NEW commercial units, offices and flats are expected to breathe new life into the former YMCA building in Llanelli.
Carmarthenshire Council’s planning committee has unanimously approved a wholesale revamp of the Stepney Street landmark.
The council’s plans comprise the reinstatement of the front facade and perimeter wall, although the existing pitched roof and chimneys will be replaced by a recessed, fourth-floor extension.
The adjoining two-floor building at the rear will be demolished and replaced with a four-floor one.
There will be five retail units which could feature shops, cafes and financial services like estate agents, five first floor offices and eight flats on the upper two floors.
The rental flats will be let and managed by the council.
Moving an officer recommendation of approval, planning committee chairman Cllr Alun Lenny said he felt this was the type of council intervention which had also preserved the Guildhall in Carmarthen.
“As we know, this is a horrendous time for our town centres,” he said.
“But I firmly believe this development in Llanelli, with its mix of retail, office and residential, shows a new way forward – it shines a light in the gloom of this most dismal time for our high streets and the economy in general.”
The once-grand Young Men’s Christian Association building was completed in 1911 on a budget of approximately £7,000, with workers in the area contributing to the cost.
In its early years, it was used as a social hub for members and contained a parlour, gym, billiard room and swimming baths. Female members were allowed from the 1960s onwards.
The YMCA Llanelli held a 99-year lease on the building which expired in 2008. Since then businesses including a creche, a community-run cafe and shops have come and gone, but the building has fallen into disrepair.
A report before the planning committee said: “Several attempts have been made to bring the building back into beneficial use, however, none of the proposals has yet been realised.
“The building has since become disused and in desperate need of restoration.”
Emergency structural work, it said, has been carried out by the council.
Planning officer Rob Davies told the meeting:
“Hopefully it will bring life to this part of town beyond standard 9 am to 5 pm opening hours.”
He added: “There are clear social and economic benefits associated with this development.”
He added that the proposal was not compliant with national flooding policy but that officers felt it met justification tests under the policy.
Environmental body Natural Resources Wales did not object but said the council must be satisfied the proposal was acceptable in terms of flood risk, particularly regarding access and exits and for emergency planning purposes.
Mr Davies said the council will produce its own flood management plan for the building, which will also feature boxes for bats and swifts.
Councillors including Deryk Cundy spoke in favour of the scheme.
“I think this is an iconic building,” he said. “It’s exciting we are refurbishing it and making it again what it should have been in the first place.”
Cllr Cundy asked about security measures proposed for the development and was told police were happy with them.
He also wondered if pigeon deterrents were included, but was advised this level of detail was not available.
Council leader Emlyn Dole, who was not at the meeting, welcomed the go-ahead for the scheme.
“In bringing an iconic building back into use, the YMCA scheme follows the principle already applied in Llanelli where ground and first floors house commercial and community units, while upper floors are residential,” he said.