The Modern City and it's Future
1947 the Town and Country Planning Act required every local authority to
present a development plan for its region. The Cardiff Corporation first
advanced proposals in 1953 but translating them into practice proved to be a
lengthy process. In 1964 the Council decided to seek expert advice from the
firm of Colin Buchanan and Partners who were appointed to recommend
improvements to the highway network of Cardiff, its public transport policy,
and the future development of the city centre.
The Buchanan Report proved to be
controversial, especially the proposal to
build a motorway, or "Hook
Road", into the centre of Cardiff. Over 1,700 properties would have
been demolished in this ambitious project, but vigorous opposition to the
scheme, coupled with the recession of the 1970's, led to a more realistic
evaluation of the city's requirements.
In the city centre, the
construction of the Boulevard de Nantes to the north, and the widening of Bute
Terrace and Adam Street to the south, helped to keep the traffic moving. The inner bypass from Ely Bridge to St. Mellons was completed in 1971, when Eastern Avenue was opened by the Queen.
About the same time, Manor Way and Northern Avenue were widened to ease the traffic flow to Pontypridd. During the last decade,
the emphasis has switched to the construction of a peripheral distributor road
for southern Cardiff.
When completed it will thread its way through the south of the city from the M4
at Capel Llaniltern to the Eastern
Avenue. It has been described as "a necklace
of opportunity', with its outlets to the
city centre and Cardiff Bay offering a more
prosperous future for southern Cardiff.
Unfortunately, the road was planned as a bypass, not a commuter highway, and
traffic congestion may become a serious problem when economic activity in the
In the 1960's, despite its capital
status, Cardiff seemed to be lagging behind other cities which had a smart appearance after
implementing their plans for postwar development. The Corporation was still
grappling with its planning policy in 1968, when Buchanan wrote "Much of the city is
either obsolete or likely to be so before the end of the century'. But, in the
long run, the delay caused by the controversial elements of the Buchanan Report
worked to Cardiff's advantage.
Thus the St. David's Centre, while
it was not opened until 1981, had a fresh, gleaming appearance at a time when
earlier shopping centres, rebuilt in badly blitzed cities, were beginning to
lose their novelty. At Christmas time, 250,000 people pass through the St.
David's Centre each day and, such is its popularity, that shopping expeditions
are organised from as far away as the Midlands.
Heron Corporation, the developers of the site, spent over £6 million in 1990 to
uphold the centre's prestige as one of Britain's top retailing sites.
Since 1980 the rejuvenation of the
city has proceeded at a rapid rate. The Queens West Centre was completed in
1987 and the Capitol Exchange Shopping Mall was opened in 1990. More recently
the Queens way extension to the St. David’s Centre has placed the shopping focus
of Cardiff even
more firmly in Queen Street.
This situation raises the
possibility that the older businesses of St. Mary Street, High Street and The
Hayes might lapse into decay. Fortunately, stores such as Howell's and Morgan's
continue to compete effectively, while the Castle Arcade has been restored in a
manner which is pleasing aesthetically and profitable commercially. After a
lengthy delay, the splendid Victorian buildings at the southern end of St. Mary
Street have also been carefully restored by the Regalian Company.
The pedestrianisation of Queen
Street, St. John's
Square and Working Street,
linking the older shops with the new, is a further example of thoughtful
planning. Street entertainment in these pedestrianised areas creates a
bustling, carnival atmosphere which appeals to tourists and local people alike.
The activities vary from radio shows to pavement artists, roundabouts for the
children, and music of every description.
In recent years there has been a
proliferation of “out of town” retail centres where car parking is much easier.
In particular, the section of Newport
Road between Rumney Bridge and Rover Way has become a golden mile of D-I-Y centres, furniture stores and motor
showrooms. The Planning Department has the task of striking a balance between
the demands of the consumer while safeguarding the prosperity in the heart of
The new hotels built in Cardiff during recent
decades, including a number of fine developments in the suburbs, testify to the
city's growing importance. Some of these buildings stand on historic ground. A
former warehouse near the East Dock became the premises of the Celtic Bay
Hotel,while the 12 storeys of the Marriott overlook the site of the old canal
in Mill Lane.
Jury’s, near the International Arena, is built on land where penniless Irish
immigrants once lived in abject squalor. In 1999 the St. David’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay and the Hilton in Cathays Park were opened to give the city its first five star hotels.
in the last thirty years efforts have been made to improve the structure of
local government. In 1974 the City Council was forced to cede many of its
functions to the new county of South Glamorgan, despite
fighting a vigorous campaign to "keep Cardiff a real capital'. This division of
responsibilities came to an end in 1996 when a fresh attempt to reorganise
local government led to the creation of the County and City of Cardiff. While power was being shared between
the City and South Glamorgan, both authorities
showed a spirit of co-operation in promoting Cardiff’s interests.
The new Central Library in Bridge Street was
an example of such co-operation. Libraries were the responsibility of the
County Council but, as owners of the land, it was the City Council which
released the site in exchange for the old Central Library building on The
Hayes. The South Glamorgan authority then
negotiated with the developers to provide a library in return for the right to
build shops on the ground floor. As a result, the people of Cardiff gained a new library at no cost to
Similar deals, such as the car park
in Dumfries Place and the Wales Ice Rink, were financed by private investment. The ice rink gave
the city a splendid amenity and led to the formation of the Cardiff Devils, the
most outstanding ice hockey team in Britain during the 1990‘s.
Perhaps the best bargain of all was
made with the Heron Corporation which contributed £4 million towards the building
of the St. David's Concert Hall. The hall seats more than 2,000 people and,
since its opening in 1982, the magnificent auditorium and acoustics have
attracted artists and orchestras of worldwide fame. In addition, the use of St.
David's Hall as a conference centre has been of major importance in drawing an
increasing number of visitors to Cardiff.
The Cardiff Corporation displayed
an enlightened attitude towards the arts on another occasion in 1963, when it
rescued the ailing New Theatre. The theatre was in danger of becoming a bingo
hall but, in conjunction with other interested parties such as the Welsh Arts
Council, the Corporation took the lead in forming the New Theatre Trust. In
time the Trust purchased the theatre which was beautifully restored in 1988.
Once again the New Theatre offers entertainment comparable with its great days
before the First World War.
Cardiff was fortunate enough to
gain another theatre in 1973, partly funded by University College,
but also through the generosity of the Sherman family, after whom the building was named. The Sherman is a theatre shared with the
community, providing a setting for amateur as well as professional productions.
When University College encountered financial
difficulties in 1987, the future of the theatre was in danger but the Sherman was able to carry
on as a limited company.
Sports facilities in Cardiff compare
favourably with other cities of a similar size. In the 1960's, the decision was
taken to develop the Cardiff Arms Park as the home of Welsh rugby. The National Stadium was a fine arena but, when Wales was
chosen to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup, the Millennium Stadium was built to
provide a grander venue. The ground, capable of holding 73,000 people, creates
a wonderful atmosphere at Welsh rugby and soccer matches. English teams too can
now sample this experience as the FA Cup Final and other big football games are
being played at the stadium while the future of Wembley is being decided.
Since 1967 the Cardiff Rugby Club
has played its matches on the former Arms Park cricket ground.
Glamorgan cricketers found a new home at Sophia Gardens where the club now owns the site and is rapidly improving its facilities. The
headquarters of the Welsh National Sports Council is also located at Sophia Gardens and, throughout the city, leisure centres offer a variety of sporting
activities for people of all ages. The future of Cardiff City Football Club
appears brighter than for many years thanks to the enthusiasm of its new owner,
Sam Hammam. His aim is to produce a team playing in a modern stadium which
ultimately will be capable of holding its own with the elite of the Premier
A thriving university life is an
essential component of a successful city in the modern world. Following the
Robbins Report, University College entered into a
period of rapid expansion in the 1960's. New buildings began to fill Cathays Park north of the existing college. They
are interesting examples of modern architecture, but do not compare in beauty
or quality with the earlier buildings of the Civic Centre. As events proved, University College expanded far too quickly for its
own good and, after incurring massive debts, it had no choice but to merge with
UWIST in 1988. The University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology had
evolved from the former Technical College and was highly
respected for its science and engineering courses.
Despite the trauma which the merger
created for many staff at University College, the new "University of Wales College Cardiff' has great
potential, since it enrols far more students than any other college in Wales. The
Faculty of Engineering complex,
currently under construction at the rear of Dumfries Place and Newport
Road, clearly indicates the possibilities for the
new establishment. "The most
up-to-date engineering set-up in the United
Kingdom' will be completed at a cost of £20 million in 1992.
Other colleges in further and
higher education have proliferated since
the Second World War. Anthony Hopkins was a student at the Cardiff College of Music and Drama in
1955 when its premises were at Cardiff Castle. In time, the college moved to a
new building in North Road, which was
officially opened by the Queen on her Silver Jubilee visit to Cardiff in 1977. The buildings and huts at the Heath,
once occupied by the American forces,
provided accommodation for teacher
training after the war. In 1961 the Cardiff College of Education was built at Cyncoed to replace this makeshift
arrangement and in 1976 it merged with
other local colleges to form what was first of all the South Glamorgan
Institute of Higher Education and later
From its earliest days, the University of Wales made resources available for the study of
medicine. The Welsh National School of
Medicine built on these foundations and was granted independent status within the University. The prestige of
the school was greatly enhanced when the
University Hospital of Wales was opened at the Heath in 1971. The hospital not only gives full
training in the professions of medicine
and dentistry but, as the first purpose-built, completely integrated hospital and medical school in Britain, it has
become the focus for all medical care in
the twentieth century draws to a close,
the most dynamic region in Cardiff is once again its waterfront. The decay,
resulting from the decline of the docks,
is giving way to regeneration in Cardiff Bay. Originally, it
was proposed to redevelop no more than
50 acres of land in the docks area, but by 1987 growing confidence in the city
and its future led to the formation of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation.
Public and private investment worth £2 billion is being allocated to breathe
new life into 2,700 acres of once derelict land. Eventually, seven miles of
waterfront from Penarth to Pengam Moors will complete what the Investor's
Chronicle has termed, "one of the most exciting development projects
The barrage was the most
controversial element among the proposals for the bay. The freshwater lake,
created by a barrage holding back the rivers Ely and Taff, stretches from
Penarth Head to the Queen Alexandra Dock. Residential, leisure and business
properties are all in close proximity to the lake that has been described as
"a place in which people will want to live, work and play'. Critics of the
barrage maintain that it poses a danger to the wildlife of the region, while a
rise in the level of ground water is a threat to property.
However the large number of people
now visiting Cardiff Bay seem to have given
their approval to its transformation. The South Glamorgan County Council gave a
lead to others by establishing its headquarters at Atlantic Wharf in 1988. Overlooking the East Dock, the building is attractively designed in a
rather unusual oriental style. Atlantic Wharf has become a
bustling, animated scene as old warehouses are transformed into apartments,
offices and hotels. The Bonded Warehouse
has been tastefully converted into offices for the architects; Holder, Mathias
and Alcock. New buildings, canals, promenades and the East Dock itself all
merge with these reminders from the past to form a delightful environment for
years to come.
Work near the Pier Head has almost
finished. Mermaid Quay is a pleasant promenade of shops and restaurants but
unfortunately the Maritime Museum was a casualty of
this development. Two great attractions in the bay are the Techniquest Science
Centre in Stuart Street and the Atlantic Wharf Leisure Complex with its choice of cafes, a bowling
alley and 12 cinema screens. At present the Welsh Assembly meets at Crickhowell
House but soon its new home will be a prominent feature in this area. By 2004
it is hoped that the Millennium Centre will also be open to stage opera and West End shows.
Amid these new proposals, the
historic buildings of Butetown have not been forgotten. The Pier Head Building is once more in a pristine
condition and stands out in an attractive square overlooking the bay. Likewise
the Exchange will be restored by the Marcos Group to its former glory. There
will be space for offices and luxury apartments but the building will mainly be
an elegant venue for entertainment and conferences. After years of slumbering
decay, Mountstuart Square is once more astir with lively activity. The district has become a focus for
independent television companies, making commercial and video films for
distribution in the home and international markets. The Exchange presents an
ideal setting for much of their work.
1967 the Welsh Office published a document, The Way Ahead, in which the
assumption was made that Cardiff could look forward to continued economic
growth, both in its manufacturing industries and in the expansion of such
services as retailing, entertainment and commerce. In its assessment of
industrial growth, the forecast was far too optimistic. The effects of the East
Moors closure, together with the recession of the 1970's, caused serious
unemployment in the city and by 1985 the number out of work was almost 20,000.
Four years later the figure had dropped by more than half, dramatic proof of a
revival in Cardiff's economic prospects.
Essentially, the economy of Cardiff is now dependent
on the services which the city provides, and 80% of its workforce are employed
in this sector. Cardiff's
designation as the capital of Wales has provided many job opportunities in the Welsh Office and the Welsh Assembly.
Other clerical posts have arisen from government agencies such as Companies
House in Cathays.
Fresh initiatives by private
enterprise have taken a variety of forms. Well known financial companies such
as the Legal and General Bank, the Halifax Card Services and Chartered Trust,
the largest firm of its kind in Wales,
have made Cardiff a leader in this field. Technology companies have also brought prosperity to
the city. ASCOM Telecommunications has created 600 new jobs at St. Mellons,
though there have been setbacks in this industry, notably the recent reduction
in the workforce at Panasonic. A British Airways maintenance unit near Cardiff Airport has given employment to 800
people, while the former steelworks at East Moors has given way to workshops
involved in electronics, engineering, printing and photography. So far 16,000
jobs have been created in the revitalised docklands of Cardiff Bay and this
attractive location should continue to act as a stimulus to the local economy.
The Cardiff international Arena in Mary Ann
Street, capable of holding 5,000 people, stages events such as concerts,
conferences and exhibitions. The Cardiff World Trade Centre, co-operating with
the Chamber of Commerce, is also based at the CIA and, using modern technology, has forged links with trade centres in other
countries. As a result, it has become easier to communicate with the
international business community.
In one sense, this revitalisation
of Cardiff is
creating a dilemma. A shortage of industrial land has resulted in the
establishment of business parks at Coryton, Pentwyn and St. Mellons, but
covetous eyes are now being cast on green belt sites in North
Pentwyn, Thornhill and the Vale of Glamorgan. In the next few
years, careful planning decisions are essential to ensure that industrial land
is not released at the expense of the rural environment.
Since 1986 the number of visitors
to Cardiff has
increased by 20% each year. Tourism is becoming ever more important to the
local economy, and a recent survey, acclaiming Cardiff among the top ten most popular places
to visit in Britain,
can only enhance its tourist appeal. Apart from its own attractions, the city
has the advantage of being within easy reach of the sea, the Brecon Beacons and
the heritage of the Welsh valleys.
In the last twenty-five years,
better communications have been instrumental in bringing new business to Cardiff. The Severn Bridge was finally completed in 1966 and, despite delays from time to time, the
journey by road to London has been greatly shortened. The Central Bus Station was thoroughly modernised
in 1983 and now serves millions of passengers, travelling locally or to other
parts of Britain.
Though the rail network has had a chequered existence in the last quarter of a
century, considerable sums have now been spent in making the Central Station
worthy of a capital city. Many of the
lines built in the Victorian Age were "axed' by Dr. Beeching in the 1960's
but, in the last twenty years, new stations have been opened and commuters are
once more being tempted to use the "sprinter' trains for their journeys
into Cardiff. It has also become easier to visit distant countries from Cardiff Wales Airport which offers flights to European and North American destinations.
ambitious ideas and initiatives, which are altering the face of Cardiff, account for the
interest in the city at the present time. Peter Walker, the former Secretary of
State for Wales,
commented that, "Rapid, accelerating change ... is making Cardiff one of Western
Europe's most exciting cities in which to live and work'.
Cardiff Castle, St. John's Church and Llandaff
Cathedral survive to remind us of a long and eventful past. The rest of the
mediaeval town disappeared when Cardiff grew at a prolific rate to become the "coal metropolis' of the world. The
dereliction and ugliness which accompanied that industrial revolution are now
being eliminated, as the way is prepared for a new phase in the city's history.
changed dramatically since the days when its prosperity depended on the docks
and the export of coal. Now widely recognised as one of the finest cities in Britain, the
portents are that Cardiff will continue to be a worthy capital and show piece for the people of Wales in the
twenty first century.