Penarth Town Council’s planning committee has – yet again – been discussing the controversial proposal to demolish the classic shipowner’s mansion at the “Gateway to Penarth” which councillors have described as “magnificent” and “fantastic”.
The Victorian mansion – “The Highlands” – with its unique circular verandah and conical turret – commands the highest point of land in Cogan, overlooking the main road into Penarth from Cardiff.
The mansion is now owned by a scion of the Berni Italian-restaurant dynasty – Mr Simon Berni – who wants to demolish The Highlands to make way for a development of 9 new detached houses on the site – but other members of the Berni family, who regard the spectacular mansion as their family home, have strongly objected to the scheme .
[ The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee – which makes the final decision – has yet to consider the scheme. The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Conservation Officer has proposed that “The Highlands” should NOT be demolished – and that the proposed new houses should be developed around it – but so far his idea has not been followed-up.]
When the demolition and development proposals had first came before Penarth Town Council’s planning committee in November last year, the Penarth councillors agreed to “make no objections“ to the demolition.
Since then the scheme has been slightly amended (in a fresh planning application to demolish the mansion and its associated coach house – and replace it with 9 new houses )- and it is this second application which came before Penarth Town Council’s planning committee this week.
Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell) – who had opposed the original Highlands demolition application in the November 2016 meeting of the planning committee – declared an interest and left the council chamber for the remainder of the discussion.
The Town Clerk Emma Boylen said there was no material change to the original scheme. A recommendation for had been made following an ecological “bat survey” in the area. She said that Penarth Town Council had already “approved” the previous application whilst making reservations about overcrowding and about “trees already felled” on the site. [PDN Note: Councillors had in November expressed concern that several trees on the site had already been felled ] The scheme also involves the “extension of the existing highway” [i.e. the little known Old Barry Road. ]
The Mayor Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) who is deputy chair of the planning committee said the Penarth Town planning committee had already given its approval to the scheme [ in November 2016] and amended proposals weren’t “material” .
The committee chairman Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) said he thought the “turning heads” now proposed for the Old Barry Road [the only road by which The Highlands can be reached] would be “reducing the amount of space”.
He suspected however that the amended proposals had been drafted “in consultation with the Vale”. Cllr Thomas said ” It’s too much of a done-deed as far as we are concerned. We did reluctantly approve last time. I suggest it would be facile to change”.
He proposed that the Penarth Town Council planning committee should “broadly approve” the amended application and this was carried by mute assent.