Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Clarence Hotel, Llandudno

Clarence Hotel by you.
Clarence Hotel in 2008 (Photo Credit)

The saga of the once proud Clarence Hotel has rumbled on in Llandudno for the last couple of years. It forms a substantial Victorian building, which contains 51 bedrooms and has five and a half storeys, including a basement. The building occupies the whole of Gloddaeth Street’s frontage, between Bodhyfryd Road and Arvon Avenue. The site is within the Llandudno Conservation Area and forms part of an almost continuous frontage of listed buildings along both sides of Gloddaeth Avenue, from Seilo Chapel to Mostyn Street. However, the Hotel itself is not listed.

For many years a successful hotel, it formed part of a hotel chain until 2001. The building was then sold to the present owner, but has not operated as a hotel to any significant extent under its present ownership and ceased operation entirely in about 2007. Its usage since then has attracted a great deal of both controversy and criticism in Llandudno.

The ground floor (formerly the Hotel's Reception/Public areas) was converted into three separate businesses - the Sakura Japanese restaurant (notorious for the raid by the UK Borders Agency which saw them find an illegal immigrant chef living in a chest freezer in the basement!), a bar/cafe called Rumourz (which allegedly operated without Planning Permission) and the Beijing Chinese Restaurant (which also allegedly had an illegal immigrant workforce). Latterly, all three businesses have closed due to various problems and the entire building stands empty. The upper floors of the building cannot be used as the Fire Service has issued a Prohibition order.

In 2005, the owner applied to convert the Hotel into 19 apartments, with an arcade of 3 shops on the Ground Floor. This was refused, as Conwy Council wished it to remain a hotel - it stands within the 'Primary Holiday Accommodation Zone' in Llandudno, which has a presumption against any hotel being granted permission for conversion for another use. In theory, this is a good idea - in practice, it has meant that large 'second tier' hotels like the Clarence are stuck in a cycle of decline. So perhaps a degree of flexibility is required with regard to the Planning issues?

If we face facts, the Clarence hasn't been used as a proper hotel for several years (and when it was open the guest reviews were awful!). The cost of renovating it (given the severe structural problems) almost definitely wouldn't be worth it, compared with the revenue you'd get from running it as a hotel. It has a central location in town but that's about it, no sea views, no car parking and, most importantly, no room to introduce new facilities.

I'm a great believer in being pragmatic about these things - a good conversion job on the Clarence would enhance the appearance of Gloddaeth Street and surely be far preferable to it remaining a derelict hotel for years. If we're brutally honest, one less mediocre hotel in Llandudno would be no great loss for the town...


Councillor John Oddy said...

After winning the CADW award for the Milverton Hotel I was asked to price up for a full renovation of the Clarence by Mr Raghip, the owner. To my recollection the cost was close to £750,000. As you look at it in your photo; the entire right hand side is suffering from subsidence, this is caused by a mine adit running down Bodhyfryd Road. This has caused damage to all five floors, coupled with the roof being rotten and holed, which needed total renewal, the fire escapes were in such disrepair that they would have been condemned and the rendering to the right hand side of the building I warned him was in imminent danger of falling off and killing someone, it actually fell off three nights later luckily causing no damage to others. Internally the upper floors were a mess, water damaged and damp and, in all, very dated.
The work was to be done through a grant from the Council and CADW but due to a request by the owner to alter the quote I felt unable to continue and withdrew, the work was never done so, I suspect he had the same response from other contractors. At that time the works could have been staged to allow it to continue trading as a hotel but now, after approx 6 years, I’m afraid it would have to be completely gutted and a total refurbishment or conversion would be £1-1.5m, if the asking price is only £1m and it converts into12 apartments you would have to be selling them at £200,000+ to be just breaking even, not a viable option in this day and age!.

Reggie said...

The Ormscliffe Hotel in Craig-y Don was a mediocre hotel, and has been rennovated with some success by a London businessman, now called The Regency Royal Hotel, which is a grade II-listed building that has been elegantly refurbished to the highest standards, making the most of the architecture of the building, so, it can be done. Sea views and secured parking is also an asset for the hotel, but having said that The Bedford and The Dorchester both had sea views, and both are now....gone.
The Clarence is architecturally similar to the Tudno Castle Hotel, however, as you say, the Clarence is not listed - the Tudno Castle being a grade II listed building. Why this is I'm not sure, but they're both in a sorry state at the moment.

It seems that Llandudno has more bed-spaces available than it can fill. Gone are the day's of holidaymakers staying for weeks like they did in the '50's & 60's -day-tripper's and 'weekender's' are the norm nowadays.

Yes, I agree, development is the answer. Even if they're not developed as hotels, anything would be better than a derelict site, which may put people off coming to the town altogether.

The Palladium, former cinema & bingo hall - architecturally left intact, and now a thriving pub/restaurant, The Grand Theatre -the historic internal fixtures 'hidden' but left intact, and now a busy nightclub, are prime examples of buildings that have become successful enterprises.

What becomes of the Clarence and the Tudno Castle remains to be seen.

Stan said...

Your picture is so good, it is hard to visual the reality. But I have seen it and sad to say, it is in a sorry state.

Stan said...

Re previous post, I think I meant to say 'visualise'.

Chameleon said...

Thanks, Stan, and we knew what you meant! :-)

Councillor John Oddy said...

Pull the other one Stan; its got bells on!

Mrs Byron said...

‘Oi Lizardy fing wot changes colour,
That Stan’s spellin’ is bleedin’ awful, do ya fink he wenta skool or wot? Posh he may be but fick wiv it.

Chameleon said...

Behave yourself, Mrs Byron! Stan is a great chap.

Mrs Byron said...


Stan said...

Ah, Mrs Byron, I think you are nearly right, but I think it was more a case of my typing ability wasn't keeping pace with my thinking.

Why don't you use some of your feminine charms to get your Byron to resolve some of the issues with this building? I'm sure you could.

Just wondered also how you and your Byron are settling down in the area. It is quite traumatic moving house and so forth, in fact supposedly one of the most stressful things to do. And apart from moving house, the children changing schools, signing on with a new doctors' surgery, new dentists, and so on, the list can be endless! I hope it has all gone well for you all.

Mrs Byron said...

Fank you for askin’ Stan, which is more than the Lizardy fing did.
My Byron is so utterly great that we aint ‘ad no problems, except with the uneducated yokels.
My Byron wants ta pull it down and make a car park, more money for the Council he says, me, I fink the gezzer wots got it is a wasta, he’s only in fer the dosh. It should all be de.. dem.. pulled down and build a load a clothes shops, I reckon I’d make a great Mayoress, wot you fink Stan?.

Stan said...

I think you would certainly bring a 'uniqueness' to the role!

Anonymous said...

I Hope the Clarence will find a good owner who will bring this lovely hotel back to life. Stayed in the Clarence hotel in the late 1970s as a boy with my family. We had great summer holidays as kids. Also stayed in the late 1980s as an Adult, but noticed it was going down hill, staff coping with their circumstances, poor interiors, ect. It should never be allowed to be demolished for development. What happend to the Goggarth Abbey Hotel ? it was there one day and gone the next. The planning department are setting a dangerous presidence when it comes to Llandudno's Architectual heritage.

Chameleon said...

There was a fire on the First floor of the Clarence Hotel on the 25th February, when a mattress was set alight deliberately. Fortunately, firefighters managed to prevent it spreading. New efforts have been made to secure the building by boarding it up.

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