The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee has deferred a decision on plans to re-develop the classic Penarth mansion ‘Ashdene Manor’, in Bridgeman Road.
Ashdene Manor is in the architecturally-sensitive Penarth Conservation Area and is immediately next door to and uphill from the ruins of another classic Penarth mansion – “Normandy” . [The roof-slates of Normandy were allegedly stripped-off some time ago, with the result that the building’s decay and dilapidation accelerated and the floors fell in].
The plan is to add two wings to the existing house and to create 9 apartments in total. A 40% “affordable housing requirement” is being provided with 3 of the 9 apartments being “affordable” and an extra £15,486 being offered by the developer to reach the necessary 40% threshold. Just under £23,000 would also be contributed by the developer to “enhance public open space” off site.
The committee heard objections to the scheme from next-door neighbour Derek Marles who lives in the other adjacent property – Ty Llwyd.
Mr Marles said he was well aware that Ashdene would be redeveloped and that its days as a single-occupied property were “long-gone“. He said he and his wife had lived next door to Ashdene Manor for over 20 years – and they had watched the house deteriorate over those years – but said the redevelopment needed to be a “sympathetic design” which “respected the fine building Ashdene is – or was”. The proposed development, Mr Marles said, did not do this and was “totally out of keeping with the surrounding area” .
Mr Marles said he was not against redevelopment – and agreed that Ashdene had to be redeveloped – but said it should be a design which was in keeping with the fine building that it was.
He said the proposed [southerly] wing of the redeveloped property would come within 2 metres of his 15 foot high retaining boundary wall. Victorian walls were built on soil and did not have any foundations. He was concerned that his boundary wall would be structurally affected by the construction of the new wing and that might affect his own home.
Cllr Maureen Kelly Owen (Conservative Plymouth Ward) told planning committee members “We are not dealing with a ‘nimby’ here. We are dealing with a man who knows what he is talking about”. She supported him entirely.
Cllr Clive Williams (Independent Plymouth Ward) said he knew that local residents wanted to see Ashdene Manor developed and had accepted a previous 7 apartment scheme for Ashdene. However the present application was unacceptable in a Conservation Area and close to Windsor Gardens Park and he considered it to be overdevelopment . Only 11 car parking spaces were being provided for the 9 apartments – which would lead to overspill parking on the main road.
Cllr Williams said there were aspects of the plan which he still considered were incorrect; he was against the un-neighbourly and unsympathetic scheme and asked the committee to refuse the application
Planning chief Victoria Robinson said the application had been dealt with by a planning case officer who also happens to be the Vale Council’s conservation officer and who had worked with the developers to achieve the submitted design. They were satisfied that it struck the right balance “in terms of it being contemporary and also a nod to the architectural features of the existing dwelling and the contextual area of the Conservation Area of Penarth ” It was, she said “something new – which doesn’t apologise for being new” .
Robinson also claimed that as far as the shortage of parking was concerned “there are alternatives to using a private car and there is a certain element of parking available on the streets” [In fact both sides of Bridgeman Road have double-yellow lines]. She said “I can’t agree that the parking provision is unsuitable for this site”.
A qualified architect in her own right, Cllr Maureen Kelly Owen said “I am almost heartbroken by this application . I think it’s absolutely terrible architecturally. It’s totally unsympathetic to the Conservation Area .” She rejected the arguments of people who said anything is better than what’s there now. “Anything is NOT better than what’s there now”.
She called for a recorded vote so people could see which members supported the application – but was told recorded votes were not allowed in planning committee. Cllr Kelly Owen then moved refusal of the scheme.
Cllr Jonathan Bird ( Conservative) agreed with Cllr Kelly Owen . “It is a very special building in a very special place” . To Cllr Bird it looked like “two concrete carbuncles stuck on the edge of the existing building” and he would be opposing it. Cllr Bird also noted that the Vale Highways Department had required 16 parking spaces on the site – but the developers had only offered 11. “I just think it’s such a shame to ruin a beautiful old building” and called for something “more subtle” to enhance the Conservation Area.
Cllr Nick Hodges (Plaid Cymru) agreed on parking but said his main concern was that there were a number of conservation areas in the Vale and said “I honestly wonder if we are protecting them properly”. Referring to the earlier comments of planning chief Victoria Robinson he said she had said the design was “a nod to the conservation area”….Cllr Hodges said this was more of a “head-butt to the conservation area”
Cllr Hodges concluded by saying that the design looked like “something from the Adams family” and he would be voting against it.
Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines) rallied to the support of Vale Council planning chief Victoria Robinson – saying she thought the term Robinson had actually used was “a nod to the original building – rather than ‘a nod to the Conservation Area’ “.
Cllr Burnett pronounced that personally she was “torn – but I don’t want to walk around Penarth the rest of my life seeing similar levels of dereliction in some of our properties” .
Cllr Andrew Parker said the representation of the balconies on the drawings bore no resemblance to the high quality of ironwork of the originals which he described as “some of the best ironwork outside Cheltenham”. He said the plans indicated that a significant amount of the balconies would be removed – which would then destroy the character of the building itself. He wanted the committee to have more details in order to fully assess the project.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustine’s) said the original balconies would have been topped by a “zinc roof” and he would want to “see those canopies restored”. “Even amongst the fine buildings on Bridgeman Road this is an exceptionally fine building” . Trees which presently masked the building would be removed to create parking spaces – thus exposing the intricacies of the original building .
He said he desperately did not want Ashdene Manor to fall into disrepair as Normandy next door had done. He reminded the committee that there already was extant planning permission for a more sympathetic [David Preece designed] 7 apartment development of Ashdene Manor and therefore the 9-apartment scheme was not – as he put it “the only game in town” .
[It was later established that the earlier 7-apartment David Preece scheme had actually been approved – but no legal contract had been signed ]
Cllr Jeff James (Conservative Rhoose) said that sometimes – although he was not saying that in this case – owners purposely allowed properties to become derelict. “We should not be sucked into believing we’ve got to grant planning permission even if we don’t like it – just to protect the building” . The key point was whether the development would preserve or enhance the Conservation Area .
He said “It is important what we continue to seek to protect this building” . He thought the proposal as it stood would have a detrimental effect not only on the building but on the Conservation Area” . He thought the integrity of the building would be “severely undermined” by the proposed development . He would be voting against.
Cllr John Drysdale said it was an offence to him that the building had been allowed to deteriorate – but “this design will not improve the house – particularly the North elevation”.
Chief planner Victoria Robinson said “clearly there is a weight of opinion in the room that this is not quite as good as it should be for a building of this nature “ . She said she would be prepared to “try and seek an improvement on this proposal” .
Cllr Roberts said this was an eminently sensible proposal and proposed deferring the application for further officer consultation. This motion was passed and there will now be furthjer consultations between the planning officers and the developers with a view to improving the scheme.