Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee has approved proposals to create a new role for the art-deco cinema which helped inspire the careers of Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen.
Under the Neath Port Talbot Council plans, approved last month, Port Talbot’s historic Grade II listed Plaza Cinema will be turned into a community hub including a café, offices, a 250-seater hall, multi-purpose rooms, a gym, two retail units and car and cycle parking.
The Port Talbot branch of the YMCA will occupy and manage the community hub when the conversion work is finished.
A design and access statement submitted as part of the applications says:
“The proposal looks to retain and make use of the entrance section of the existing Plaza Cinema – a key element in the history of Port Talbot, bringing it back to life without further degradation.
“Facilities provided, to suit the intended tenant, also enable local residents to be able to be provided with social / health and work area opportunities in a central location, within a modern, sustainable environment.
“The design for the proposed development has evolved through consultation by project architects GWP with Neath Port Talbot Council, CADW and other stakeholders including the YMCA.”
Richard Burton was a regular visitor to the cinema which opened in 1940 and closed in 1999. One of the stars a young Burton watched at the Plaza, Humphrey Bogart, would later become a friend.
In 2017, Michael Sheen produced a BBC Radio Four documentary on the Plaza entitled Port Talbot Paradiso with contributions from the likes of actor, writer and panel show host Rob Brydon and opera singer Rebecca Evans
And multi-talented Sir Anthony Hopkins would later write part of a symphony based on his childhood experiences at the Plaza.
A report to the Planning Committee said:
“While the proposal would involve the demolition of the rear portion of this Grade II listed building, it’s considered the repair and refurbishment of its significant frontage, and the sensitive extension to the rear, would represent an appropriate form of development.
“It will help to secure the future of the modernist Art Deco frontage of a listed building which has been unused for a number of years and whose condition continues to deteriorate, while also creating a vibrant landmark hub for community activity.”
The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Rob Jones said: “The Plaza will now continue as a physical reminder of the World renowned film stars this town has produced while at the same time adding to the vitality of the town centre and providing a useful venue for a wide variety of uses.”