Work continues on new role for Port Talbot’s famous Plaza Cinema
30 July 2020
Work is continuing on the transformation of Port Talbot’s Grade II listed Plaza Cinema building into a community hub with a café, gym, office space, a hall, multi-purpose rooms, a conference area, digital recording studio and shops.
Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee last year 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.
The plaza conversion project is being supported by £3.4m from the European Regional Development Fund, £2.2m from the Welsh Government and £1.7m from Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council.
YMCA Port Talbot will occupy and manage the new facility when it is officially handed over to them when conversion work is due to finish in Autumn 2021.
At the moment, demolition work is being carried out on the rear portion of the building with the Plaza’s modernist art-deco facade being retained to create a dramatic frontage for the new community hub.
Keith Priddle, the Chairman of the YMCA Port Talbot Board of Trustees, said the Plaza would play a major role in creating a new look for the eastern side of Port Talbot.
He said: “It is a major redevelopment of an iconic Port Talbot site and the YMCA is confident it will revitalise the eastern side of the town.”
Cllr Annette Wingrave, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development, said: “The Plaza will continue to be a reminder in the centre of Port Talbot of the world famous film stars this town has produced.
“It will also help revitalise this part of the town while at the same time providing a useful venue for a wide variety of uses.”
Richard Burton was a regular visitor to the cinema which opened in 1940 and closed in 1999. 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 Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins would later write part of a symphony based on his childhood experiences at the Plaza which he credited for inspiring him to become an actor.
The project’s design requires the highest standards in terms of combining building heritage and its local historical context with contemporary new-build design.
The venue is intended to be a vibrant and inclusive hub strategically located in the town centre, close to Port Talbot’s railway station and transport amenities and the “design approach” is to create an atmosphere that will result in a diverse patronage.
The gym is designed to create another outlet in Neath Port Talbot for health and well-being while office space in the new hub will contribute towards business opportunities and job creation. The offices will be available for rent on a short term basis (i.e. a couple of hours for more informal meetings) or longer term leases.
The Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said: “Supporting towns across Wales continues to be at the heart of our regeneration work and our commitment to the future of our communities through our Transforming Towns Agenda.
“I am pleased to see how Welsh Government funding is breathing new life into an historic and iconic building and bringing it back into use. Not only will this funding revitalise The Plaza but will ensure it can be enjoyed for many other generations to come.”