South East Wales

Barry Island Pleasure Park: End of an era looms for 92-year-old site

"Barry Island! Oh, where you going to have the wedding reception - on the log flume?"

That was the angry reaction of character Pamela Shipman to the news of where her son, Gavin, would be getting married in the BBC hit comedy series Gavin and Stacey.

The log flume she mentions is part of the island's once thriving main attraction, the Pleasure Park, which has sat overlooking the beach for the past 92 years.

But soon that could be demolished to make way for a new development which is aimed at bringing tourists to the area all year round.

The sun may be shining on the island this week, but the bitterly cold weather is keeping people away.

Image caption Barry Island Pleasure Park may be turned into commercial and residential use

The beach is deserted, hardly any of the businesses are open and the Pleasure Park lays empty. This is a normal day in the winter months though.

But the park's owner Ian Rogers is hoping to change all that.

A multi-million pound redevelopment would see the 4.7 acre site turned into a mix of restaurants and cafes, a cinema and bowling alley, all under one roof.

A decision on the plans was deferred on Thursday for a month by Vale of Glamorgan councillors who want a site visit.

"We've owned the site since 1995 and Butlins closed in 1996 which gave us an uphill struggle," said Mr Rogers, who has been planning the development for four years.

"Barry Island is reliant on the sunshine. If it doesn't shine, people don't come.

"We need it under cover so that when people come to the island they have somewhere to go and something to do.

"I'm sure when people come here and they see the new complex and what's on offer, they will keep coming back.

"We are trying to get 52 weeks of trade."

The Pleasure Park has suffered from "washout" summers over the last few years and a fairground has leased the site in the peak months in the last two years to keep an attraction there.

'Dream come true'

But when the current tenants move out in September, the bulldozers could be moving in.

"We would like to think it would take two years," Mr Rogers added.

"We are planning to get the commercial side finished first and follow on with the residential area at the back.

"For me, it's a dream come true. I'm very sentimental about Barry Island. It's the end of an era but it's the start of a new one."

Image caption Visitors to Barry Island are few and far between in the winter months

Dave Millward, who owns a chip shop and a bar, would see his businesses disappear under the new development.

He believes it will boost the area whose tourism has been helped in recent years by Gavin and Stacey being partly set in Barry - where Stacey and her family were from.

"It will be sad to see the park go but it will be good for the island," said Mr Millward. "It's going to be a huge project because there's so much to be done.

"Since Gavin and Stacey finished, the popularity has now run its course. Souvenir shops are still making money but that's not the main attraction any more."

'Eyesore'

And resident Alan Smith agrees. The 64-year-old said: "Gavin and Stacey has helped but that's only going to be short-lived.

"I've been here all my life and I used to love Barry Island in its heyday.

"I think it's wonderful that something is being done about it. It will bring people in even when the weather is bad."

But not all are convinced the new development will be a success.

Neil Hopkin-Thoma runs a convenience store opposite the park.

"Something does need to be done. It's an eyesore. Anything there would be beneficial," he said.

"But I'm not sure what he's proposing is the right thing.

"The businesses down here are struggling as it is, especially in the winter time and I don't know if these new places will last.

"I don't think it's going to bring that many more people down here."

Image caption James Corden as Smithy, Ruth Jones as Nessa, Rob Brydon as Bryn and Melanie Walters as Gwen on the Barry Island log flume in Gavin and Stacey

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