Credit: @ButetownMatters

Paddle Steamer cafe demolition is ‘loss of identity’ for Butetown

Community members outraged by Cardiff Council’s decision to knock down the community hub

Campaigners working to save Butetown’s Paddle Steamer café feel ignored by councilors who have voted push on with its demolition.

Twitter account @ButetownMatters received thousands of messages from supporters who want to keep the historic building standing, but their pleas to the Council have “fallen on deaf ears.”

A tweet from campaigners trying to save the café.

The grass-roots movement’s leader says the Council’s decision to ignore the local outcry is a symptom of wider planning problems in Cardiff.

“Communities are losing their vital, historic, unique identity when these things happen,” he said.

“Some of these places that you’ve been going to for 10, 15 years are now suddenly being given to some big developer who’s coming in and taking that space and I think there’s real value lost in that.”

The pub-turned-café has long served as a safe space for Cardiff’s Somali and Yemeni communities. The owners support local mosques, provide free food during Ramadan and have given out food parcels through lockdown.

Young activist Yasmin Bergum is concerned about the disregard for the voices of local BAME community members, with planning developments across the city affecting buildings with significant ethnic heritage.

“There is something about the Paddle Steamer that the council really doesn’t want there and that really raises uncomfortable questions about the gentrification of Cardiff Bay,” she told CJS News.

A planning committee meeting on Wednesday ended with a 6-5 vote to proceed with the demolition and erect social housing in its place.

In a statement to CJS News, a Council spokesperson said they are “committed to improving the lives of Butetown residents” and welcome “the potential development of more affordable accommodation”. But campaigners say it shouldn’t be an either/or situation, and the Council must use its power to provide housing whilst still listening to residents’ concerns.

Local resident Ambreena Manji has praised the young people of Butetown, who she says deserve a say in what parts of Cardiff’s history are preserved.

“One of the things that I think has been good about the organisation around the Paddle is that it has been a chance for the community to assert itself. Particularly, if you look at how it’s driven by young people – for young people to assert themselves and say, ‘hold on, we are also a part of the story of Cardiff'”, she said.

Butetown Matters will now look at what else they can do to defend the Paddle Steamer – not only for the residents of Butetown, but perhaps for communities across Cardiff, as well.