The controversial scheme to demolish The Highlands – a rare and unusual “Arts and Crafts”- style turreted mansion which stands in a prominent position on the main route into Penarth – is attracting not only increasing opposition from local residents but also now seems to have created a split between members of the family which lived there.
Highlands is owned by Mr Simon Berni who wants to demolish the classic mansion – once the home of a Penarth shipowner – and build an estate of 9 new houses in its grounds .
However 4 other members of the Berni family – Myfanwy Berni, Michael Berni , Gavin Berni and Kathryn Berni have joined with other local residents in writing to the Vale of Glamorgan Council to register their objections to the scheme.
A joint letter of objection submitted on behalf of local residents and of the 4 Berni family-members, states ” Some of us are neighbouring occupiers of the site, and others have a family interest in the site. We have examined the plans and we know the site well. We wish to object strongly to the development of these houses in this location.”
The letter states that “ the house in question, Highlands, is of special architectural interest, having been built for a sea-captain during the 19th century in order that he could observe his ships, and has since formed part of the landscape of Penarth. Its architectural style is Arts & Crafts, which is similar to other buildings in Penarth designed by John Coates Carter.”
Their letter goes on to say that “Highlands is a Penarth landmark and forms part of the visual amenity enjoyed by those approaching Penarth and town dwellers alike. One of its features is a circular tower, an unique architectural feature.”
The objectors say “During WWII, Highlands was the headquarters for Penarth’s Home Guard, and the grounds also housed temporary pre-fabricated dwellings, in order to re-house those affected by the war. We feel that a building like this should be preserved as it forms part of Penarth’s architectural and maritime heritage, its demolition would not enhance the special architectural and historic interest of the town.”
The Bernis – and the other local objectors – also cite several other grounds for their objections including road safety. Only one local resident appears to have supported the scheme – on the grounds that ‘more activity’ in the area would discourage “fly-tipping”.
Meanwhile the Ancient Monuments Society has written to the Vale of Glamorgan Council; saying “Our attention has been drawn to this proposal to destroy the late Victorian villa known as “The Highlands” – which the society says could have been designed by Victorian architects Edwin Seward or Brice Vaughan.
The Ancient Monuments Society says the mansion is “a striking composition, especially the tourelle with the balcony offering grand views out. It deserves better than to be destroyed, especially as it can clearly be retained with new housing reserved to the gardens.”
Also moving to save “The Highlands” for Penarth’s posterity is the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Conservation Officer Peter Thomas
Mr Thomas agrees with the Ancient Monuments Society that “The Highlands “is of some historical/architectural merit. It would seem to meet the criteria for inclusion as a locally listed ‘County Treasure'”. [the Vale Council’s official list of outstanding buildings in the area ] – and says the mansion could be retained and the proposed new housing development built around it – thus “saving a locally important building.”
The application to demolish the spectacular and historic building is due to come before the Vale of Glamorgan’s planning committee next month.