A conference is being held in the Shandon Lecture theatre at Cardiff University on the 28th of this month (February) to raise money to help pay for a barrister to oppose plans to turn a Jacobean castle ruin in Caerphilly into up-market apartments surrounded by new homes.
A planning application for the development was submitted to Caerphilly County Borough Council in 2002. It was rejected and Barakat Ruperra, the company formed by current castle owner Ashraf Barakat to carry out the work, appealed.
The matter was even debated in the Welsh Assembly, when the Minister for Heritage, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, said in response to a question: “I am quite happy to have that discussion to see whether we can bring the castle back into the public sector.”
The Assembly feels the future of the castle, a Grade II* listed Scheduled Ancient Monument, is significant enough on a more than local scale to warrant taking over jurisdiction of the public enquiry being opened on 21 April and expected to last four days.
In spite of the Assembly’s concerns about Ruperra, neither Cadw, the Welsh heritage body, nor the county council are keen to take on the expense of taking it over. The building was severely damaged by fire on 7 December 1941, the same day that America was dramatically drawn into World War II by the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbour. The castle was being used to billet British troops when the fire started. Since then it has remained a ruin and conserving it would be expensive.
But there is a lot of opposition to turning the building, which is believed to be largely constructed of the local blue lias limestone, into appartments and the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust was formed in the autumn of last year by some of the directors of the Ruperra Conservation Trust (but separate from it) to fight the planning application.
They are sponsoring the conference on 28 February which they hope, with an attendance fee of £15 a head, will raise money towards the cost of the barrister they have engaged to put their case at the public enquiry.
The conference carries the title of ‘Grand Restorations’ and has the rescue of historic sites as its theme. Speakers are: Adrian Cook, talking about the restoration of Chiswick House Gardens; John Edwards, on Cardiff Castle restoration; John Thorneycroft, on the post-fire restoration of Windsor Castle; Professor John Gwynfor Jones on the Morgans of Tredegar.
The relevance of the final presentation is that Ruperra was for many years the home of Captain Godfrey Charles Morgan, of the Charge of the Light Brigade fame. He became Lord Tredegar and lived at Ruperra during its heyday as a great Victorian country estate.
The barrister representing the trust at the public enquiry has offered to charge only for her appearance at the inquiry and not for any work prior to it because she is keen to represent the Trust. She is a specialist in built heritage and environmental issues of planning. The Trust’s planning matters are being administered by Caroe & Partners, Conservation Architects in Cardiff.
For more information about the conference and the battle against the planning application for Ruperra Castle, visit the website below.