Ruperra Castle

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ruperra Castle.

Ruperra Castle : Synopsis

Key points
a unique Jacobean castellated manor house in south-east Wales
Grade II * Listed Building
Scheduled Ancient Monument
stands in 160 acres of historic parkland
overgrown with vegetation and deteriorating for over 50 years
until now, July 2006, a planning impasse since 2002

heritage: a potential Hampton Court Palace of south Wales
tourism: attraction which could be linked to other sites in south-east Wales
centre: venue for conferences, social events, fairs
media: film set
education: a valuable resource
employment: jobs created during refurbishment and afterwards
economic spin-offs: stimulate the development of associated businesses

Key events
Completed by Sir Thomas Morgan, steward to the Earl of Pembroke
Destroyed by fire
Destroyed by fire
The officers of Rhymney Valley District Council recommend that the Secretary of State for Wales takes the castle into care.
Ruperra Conservation Trust formed
Castle sold to Ashraf Barakat
Mr Barakat submits planning application to Caerphilly County Borough Council Planning Division. Much more information requested.
November: Caerphilly Planning Division gives Mr Barakat 3 months to finalise application for turning castle into 9 flats, refurbish other buildings on the site, and building 15 new houses
February: No application was submitted to the Planning Division

April: Considerable further deterioration is evident
Fallen masonry apparently removed from site

July: ‘Amended’ planning layout submitted together with a full planning application. Listed Building Consent will be applied for after planning consent is granted. Planning Division asks for comments by the middle of August although they can be accepted up to the day of the application coming before the planning committee.

Ruperra Castle

Photograph taken on behalf of the Building Conservation Directory by Richard Kenward ABIPP

The Current Situation.

The Current Situation

· Ruperra Castle, outbuildings and 17 acres of land around it were bought by a developer in 1998 while Ruperra Conservation Trust, formed in 1996, was fundraising for purchase and restoration. Emergency work was desperately needed, one tower having already fallen.

· For eight years no remedial steps have been taken by the current owner. The stable block accidentally burnt in 1998 is not repaired even though it housed a breeding colony of lesser horseshoe bats - a species protected by British and European law. It was said that a tree falling on to the generator house has caused damage to a maternity roost of greater horseshoe bats - only the fifth known in Wales. A hibernaculum of greater horseshoes bats has been found in the castle itself.

Ruperra was designated a conservation area in 1998 but trees have continued to be felled without the necessary notification.

New drainage channels have damaged archaeological remains in the grounds. No enforcement or remedial action has been commenced by the Local Authority.

In March 2000 Ruperra Conservation Trust, now owner of the 150 acre Coed Craig Ruperra, made enquiries of Caerphilly County Borough Council regarding compulsory purchase of the deteriorating castle. In July 2002 the owner submitted a planning application to the planning authority which being accepted as valid, prevented further CPO progress being made.

Cadw’s objections to the planning application highlighted the owner’s disregard for its recommendations worked out in consultations over a period of time. The intrusive design and layout of the enabling development, and the disrespect for the historic gardens and landscape setting were emphasised. ‘The beneficial effects of the conservation and re-use of the monument and associated buildings do not offset the extensive and obtrusive development proposed.’

Ruperra Conservation Trust’s objections to the planning application of 2002 note the lack of a structural report on the castle, a nature conservation report, design details for the listed building, an environmental impact assessment or a conservation design plan. The owner was been given more time to produce these. Up until June 2006, only a nature conservation plan had been commissioned. Deadlines have been given but not met.

Not For Sale. The site was put on the market in May 2005 but quickly withdrawn. The owner has said he will ‘never sell’. Meanwhile the Castle is deteriorating: no one lives on site to protect it. In June 2006 a full application was submitted, called the 'amended' application since there were some changes to the application of 2002.

The Gardens - as they appeared in 1930

The Significance of Ruperra Castle

The Significance of Ruperra Castle as described by

The Royal Commission On Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales 1981
TO THE QUEEN’S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY. We humbly recommend to Your Majesty’s notice the following monuments as most worthy of preservation….and the following houses now in a state of ruin. Number 29 Ruperra Castle

Cadw : Welsh Historic Monuments
‘The historic environment of the castle associated buildings and park are of exceptional importance. The castle is a scheduled Ancient Monument and as such is of national importance.

Cadw/ICOMOS Register of gardens and Parklands of Special Historical Interest in Wales.
‘The survival of an unusual early Jacobean mock castle of exceptional historical importance with its attendant deer park and structural remains of contemporary formal gardens.’

Ancient Monuments Society
‘Most castles are well cared for but not this one….which is sliding further into dereliction. The Casework Committee was very concerned by a scheme of enabling development.’
‘Ruperra is a test of the Welsh system for the protection of the country’s greatest buildings. If Ruperra is lost or degraded then that test will have been fluffed.’

The Georgian Group comments on the 2002 application.
‘…the setting of Ruperra castle would be significantly damaged by both the number and the location of the proposed new dwellings. It is also clear that the registered landscape would suffer significant harm.’

‘Ruperra castle is a building of national importance to Wales and the whole site deserves care and protection of which the country can be proud.’

Sue Essex AM at a conference held by the National Trust and Cadw in July 2002 : ‘The Historic Environment 0f Wales – an Asset for the Future.
‘This conference offers an important opportunity to recognise and quantify the economic benefits of the historic environment. It is also essential that its relevance to people and its contribution to environmental and community regeneration is appreciated. However we must never forget that the resource is a valuable but fragile asset which must be protected and sustained. ‘

Dr Giles Worsley- Perspectives on Architecture.
‘Ruperra was one of the great Renaissance houses of South Wales. It’s destruction by fire in 1941 was a national tragedy, the neglect of the house and the park that surrounds it a national disgrace.’

Mark Girouard – architectural historian.
‘Anything that Cadw can do to protect the site would be of inestimable value. One does think of Ruperra‘s sister building, Lulworth Castle which has been so lovingly and skilfully restored by English Heritage.’

Professor Malcolm Airs : author of the Tudor and Jacobean Country House January 2003
'It is the most significant building at risk of its period in the whole of the UK and its continued neglect is an indictment of the effectiveness of the system for protecting buildings of outstanding architectural and historic interest.'

Further Details of Planning Application.

There has been a great deal of new information submitted. In 2002 there was no structural report, no financial appraisal, no environmental appraisal and no conservation design appraisal. The applicant has not yet asked for Listed Building Consent from Cadw. At present he is applying for planning consent only from the County Council and when that is received he will then apply for Listed Building Consent. We feel that this is not a satisfactory situation for a monument as historically important as Ruperra but it seems that the procedure is becoming more commonplace.

There is a growing feeling that developers are being given a charter for destroying the open countryside. All over England and Wales our last remaining historic houses are being bought up, planning consent for a minimum amount of houses being granted, the sites being sold on at vast profit to much wealthier developers who then proceed with their legal and planning backing, to turn a delightful rural scene into an urbanised executive ghetto, covering the site with more houses and protecting it all with electronic gates to keep out the general public.

Alternative Plan July 06 by Ruperra Conservation Trust.

Readers are directed to the restoration of Lulworth Castle by English Heritage over a twenty year period

1. Immediate and urgent
1.1 Castle - grants from HLF and Cadw and others. (Three separate structural surveys are completed and available)
· Scaffolding with a sheet roof
· Tie in walls, secure standing towers and remains of fallen one.
· Begin archaeological clearance and survey of the inside and basement of the castle.
1. 2. Out buildings
· Old workshops including smithy and kitchen greenhouses repaired and converted into education blocks for immediate use in conjunction with conservation work in Coed Ruperra which the Trust owns. Grants from relevant funders.
· Stable Block - convert into holiday lets either Bed and Breakfast or Self Catering. Grants from Tourist Board. Upgrade services. Stables on west side kept as hunting museum. Large ground floor room on east side converted into kitchens.(as during the war)
· Bothy Repaired and used as management offices with live in accommodation for caretaker to protect the site.
· Car parking – outside each block as needed during this time
1.3. Road Access
· For immediate work on site, heavy vehicles already use the drive at the back of the Castle. After this there would be negotiation with the County Council Highways Department bearing in mind that Ruperra Conservation Trust already owns the woodland which has access off the Draethen – Michaelstone Road.
2 To start within two years.
2.1 Castle
· Rebuild fallen tower, restore Banqueting Hall for receptions and other hiring purposes and connect to a usable kitchen – basement perhaps.
· Make basement suitable for car parking but separate from proposed kitchen area
2.2 Outbuildings
· Generator Block a designated bat house repaired with grant aid from the Vincent Trust.
2.3 Historic garden
· Listed glasshouses. Free survey on offer. Grants from Cadw and HLF to begin restoration. Employment opportunity and visitors pay to watch work in progress.
2.4 Enabling development
· South west of Castle are footings of kennels. Convert into eco residences either for sale or for holiday lets. New build of similar eco housing attached to a new wall around the southern edge of the parkland.
· Sewage works – Victorian, in good condition – reuse as septic tanks.

3 Future ongoing work possibly extended over twenty years to spread the cost.
3.1 Castle
· Ground Floor rooms - exhibition galleries, memorial museum for Welsh soldiers of WWII, (lacking in South Wales) conference and private events, visitor centre in one tower with access to the view at the top.
· Restore the cantilevered staircase as a visitor attraction and for access to one or two restored first floor rooms also with access from visitor tower.
3.2 The Grounds
· Gardens - restore as historical features – 17th terraces, to 20th Edwardian gardens Tourism and organic production. All aspects of historic gardens as a paying visitor attraction
· East of gardens, a wild flower meadow and tourist trail continuing from Coed Ruperra through gardens via the little summerhouse in the corner of the grounds.
· West of castle replant parts of the avenue of oaks, create sculpture park, restore deer sheds, tourist trail.

Contact your planning officer.

Please make your views known ! Write as soon as possible to

The Chief Planning Officer
Caerphilly County Borough Council,
NP12 2YW

For more information telephone 02920 885840

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