Penarth Town Council’s planning committee last night considered – for the second time – the controversial plans to demolish Penarth’s most spectacular historic mansion “Highlands” on Cogan Hill.
The planning committee had already approved the destruction what councillors described as the “magnificent” and “fantastic” Penarth mansion back in November last year – so that the site could be developed for housing .
Last night however amended plans came before the council – plans which still involve totally flattening the classic arts-and-crafts style mansion, along with its coach house and outbuildings – but which will now cram-in even more dwellings on the site of the house and its grounds than were included in the original scheme.
The new scheme would involve the construction of 8 four-bedroom detached houses on the Highlands site plus “a terrace of 3 affordable units” – making a total of 11 dwellings rather than the 9 originally proposed for the site .
This inclusion of 3 so-called “affordable homes” in the scheme is allegedly an amendment which – councillors heard last night – might potentially avoid the requirement for the developer to make a Section 106 mitigation payment to the Vale of Glamorgan Council and would thus be more profitable .
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Cornerswell) made no bones about his total opposition to the scheme. He said “To me it is still a gross overdevelopment of the site. We are also destroying one of the finest buildings in Penarth. It is a beautiful building and I think it is a disgrace that we may be looking to knock this down” .
Cllr Wilson said “If anything, we should say to the owners that we would support them in trying to preserve this building and help it develop. He said he was also concerned about the lack of trees on the application. [ Several trees – which originally concealed the mansion – have been recently felled]. Cllr Wilson said the lack of trees and the overdevelopment were “sound grounds for rejecting this application”.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he totally agreed with Cllr Wilson saying “I think he’s hit the nail on the head” . Cllr Ernest said the photographs showed that the original mansion had been built long before the surrounding area had been developed. It had been built on the highest point overlooking Penarth Dock and Cardiff Bay and was a substantial building which could “quite easily” be repaired. There would be a cost to restore it – but that was true of many old buildings. He criticised the proposal to cram so many modern units in the grounds – whether they be “affordable or unaffordable” .
Cllr Ernest thought the coach house – due to be demolished along with the mansion – could be redeveloped . There might even be room for another one or two houses “liberally distributed within the grounds – but no more than that”. Cllr Ernest said he would be voting against the application.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said that the committee had approved the earlier application [for 9 houses] including the demolition of the mansion . “All they’re doing is building more intensively than they were before – so the only objection we can have is in regard to the amount of development in the area and what was already agreed”.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) said of the Highlands mansion “It is a lovely house. It is visible now because a number of trees have been taken down”.
Cllr Roberts said “I wasn’t at the meeting where we approved this. I fully endorse that you have to have good planning reasons to refuse and I now worry about our consistency. We have already agreed to the demolition of that house – and I find that very sad – but it’s already been done” [i.e. approved]. “What’s happened now is that three or four affordable dwellings are coming in there and one less detached house. Frankly we have a huge shortage of housing in Penarth – and as house prices strengthen people can’t get on the ladder. As a councillor I don’t want to say ‘build these 9 nice detached houses but you can’t have 8 – and 3 affordable ones’. That’s a different message to me” . He said he would be supporting the application.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) who is chairman of the planning committee and who had approved the original application to demolish Highlands – said there had been concerns regarding overcrowding with the original [9-house] development. Now 11 houses were being proposed for the same site which could result in further overcrowding. He agreed it was “sad” that Highlands would be demolished but in terms of planning law the house had “no protections” – it wasn’t graded, it wasn’t listed.
Cllr Turner said that from the point of view of consistency it would still be in order for the committee to say it had some concerns about the development .
Cllr Ernest said the reason that Highlands had not been listed previously was that when the Vale of Glamorgan “County Treasures” survey had been carried out – no one had really known the house was there. It had been – he said – “hidden away”. He would be opposing the motion.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts – who is invariably the councillor who controls the council debates by beingthe first to table motions – moved a motion expressing the council’s “general regret” at the loss Highlands but “in that this application only moves on to provide affordable housing in Penarth we support the application” .
The vote was 5 For and 3 Against.
Tonight the application comes up before the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee – where – as previously reported on PDN – the council’s planning officers have already recommended approval of the demolition of Highlands.