South West Wales

Palace Theatre, Swansea, may 'fall down' if left untouched

Swansea council could buy the theatre under a purchase order
Image caption As well as problems with the outside of the building, the inside is also said to be in a dangerous state

A derelict theatre building which has hosted stars like Charlie Chaplin, Morecambe and Wise and Sir Anthony Hopkins' first professional appearance is at risk of collapse, it is claimed.

The Theatres Trust has called on the Kent-based owner of Swansea's Palace Theatre to take action to save it.

It fears it cannot be left much longer.

The Grade II-listed building was built in 1888 and used to attract up to 900 theatre-goers a night but has also been used as a bingo hall and a nightclub.

Mhora Samuel, director of Theatres Trust, which aims to save "at risk" buildings is concerned about the building's future.

"Each year it's become increasingly more derelict, more abandoned, more neglected and this year in particular you can see that the buddleia has been allowed to let rip across the building and it's now getting into a very, very seriously neglected condition," she said.

"You can see that buddleia is growing right the way around the parapet top of the building and that's basically dislodging the stonework, water's coming in and that's weakening the structure of the stonework of the building.

"The longer it's left in that condition, the weaker the building becomes and eventually it will fall down.

Dangerous state

"It's been a building that has played an important role in the cultural life of Swansea for many a year."

The building has not been used since 2006 and the current owners, Swansea Palace Theatre Company Ltd, who are registered as being based in Gravesend, Kent, have not made progress on restoring the site.

As well as problems with the outside of the building, the inside is also said to be in a dangerous state.

Ms Samuel added: "Owners take on Grade II listed buildings knowing that they are going to be custodians of those very historic and architectural buildings.

"What we would like to see is the owner coming forward and working with members of the local community and the council to see if they can put together a plan to rescue this building because it cannot be allowed to continue to decay in this way.

"The council has the powers for a compulsory purchase if it has a solution and passing the building on to a building preservation trust."

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Media captionSwansea council says it is doing all it can to save the building but says it simply does not have the money to restore it

But Nick Bradley, Swansea council's cabinet member for regeneration, said that option would be the last resort.

The authority would also need financial help from the Welsh government to carry out such an order and Mr Bradley warned it would then take a significant amount of money to restore the building.

"£1m wouldn't even touch it," he said.

"It was bought a few years ago but the owner hasn't done anything with it," Mr Bradley said.

Sustainable uses

"We are trying to work with the owner to see if he is willing to do something with it as is it a special building.

"It's not a case of him being obstructive or difficult.

"We are not committed to anything but a compulsory purchase order is the obvious step if we can't get anywhere."

The council has commissioned a feasibility report which will outline different sustainable uses that the Palace Theatre could have.

And in the meantime, campaigners are trying to work with the authority and the Theatres Trust to launch a building preservation trust which could safeguard it from further deterioration.

Stephen Donnelly, who set up action group Save the Palace Theatre Swansea, said: "If there's a will, we've got to try to push it through.

"I would like help from people who have a history in architecture or conservation so they can sit on the board and help steer the future of the building."

BBC Wales has tried to contact Swansea Palace Theatre Company Ltd but the owners have not responded.

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