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.
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} 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) 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) 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)_ 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) 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.
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.]