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'Masterpiece' Brynmawr Rubber Factory to be erased

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The Twentieth Century Society was up in arms last week after the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) effectively sounded the death knell for a building the society regards as just as important to Wales' heritage as Harlech Castle or Tintern Abbey.

The Grade II*-listed, but severely dilapidated, Brynmawr Rubber Factory in Gwent (above) looks certain to face the bulldozers following negotiations between the WDA, site owner Maincourse and developer Beazer Homes, over a multimillion-pound grant to help them demolish the building and build about 200 homes and retail in its place.

The factory, a reinforced-concrete industrial complex with a main production area of 7,700m 2under nine shallow domes, was built in 1946-51 by Architects Co-Operative Partnership. Branded a 'masterpiece' and 'magnificent' by the society, it was the first post-war building to be listed - in 1986 - four years after it was closed. But the building has deteriorated rapidly while developers and architects have struggled to put it to a new use.

Society casework officer Jo Haire said: 'We want to express our real disappointment that the £6. 3 million grant could not have been used to refurbish the building.

It's a fabulous building but the council thinks it's an eyesore and wants to pull it down. '

Clive Murrin, Blaenau Gwent Council's senior development manager, development services, said it was a 'great pity' the building was coming down, especially given the strength of feeling in the profession. Frank Lloyd Wright famously paid homage with a visit to Brynmawr and the last time the building was threatened there was a letter-writing campaign including protestations from people such as Lord Rogers. 'The problem has been that no one with money has been able to come up with a viable use, ' said Murrin. 'It was an interesting building and groundbreaking in its time but industrial needs move on swiftly - the spans erected, which were innovative technically, are not exceptional at all now. '

Murrin added, however, that there was 'little doubt' that had the building been situated in the south of England money could have been found for its refurbishment.

It has listed-building consent for demolition after the then Welsh secretary William Hague ducked a public inquiry in 1996.

The WDA said it had the necessary clearance from the Welsh National Assembly to make the £6. 3 million grant and expects to sign the deal and make an announcement 'in the next three to four weeks'. Demolition should take place followed by decontamination of the site.

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