Originally built in 1904 as a block of shops and restaurants (including the Gwalia Café and Govier’s restaurant) with flats above and private hotels at each end, Beachcliff is a central part of Penarth’s historic waterfront. It was designed by architect Frederick Speed.
The Rabaiotti family took over Beachcliff in the 1950s, operating Italian restaurants and cafés until the building was sold in the early 2000s.
The property was virtually abandoned while various developers tried unsuccessfully to secure planning consent for a large-scale redevelopment.
Richard Hayward and Karen Athay bought the property in 2007 and spent the next two years resolving a host of the issues that had proved insurmountable to previous developers. They also put together plans for a £6 million rescue package for the building that was granted planning consent in March 2009. Since 2007, Beachcliff has received no public grants and all works have been privately funded.
Once planning consent was granted, Karen Athay and Richard Hayward had to arrange for the regulated residential tenants in the building to move out including re-housing some of the old residents – and to resolve the position on the leases on the commercial tenants (the Rabiotti family) before work could start. The final tenants moved out in January 2010 and the contractors moved on site shortly afterwards in order to start the necessary and approved – dismantling of various parts of the building.
More than 100 years exposed to weathering from the Bristol Channel and a host of unsympathetic alterations had all taken their toll. Initial work uncovered the full extent of the structure’s decay, which meant that rather than refurbishment, most of the property had to be dismantled and rebuilt. In order to rescue the property and restore it to its former glory, contractors were required to make essential repairs to the adjoining stonework supporting the towers.
In addition, the council’s retaining wall at the rear of the building had to be rebuilt.
Preparatory work was finally completed in May 2012. The reconstruction of Beachcliff began in January 2013.
Taking down and rebuilding the structure enabled the developers to improve the quality of the structure, enhancing the rear elevations and introducing much higher levels of insulation, sound proofing and energy efficiency than would previously have been possible.
The new development significantly exceeds current environmental and building regulation requirements.