If there is one thing that exercises the bureaucratic brain cells of Town Planners it is ‘change of use’. After all, it might just disrupt the delicate equilibrium that only they can divine from a mountain of procedures and committee-based decision-making.
Spoiler alert for all planners… when places first emerge, anywhere on the planet, they tended to aggregate around a few houses, a church, a pub and a some commerce-based building. What they never thought they needed to get the whole affair up and running was an office full of planners and councillors to pontificate on and guide the great new adventure. If they did I would offer a suggestion for its shape, size and sense of relative importance (with a clear and present indication deep down in Cardiff Docks)…
Which brings me to a lovely example of ‘change of use’ a mere few steps away from the above luxury office space. Way back in 1868 a Norwegian Church was constructed between the old Bute East and West Docks, as a place of cultural and spiritual solace initially for sailors of the Norwegian Fleet that frequently used Cardiff as a port of call.
It was originally clad in iron, being known as the Norwegian Iron Church, with a forward-thinking design that would allow it to be dismantled and moved as needed. For obvious reasons when viewed today, it later became known as the Little White Church, and now occupies pride of place overlooking Cardiff Bay, some half a mile from its original location.
So, the original design came to be tested in order that it could find a new berth. However, the demise of a religious need over time also resulted in the very same building undergoing a successful transformation (or ‘change of use’ as the bureaucrats would have it). Who said there are too many coffee shops in the world these days?
The old building has a strong link with a great son of Llandaff, and descendant of Norwegian stock, as Roald Dahl was baptised in the very building back in its original location, worshipped there as a child, and returned to sponsor its preservation in the newly emerging Cardiff Bay world of pleasure.
Until we speak again, spare a thought for the Little White Church, and how the world has transformed from fire and brimstone to latte and cappuccino!