REVISED plans to alter the steps in Pontypool Park’s Italian Gardens, which have listed status, have been approved by councillors.
Torfaen Borough Council was granted planning permission to alter and replace part of the path and steps between the Italian Gardens and the Grade II-listed War Memorial Gates in May when it was also given permission to convert the Hanbury Road public toilets, next to the gates, to a restaurant.
That would have seen the steps removed and replaced, but the new plan will mean only the bottom section of the slope, including the set of steps at the end, would be replaced with a shorter curved set of steps. A Cypress tree next to the steps will be retained.
Plans for a handrail have also been dropped, and planning officer Mia McAndrew told the council’s planning committee there was concern about the visual impact of the railings, which she said could have been “quite dominating” and they would have had to be approved by a condition.
Upper Cwmbran Labour councillor Steve Evans said he was concerned there were no handrails planned for the steps and said: “In the wet it could be a safety issue.”
Ms McAndrew said the steps are a replacement for those already in place and there is a ramp, for easier access, to the side of the steps, while chief planner Richard Lewis said: “It’s not making the situation any worse. It is an improvement at the bottom and the steps are listed so we have to be careful with that and there is an alternative access.”
Pontypool Fawr Labour councillor, Gaynor James, who moved the committee should accept the proposal, said: “The new steps are better than the original ones and there’s never been any thing else there, railings or anything.”
The application is part of the council’s £9.3 million plan to breathe new life into Pontypool town centre and create a night-time economy, supported by a £7.6 million grant from the UK Government’s Levelling Up fund.
As well as the conversion of the Hanbury Road toilets, there are plans to turn the derelict St James Church, opposite the toilets, into a cultural hub with a pop-up cinema and food and exhibition spaces while the nearby Glantorvaen multi-storey car park is also being refurbished.
The council’s decision will be referred to Welsh historic buildings body Cadw and it will have 28 days to consider the plans and if it is satisfied listed building consent will be approved.