Ruperra Castle

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Rest of the Public Inquiry April 22 - 24 2009

Here is an article about the Inquiry published on Tuesday 22 April in the South Wales Echo.
To continue the week’s progress, (RCPT) Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust’s evidence and questioning took the whole of Wednesday, mostly due to the Appellant’s barrister’s insistence on wasting everybody’s time by quibbling, for example over the credentials of the expert witnesses, a process very insulting to professionals giving their opinions based on their research and knowledge The Inspector had constantly to request him to keep to the point.

Thursday saw the last of RCPT’s evidence and questioning and Cadw and the Ancient Monuments Society followed. RCPT’s Quantity Surveyor made a heroic effort to attend on Friday morning having been quite seriously ill earlier in the week. Again his expertise was questioned but he rose superbly to the occasion, causing the barrister for Caerphilly County Council to say in his closing submissions later that he would much prefer to trust the Q S’s financial calculations than those of the Appellant’s financial adviser.

The rest of Friday morning was taken up with sending for the Appellant’s solicitor to attend to verify that the Appellant’s Company which had signed the agreement with the County Council for the Section 106 Conditions, did in fact still exist. The Inspector then proceeded as quickly as possible through the Conditions.

Then an application for costs was put in by the Appellant’s barrister claiming that his client had been led to believe that both the Local Authority and Cadw had been in favour of the housing proposals which had been turned down by the Planning Councillors through the lobbying of a small group. Again the Council’s barrister replied that the reasons for refusal had been on planning grounds in accordance with the County Council’s Unitary Development Policy and that this was how democracy worked. Members of RCPT will surely be glad to hear that the Council’s barrister also said the ‘small lobbying group’ was not simply a local pressure group but a well established Charitable Trust who had gained the support of five national experts to appear for them.

He also said that the Appellant’s agent could have put together the same expert team as RCPT had, to prove their case. The agent had not required the attendance of the Appellant’s architect, structural engineer or financial adviser to give evidence. He said that it 'beggared belief that the Appellant could now put in such a claim for costs.’

Although the Appellant’s barrister had typed up and photocopied his request for costs from the County Council in good time, he had not, unlike all the other barristers and advocates prepared his final statement in time for the last session and had to give the Inspector a handwritten copy. And throughout the week while complaining that he had not received various documents from other participants, did not in fact provide at the right time, several that the Inspector had particularly asked for.

The whole week was extremely interesting and indeed entertaining most of the time. RCPT were really pleased to see so many supporters. Many said that they had attended each day because it was so exciting and although not really intending to at first they had become so enthralled that they didn’t want to miss anything! RCPT’s barrister was superb and seemed to enjoy the week as much as everyone else!

The Inspector will be sending his report to the Minister in seven weeks' time. Then we will have to wait until she has made her decision. We hope to send out a more detailed account of the proceedings to the members of RCPT in due course.

The barristers/advocates of all the opposing Status 6 (6) groups in the Inquiry requested that the Inspector should reject the appeal and were united in their reasons, which we all surely know by now, but here is a list.

Harm to the historic setting and countryside
Harm to the setting of the listed glasshouse and historic gardens
Lack of detailed surveys in the application particularly archaeological
Introduction of inappropriate features on the site – tarmacked roads, urbanised gardens, street lighting, general fragmentation of the site.
No details of the design of the houses.
No programme for immediate remedial work particularly to the Castle.
The owner hadn’t looked at any other options except enabling development.

To finish, some memorable quotes –
The Appellant’s agent describing the proposed houses one each side of the listed grade II glasshouse to be like bookends supporting it.

The same agent describing the new ponds to the south of the Castle which will harm important archaeology as ‘two dimensional’ and therefore of no threat.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ruperra castle Public Inquiry Timetable

The first day of the Inquiry.

The Inspector stated that the main issue was whether development is justified under the English Heritage Enabling Development Document.

The barristers for each group gave a short submission and then Tim Stephens, Development Control Manager of Caerphilly County Borough Planning Division give his Proof of Evidence after which he was questioned by Mr Richards the barrister for the Appellant.The Inspector also asked some questions and Mr Stephenson the Local Authority barrister summed up.

Next Owen Banks, the expert witness for the Appellant read out his submission and was questioned by the Local Authority barrister, then by Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust's barrister, Caroline Allen, then by Rick Turner, Cadw Inspector of Ancient Monuments. Mr Richards then summed up for the appellant.

The session finished quite late, at 6 pm and the Inspector decided to start the next day's proceedings at 9.30 am.

Wednesday 22 April will be for Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust which has 6 expert witnesses and will probably last all day.

Thursday 23 April Cadw and the Ancient Monuments Society/Welsh Historic Gardens Trust will give their evidence and be qusetioned.

Friday 24 April The summing up and site visit by the Inspector.

There will be a further report later in the week.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Getting to the Public Inquiry Tuesday 10 am 21 April

Here is a map taken from 'Multi Map'. There is a circle round the Council Offices. There is a train Station - Ystrad Mynach which is fairly near Tredomen. It is on the Rhymney Valley line from Cardiff Queen Street. Buses run from Newport to Ystrad Mynach. If you are not coming by car you will need to find out travelling times and whether you will have to change at any point. If you are coming by car and have SAT NAV, the post code is CF82 7BF. Good luck and hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Getting ready for the Public Inquiry April 21-24 2009

As you may already know, Caerphilly County Borough Councillors rejected housing proposals for Ruperra Castle in December 2007. The owner of the Castle appealed against the decision to the Welsh Assembly Government in June 2008 and a Public Inquiry will be held starting on Tuesday April 21st 2009 at 10 am and possibly will last for four or five days.

Because Ruperra is a very important site, not just for us locally but for the whole of Wales and the UK, this will be a very interesting Inquiry with many experts from England and Wales giving evidence.

Five groups will be giving evidence. 1) the Appellant, Ashraf Barakat owner of the Castle,represented by Owen Banks, Planner of Llanelli, 2) Caerphilly County Borough Council whose barrister is Geoffrey Stephenson of 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, 3)Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments, 4)the National Ammenity Societies, whose advocate is Frank Kelsall of the Ancient Monuments Society and 5)Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust, whose barrister is Caroline Allen of 39 Essex Street Chambers

Please show the Inspector that you care about your landscape and built heritage by attending if you can. It will be held at Ty Penallta, Caerphilly County Council Offices, Ystrad Mynach. On the first day the Inspector will announce a time table of which group or groups will be speaking on each day. It will be posted here with details of phone numbers to call if you want to know more. We are sorry but we won't have the details before the 21st

A map of directions to Ty Penallta at the Caerphilly Council Offices site at Tredoman will be posted here next week. For SAT NAV users the post code is CF82 7FN

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