The Leader of the Conservative Party in the National Assembly Andrew R.T.Davies has now stepped into the controversy over the future of Penarth’s only dedicated art gallery – Turner House.
Last week the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee held back from issuing an Enforcement Notice that was about to be dispatched to the National Museum of Wales (who hold the deeds of Turner House) about unauthorised modifications which have been carried out in the Grade II Listed building by its current leaseholders – Ffotogallery. (see PDN http://tinyurl.com/zeb8dy2 )
In 2014 Ffotogallery – a publicly funded arts “charity” – had removed two important architectural features- a central first-floor light-well and a balustrade designed by to accommodate a temporary Artes Mundi exhibition – but did not restore these listed fixtures when the exhibition ended early last year .
The National Museum claimed it had not been consulted and had not given permission for the modifications to be carried out. Last week it made a verbal promise to the Vale Council that it would restore the gallery to its original internal appearance.
Today Andrew R T Davies who is Conservative AM for South Wales Central (which includes Penarth) and is leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly met Vale and Penarth Councillor Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) at Turner House.
Mr Davies now has written to the National Museum, to the Vale of Glamorgan Council and to Penarth Town Council and says it’s “ slightly bizarre” that there is no record of the ownership of Turner House in the Land Registry and will study the responses prior to taking any further steps .
Cllr Williams had raised concerns in the Vale Planning Committee not only about the unauthorised alterations to Turner House, but also about Ffotogallery’s controversial plans to hold a monthly food market inside the listed building – a proposal which has raised widespread concern in the town.
Turner House was originally bequeathed to the people of Penarth by the gallery’s founder James Pyke Thompson.
A trust, set up to manage the gallery for Penarth after Mr Thompson’s death and which included a representative of Penarth Urban District Council, decided in 1921 – without public consultation – to hand over the deeds of the building and the paintings in it (now worth many millions) to the National Museum of Wales. The change of ownership of Turner House seems never to have been properly registered.
The story of the Turner House bequest is on PDN (http://tinyurl.com/qc2hjdl)