and if it is satisfied the decision notice can be issued. 

The regeneration programme also includes the restoration of the listed St James’ Church, opposite the toilet block, to a cultural hub with a space for a cinema and events and upgrade to the Glantorvaen multi-storey car park.