On top of the protests over controversial plans to stage a monthly Food Fair in Penarth’s Grade II Listed Turner House Gallery – there’s now more trouble on the way for its leaseholder – the “charity” Ffotogallery.
The Turner House Art Gallery is held in trust for the people of Penarth by the National Museum of Wales who leased it to Ffotogallery for holding photographic exhibitions.
In November 2014 the Vale of Glamorgan Council received a complaint about internal alterations carried out at the gallery .The roof of the building had a skylight to bring daylight into the first floor of the building.
Beneath the roof light there was a “light well” – an opening in the first floor surrounded by a balustrade – which enabled the light to reach down the ground floor and gave the entire building an airy feel. These “fixed features ” were “Listed” as part of the fabric of this historic building.
In 2014 however Ffotogallery staged an Artes Muntdi exhjibition of a multi-screen video artwork by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson.
This involved blacking out the first floor and turning it into into a nine-screen video cinema which exhibited continuous DVDs – including some of people playing guitars in baths in decaying cvountry houses.
In preparation for this the gallery’s skylight was obscured, the “light well” in the first floor was filled-in, joists were put in place to close off the void, the balustrade around the light well was removed and the entire gallery floor area was carpeted to create a blacked-out multi-screen video exhibition area.
…But when the exhibition was over, the lightwell and the balustrade were not put back.
A council report says “These works are considered to affect the character of the building as one of special architectural or historic interest and, as such, are works that would have required the consent of the Council under the provisions of section 7 of the 1990 Act. As the necessary consent has not been granted, the works to fill in the light well and remove the balustrade are a breach of section 9 of the 1990 Act.”
The planning committee agenda says that “A series of correspondence has been sent to the owner [ the National Museum of Wales] and occupier [Ffotogallery] to advise of the breach of planning control that has occurred and to request that works are voluntarily undertaken to reinstate the light well and balustrade. To date the necessary works have not been undertaken.”
The lightwell and balustrade was installed by what the Vale Council describes as “notable architects, T Alwyn Lloyd and Partners” and “make a significant contribution to
the character and appearance of the interior of the building.
The Vale Council says that if the National Museum or Ffotogallery had asked permission to carry out these alterations “it would have been recommended that consent should not be granted in view of the duty imposed under section 16 of the 1990 Act.”
The Vale Council’s planning department is to ask the Vale Council’s planning committee when it meets next week “to serve a listed building enforcement notice to require the reinstatement of the light well and balustrade” at Penarth’s Grade II listed Turner House Gallery .
There’s a bleak warning for the National Museum and Ffotogallery of what might happen if they don’t play ball.
If the Listed Building Enforcement Notice is not complied with ” a person guilty of an offence is liable on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding £20,000; or on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or a fine, or both.”