Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Looking at the imposing building on the seafront which began life as Penarth Baths but is now marketed as “desirable residences” it might be seen as a lost cause. But this does not tell the whole story.
When the Council decided that the Baths had become outdated and too costly to run, the alternative was to sell the site and build a new up-to-date facility elsewhere. So Cogan Leisure Centre was put on the map - a fully equipped building with an integrated swimming pool to replace the unsuitable century-old venue.
Naturally, local residents were horrified as many had learnt to swim in the old baths – many in the smaller of the two which was more family-friendly. Opposition was so strong that a public meeting was organised for the Paget Rooms and it was from this meeting that the Civic Society was born.
Various speakers were invited to become a campaign group to try to stop the project. A committee was formed consisting largely of members of the previous Civic Society which had recently folded following an unsuccessful campaign to save an impressive limestone residence at the top of Beach Road from demolition. It is now Albany Court.
Meetings were held in people’s homes and letters written but to no avail. The Council seemed intractable. The building was to be sold.
At this point a local developer put forward plans for a seven-storey block of flats on the site and that really goaded the new committee into action. At the time, the building had no protection against development so it was agreed the only chance to save it would be to have it listed. Fortuitously one of the campaigners, Diana Mead, had produced a thesis on the building for her arts degree so she agreed to send a copy of this to Cadw showing the importance of the building as a piece of Penarth heritage. There were detailed plans and descriptions of the structure and materials which showed just how valuable an asset it was to the town. At the very last minute Cadw awarded Grade 2 listing and Penarth had retained its seafront landmark, greeting visitors as they came down the hill.
And Diana became the second Chairman of the newly-formed Penarth Civic Society.
So we look at the Baths today and although its purpose has changed it can be accommodated in our acceptance of new uses for old buildings and retains its identity as a landmark feature of our esplanade.