Town Councillor puts alternatives to sorting office plans

Aberystwyth Town Councillor Mark Strong has written to the County Council's Director of Corporate Strategies and Regeneration outlining alternative ideas for developing the town's sorting office site following the roasting County Council officers received at Monday night's Town Council meeting (see blog below) over the County Council's controversial plans.

Mark's edited letter says:

Dear Mr Lewis,

As someone who has been in Aberystwyth for 9 years it should be apparent that I like the place. The buildings do have a lot to do with the character of a town, and often this is something that does not happen overnight. I have seen the town I was born in - Wrexham - lose most of it's vernacular buildings. I believe CADW classes these as buildings of pre 1850 and these are usually given greater protection. Nevertheless a building built in 1900 is now 109 years old, and does often hold a link to the past.

My main problem with the proposed development is that it takes down a whole block of buildings with no regard to how they look or their intrinsic value. We are being asked to agree in principal to demolition with not even the name of an architect in mind or even a sketch plan of how the building would look when completed. Having seen similar developments elsewhere (Wrexham being one), the design of the buildings is certainly does not pay due heed to the local vernacular, or even recognition of surrounding streetscape. These types of buildings often do not last more than 30-40 years before being redeveloped.

Chalybeate street has many shops which are full and successful, only two being empty-one only for the last few weeks. This contrasts with Bridge Street and Great Darkgate Street.

If you would look to towns like Shrewsbury, and Llandudno that have built shopping centres by only taking one or two frontages down, then this entirely undermines the developer's contention that the whole block must come down. Recently I went to Riga in Latvia, and the sort of developments there utilize buildings that had been previously falling down. They have now reused them and slotted modern glass buildings in between to reflect the contrast between new and old. They even used traditional larch timber in the new build as a bow to the older techniques. This is what I would like to see in Aberystwyth. I do not believe in criticism without putting forward an idea myself. I would suggest:

* That where owners of shops are willing to sell then the facades of those shops are kept with the rear developed using modern methods

* That buildings between are refurbished as part of the development, and the owners are involved in the development as stakeholders

* That government funding is sought to make the development cutting edge in terms of being carbon neutral. This would draw attention to Aberystwyth.

* That a competition is held to get the best architect to design the project

* That Frazer Osment from the orginal Masterplan consultants is contacted to also have input into the scheme.

I feel strongly about this matter and am committed to only obtaining the best for the town in which I reside and represent.

With regards,

Mark A. Strong
Cynghorydd Tref Aberystwyth Town Councillor