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Planning Application Seeks New Role for Famous Old Cinema

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Neath Port Talbot Council has submitted applications for planning permission and listed building consent to redevelop Port Talbot’s art-deco Plaza Cinema as a community hub including a café, offices, a hall with 250 seats, multi-purpose rooms, a gym, two retail units and car and cycle parking.

The 1939 built Plaza is now derelict but it has a grand history, having once boasted 1,000 seats in the golden age of cinema with local boys Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen being regular customers before going on to become Hollywood stars.

As part of the applications, the Council is seeking permission to knock down the rear part of the Grade II listed structure and construct a new extension while retaining the much photographed front section of the Plaza which includes its distinguished, original facade.

The once glamorous cinema’s long history has won it a place in many hearts.

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 dedicated part of an album of classical music he once wrote to the building, calling the piece The Plaza.

It is planned the Port Talbot branch of the YMCA will occupy and manage the community hub when it 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.”

The design requires the highest standards in terms of combining building heritage and its local historical context with a contemporary new-build design. The venue is intended to be a vibrant and inclusive hub strategically located in the town centre, close to the railway station and transport amenities. The design approach is to “create an atmosphere that will result in a diverse patronage”.

Other planned facilities include a conference area, a dojo and dance studio plus a digital recording studio.

Full details of the applications can be found on the Council’s website at www.npt.gov.uk/planning (application refs. P2019/5237 and P2019/ 5238) and any comments on the applications should be sent to [email protected] .