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Historic Railway Arches in Cardiff set to be turned into Cafes and Shops

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

The railway arches behind hoarding around the office block construction site

Picture: Alex Seabrook.

Historic railway arches in Cardiff, formerly home to music and dance studios, are set to be “regenerated” as cafes and shops. The arches were built by the South Wales Railway, later the Great Western Railway, in the early 19th century. Bands like Catatonia and Super Furry Animals regularly used the studios there in the 1990s.

The dilapidated arches underneath the railway off John Street and Bute Street, near the central railway station, previously housed the Cardiff Arches rehearsal studios, Jukebox Collective dance studios, and Only Drums Aloud tuition space. Now plans put forward for an office block next door on John Street caused concern for the future of the creative studios. Work began in summer last year building a nine-storey office building, and the arches are now vacant.

Plans for the arches

Developers JR Smart have applied to Cardiff council for planning permission to regenerate the railway arches on John Street, off Callaghan Square, providing five new commercial units. The sixth arch would be used for cycle storage.

Planners have not yet decided on whether to grant permission for the plans, which can be viewed publicly on the council’s website. Architects Morgan2Morgan said the arches are in a “bad state of disrepair” and in “desperate need of rejuvenation”.

In planning documents, they said: “The arches are vacant and currently being utilised as temporary site offices serving the ongoing John St [development]. JRS now wishes to submit an application for the change of use to bring these arches back into commercial use. Currently all six existing arches are vacant despite their previous uses and presently lie in a bad state of disrepair. This is an opportunity to provide the existing arches with a new lease of life by refurbishing these arches and providing high standard commercial units. The existing interiors are to be stripped of all existing fittings and fixtures, repaired where necessary and new, clean, modern and adaptable serviced spaces provided for prospective tenants.

The arches are all tired and in desperate need of rejuvenation. Therefore, this mixed use redevelopment should be welcomed as a fantastic opportunity to reuse the existing industrial architecture in a modern and effective capacity. Four years ago, more than 3,000 people signed a petition calling to “protect the arts in the arches”, started by Tom Pinder who ran the rehearsal studios.

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