12 March – 9 April 2016
Bangor’s Railway Institute building was featured in 2012 in a previous article, which provided details of its history. In brief, in its time the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) was the main employer in the city and the West End area, around the station, has many Victorian red-brick terraces that housed the railwaymen and their families. In their midst the Railway Institute was built as a social club in 1898 and the building was extended in 1905.
The social club – which is incidentally no longer exclusively for railway workers – was, owing to increasing debts, obliged to sell the building in 2014 and then rented it from the new owners. (The 424 square-metre two-storey property, whose site covers an area of 0.14 hectares, was advertised with a guide price of £125,000.)
The current owners, Stockport-based developers Kingscrown Properties Ltd, lodged a planning application in June 2015 for the demolition of the existing building and the construction of a three-storey student-accommodation block comprising 27 flats together with a lay-by with parking for seven vehicles.
The planning application portrayed the Institute as an “anti-social nightclub”, which caused some dismay amongst locals as it was used mainly by pensioners for bingo nights. Furthermore, the prospect of the historic building being razed was met by local opposition. An online petition, started in August 2015 by Bangor resident James Johnson, called on Gwynedd Council to make the retention of the building’s facades a condition for the approval of the planning application. The petition garnered 1240 signatures.
In October 2015 Bangor Railway Institute Club was granted planning permission for change of use of the former health clinic in Sackville Road to use as its new premises. Later that month Gwynedd councillors, against the recommendation of the council’s planning officers, rejected Kingscrown Properties’ application to build the new student flats.
Nevertheless, in November 2015 the building’s proprietors notified the council of its intention to proceed with demolition, claiming that the structure had become unsafe and was subject to vandalism. As the building was not listed – when approached with regards to a last-minute request for an emergency listing, heritage body Cadw did not change its previous stance of declining a listing on the grounds of the building’s loss of historical character resulting from various alterations – the council had no powers to prevent demolition. Contractors moved onto the site in January 2016, with all the slates first being removed from the roof. The building itself is currently in the process of being torn down.