Despite the objections of the Ancient Monuments Society, the objections of the Victorian Society, and even the objections of the Vale of Glamorgan’s own Conservation Officer – the Vale Council’s planners are recommending the demolition of Penarth’s most spectacular mansion – “The Highlands”.
The Vale Council’s Conservation Officer has stated that “the building would seem to meet the criteria for inclusion as a locally listed ‘County Treasure’.” – but it appears he has been over-ruled by his own planning colleagues.
The Labour-controlled Vale Council seems certain this week to give the go-ahead to tear down The Highlands. The planning application to demolish The Highlands and develop a 9 new detached houses on the site will come before Vale of Glamorgan councillors in Planning Committee on Thursday this week .
However the official recommendation now given to councillors by the Vale Council’s Planning Department is likely to ensure the destruction of yet another of Penarth’s Victorian architectural treasures.
The Vale Planning Department argues that the building is “not statutorily listed” [ i.e. it doesn’t have legal protection – very probably because it’s been screened by trees (now felled) – and has been almost invisible until recent months ].
The heavily-criticised Welsh preservation body “Cadw “[ Welsh for “Keep“] was asked to consider the building for “spot listing”. It decided that “whilst there is some local significance and interest, this does not extend to national significance”. Cadw – which is totally controlled by the Welsh Labour Government – claims it “helps people understand and care about their place and history – and the place of Wales in the world.”
The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Planners also argue that The Highlands is not listed as a “County Treasure” –[ i.e. not on the list of architectural “treasures” in the Vale of Glamorgan – an arbitrary list which was drawn up many years ago] and point out that it the mansion does not “lie within a Conservation Area” .
Because of those factors, the planners say “there is no justification to refuse the application on the grounds of the loss of the existing building.”
In endorsing its own recommendation, the Vale Council’s Planning Department says that the “applicant [ Mr Simon Berni] has pointed out that the existing building is in a poor state of repair” – although the document goes on to admit “a structural survey has not been completed” . However the planners claim “an inspection shows that the property has fallen into disrepair. There were also signs of significant structural movement. Associated costs in respect of remedial repairs and refurbishment are likely to be considerable, and for some, prohibitive.”
The final decision will be made in the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee on Thursday March 30th .