The classic Penarth mansion "The Highlands" - one the home of the Berni family - is now facing demolition

Penarth councillors have now agreed that the classic historic mansion “The Highlands” – which they described as magnificent and “fantastic” – can be demolished

Penarth Town council’s planning committee has agreed to an application to demolish what members  described as “magnificent” and “fantastic” Penarth mansion  – so that the site can be developed for housing.

“The Highlands” is a striking “arts-and-crafts” era mansion sitting in large grounds with a distinctive conical tower giving a unrivalled  panoramic views out to sea over Cardiff Bay, Cogan, and the River Ely. There is nothing else quite like it anywhere in the country.

A view from the garden showing one wing of The Highlands and the unique turret providing a panoramic view from the highest point of land in the Cogan area

A view from the garden showing one wing of The Highlands and the unique turret balcony providing a panoramic view from the highest point of land in the Cogan area

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) chairman of Penarth planning committee

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) chairman of Penarth planning committee

Planning chairman Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) thanked the “good offices” of Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) who had arranged access to the estate for councillors to carry out a “site-visit”. The secluded , yet prominently-positioned, house is reached via the Old Barry Road but is surrounded by trees and impossible to see from the road.

Cllr Thomas noted that several large trees had already been felled on the site – which had surprised him. He said  “very big trees”  had been felled recently including an oak and chestnut  which he had found “worrying“.

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines} said it was “disappointing to see such a particularly magnificent house being demolished.”  He understood it was not a listed building and was not registered as a “County Treasure” and that left the council completely powerless. Cllr Roberts said “It’s a shame the trees have been chopped down  – but there’s not much we can do retrospectively”.

As far as proposed new development is concerned  Cllr Roberts (who is also a member of the Vale of Glamorgan planning committee) said he knew that Vale Council highways officers were objecting to a number of highways issues .

Cllr Roberts said his remaining concern was that this was to be a very “dense” housing development – but he did not see any other grounds  for opposing the scheme .

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he agreed with Cllr Roberts. According to the plans there was to be very little space between the adjacent properties and in plan form the development “almost looks like a block of flats.“. He thought that with fewer houses, there could be better spacing between the dwellings .

Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell) said she had spoken to a conservation officer who had recommended that the main house – Highlands –  be retained and the development built around it . She was also concerned about the safety of the road junction onto the busy highway with more people using it .

Cllr Alexander said an application had been made to Cadw – (the ancient monuments commission for Wales)  -for “listing status due to architectural merit”    but the building did not meet Cadw’s set criteria. The mansion also had historic links to the Angel shipping family and there were now few such properties remaining in Penarth. She said there could be a further application to Cadw on the grounds of historical significance but the council could not object on conservation grounds as the house was not in the Penarth Conservation Area.

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)_ said that the housing scheme proposed for The Highlands mansion site as a “very unexciting development in architectural terms” – he noted that whilst the proposed houses were clustered together, there was still a lot of space around the development. He pointed out that the new development would be visible from parts of Penarth – but there did “not appear to be any good reason for us to say no”.

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said Highlands is “a superb building. |Unfortunately the upkeep of that for any family would be very costly.  It’s a fantastic site  . You can look almost through 360 degrees – so really I’m pleased that in one way someone has come up with a scheme . He said “God forbid you could have had some greedy people there who may have put up a block of flats there . ” The house itself – he said – was three or four storeys high.

Cllr Williams said that as far as traffic safety was concerned the applicant had spent £7,000 on carrying out a professional traffic survey for a week. If the Vale highways officers were going to challenge that they “would have to come up with something extremely good “. In the meantime he thought that the development scheme was “as good as we’ll get”  and he  was in favour of it.

Cllr Alexander asked whether there had been an environmental report on traffic pollution and an ecology report

Cllr Roberts said he understood there was a “bat presence” at the site and this had been reported to the Vale COuncil ecology officer.  He proposed a motion to the effect that the council should say it had no objection to the development – but had reservations about its appearance, layout and density. Cllr Thomas also noted concern about the “traffic flow on Barry Road”.

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) urged that the council’s concern about “the trees going ” . The council had not been made aware that trees were going to be felled on the site  and suggested a “planting scheme to soften the development”  .

However Cllr Tracey Alexander said she thought the council did have grounds for recommending refusal . She moved an amendment to that effect which was seconded by Cllr Ernest.

After reference to council standing orders, it was decided that Cllr Alexander’s amendment would be invalid as it would have the effect of negating the original motion (to make no objection to the development) . A vote was then taken on the substantive motion (to make no objection) which was passed .

PDN Note : The Angel family owned Claude Angel, Sons & Co , a notable local shipping firm which played a part in the Spanish Civil War.

In April 1937 General Franco had stopped all ships entering ports in Northern Spain. Any merchant vessel which tried to break the blockade risked being attacked, bombed, and sunk by Franco’s forces – backed by the Germans and the French.

The legerndary Captain David Potato Jones who attempted to break Franco's blockade in the Spanish Civil War in the Claude Angel tramp steamer Marie Llewelyn

The legendary Captain David “Potato” Jones who attempted to break Franco’s blockade in the Spanish Civil War in the Claude Angel tramp steamer Marie Llewelyn

Claude Angel and fellow ship-owners took the risk of breaking the blockade to feed – and arm – the starving population. One of Angel’s ships – the  “Marie Llewelyn”  commanded by Captain “Potato Jones” – became famous for her  attempt to break the blockade with a cargo of guns hidden benath a consignment of potatoes but was turned back. Of the 27 British ships sunk by Franco, Claude Angel lost 3 – SS “Dellwyn” bombed and sunk at Gandia July 27, 1938, “Yorkbrook” and “Miocene’ which were both sunk in  two successive days  – January 23/24th 1939 at Barcelona.

In the event – despite newpaper accounts to the contrary – it wasn’t Captain “Potato” Jones who broke the blockade, but a Penarth skipper Captain  Owen Roberts in the Porthcawl-owned cargo steamer “Seven Seas Spray“. He successfully delivered 400 tons of food and provisions to Bilbao.]

About NewsNet

Penarth Daily News email address . Penarth Daily News is an independent free on-line fair and balanced news service published by NewsNet Ltd covering the town of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, UK. All our news items are based on the information we receive or discover at the time of publication and are published on the basis that they are accurate to the best of our knowledge and belief at that time. Comments posted on the site by commentators reflect their opinions and are not necessarily shared, endorsed or supported by Penarth Daily News.
This entry was posted in Penarth Daily News. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Adrian says:

    Seems, in part at least, that the reason this has been passed is through fear of something potentially worse being built there.

    If that’s not a recipe for mediocrity, I don’t know what is.

    Planning overhaul needed.

  2. Jane Foster says:

    I remember being told some time ago that the owner of this house was also responsible for building some of the houses on Paget Place – the ones with balconies on – for his ship captain employees. The story went that he had the balconies built as telescope points so the captains could keep a close watch on their ships in the docks while also reminding them that he was keeping a close eye on them from his own vantage point.

    PDN – you do such an important job in keeping the social history of our lovely little town alive; thank you for your little histories of the families and buildings of Penarth.

  3. Christopher David says:

    Yes indeed Adrian. We owe thanks to Cllr’s Alexander and Ernest for at least trying to stop the demolishing of such a grand building. One would hope that the building could be converted and a development sympathetic to Penarth with a lower density could have been considered! Will the VOG come to the rescue?

  4. Big Davey says:

    Why not donate the house to St Fagans, if it is going to be knocked down anyway, do it in a way that it could be re-built there.

  5. captain angel says:

    Destroying something beautiful

  6. Lily says:

    Very sad news. I don’t know how demolishing a building with so much history and architectural merit can even be considered

  7. Ivor Bagman says:

    How on earth has no-one
    Commented on the hypocrisy
    Of this decision !
    I’m thinking about Clinton Road
    Normandie and other sites.

  8. Christopher David says:

    Probably because knowing / guessing persons they may be behind some of this, persons worry they’ll end up in court?

  9. Penarth_Heritage says:

    It is surprising that this decision has been made so quickly particularly when majority of councilors have raised a variety of concerns. I hope there were no external influences involved here as the speed and weak arguments for approval is worrying. This site and house have historical, environmental and architectural significance which compliments the Penarth ‘historical story’.

  10. John Palk. says:

    Oh dear just so sad, what on earth will become of Penarth, is it doomed to become irrelevant and bland with so much destruction of a era which will never be duplicated. Penarth which is renowned for it’s great Victorian architecture a jewel in Britain. I’m just at a loss for words.

  11. Penarth_memories says:

    I knew the former owners of this beautiful property. A hardworking Italian immigrant and his wife who bought the house and raised 4 children there. After he retired, he put all his heart and soul into maintaining the house and gardens well into his 90’s. He always took great pride in showing visitors the property and retelling the wonderful history of this fantastic building and land. For me, the recent history and memories of the former owners and their family is just as important as the building itself. Please do not allow this to be destroyed.

  12. 029 2070 says:

    Apart from the fact that this beautiful house is to be demolished,
    to make way for nine houses,there is the obvious traffic problem ,Also the fact that Old Barry Road has been subject to small subsidences
    since the A 4055 was cut some 40 years ago.Trees have been slipping and so has the constructions on the bank above.,causing them to be reinforced..If the road gave way due to continual heavy plant ,lorries etc,it could cause ,not only injury but also cause disruption and the only road access toOld Barry Road also the fact that the railway runs below the road.

  13. Christopher David says:

    You’ll be unlikely to make much headway Pen mem / 029. Pen council may not have any power and the VOG as we know are on a power trip. Things are changing in the political world. There may yet filter down a backlash on the empire builders. Worrying times but corrections are required from top to bottom. The demolishing of this one property may be a metaphor for the whole of the VOG region.

  14. TRS_21 says:

    My great concern ,today is of the news that a historical house in Penarth may
    demolished to make way for nine houses ,apart from the obvious traffic problems ,there is a potential subsidence issue on Old Barry Road itself since the A4055 was
    cut through,as there have been small slides on the road itself and on the bank below the structures above.If these gave way,due to heavy plant ,not only could the road give way ,possibly causing injury ,but would close the only access to Old Barry Road.

    My other concern is that it is hard to believe that the councillors involved would be so short sighted,as to think that replacing a historical building such as The Highlands,which by the way has now been exposed in all its glory,due to the fact that oak trees have been felled,they could possibly think it is a good idea to replace this magnificent house with nine 21 st century abodes.

    Tourism is going to play a key part in Penarth’s future,and this landmark can only help to enhance and soften the landscape as you come into Penarth from Cardiff Bay.
    This building should stay as the imposing symbol of the marine heritage Penarth has to offer.

Comments are closed.