Cardiff's Vulcan pub refused heritage listing
The Vulcan by image-divisionWales Online reports that the Heritage Minister has ruled out listing the Vulcan pub in Cardiff. The Vulcan, a Victorian building, had previously faced demolishing as part of a redevelopment plan for the area of the city centre long ago known as Newtown. The threat had led to a vociferous campaign to Save the Vulcan, one which could claim success when a new landlady was appointed. However, the refusal announced by Alun Ffred Jones AM, Heritage Minister to the Assembly Government, must come as a blow to these campaigners, who had surely hoped a heritage grading would forestall future threats to the building.
The reasoning given by Cadw, whose role is to protect and preserve the built landscape in Wales in parallel to Heritage England's role across the border, was that “in the case of the Vulcan pub, although there is this historic interest, particularly in the association with the former Newtown area of Cardiff, the linkage is more local in nature and not of natural significance.” The Vulcan's predicament reflects that of the Woodhall Spa buildings, highlighted in last week's Making History, and Cadw's arguments are wholly in line with those of English Heritage. Heritage listing has become a cultural panacea since their development following WWII, viewed by the public as a so-called magic bullet in the preservation of not just national but local historic interests. Clearly public expectation and heritage policy have diverged over the years, or perhaps never matched in the first place. Failure to attain the sacred protection of a heritage grade is perceived as an insult as in this case where other local pubs of historic value have been granted listed status. Two things need to be done about this: UK heritage agencies need to do a better job of communicating to the public what their role is; and alternative local preservation schemes need to be strengthened.
Thankfully the strengthening of local heritage lists seems to be underway, Nigel Howells (Cardiff Council’s executive member for Sport, Leisure and Culture) saying:
as the campaign to save The Vulcan has shown, buildings with a cultural and social significance can often be genuine landmarks that make a real contribution to the city.
I am firmly in favour of local heritage lists so council’s can firmly recognise the contributions buildings like the Vulcan make to a city’s heritage. Such lists will help to develop a sense of local identity and reinforce the city's history. [some amendments made to spelling.]In response Christine Chapman AM, chair of the WAG petitions committee commented on the future "publication of guidance to help aid local authorities to better protect buildings which have local cultural and social significance". These developments are undoubtedly positive, and hopefully in future will empower local communities to stake their claim more fully in the built environment around them.
For now, in any case, the Vulcan's future is a lot more certain than that of Woodhall Spa.