Controversial plans to build flats on Ruperra Castle Estate approved
Controversial plans to build flats on the Ruperra Castle Estate have been approved by Caerphilly County Borough Council’s planning committee.
The stables and coach house at the Grade II* listed castle will be changed to seven apartments and stables. Additionally, repairs will be undertaken to the former dairy and laundry building, and the greenhouse will be converted into a bat roost.
But before the development can go ahead, the Welsh Government is set to review the decision.
All four planning applications submitted by Hyder Alkhafaji – who owns the “at risk” castle – were approved by the committee. This is despite the significant backlash the plans have attracted.
At the meeting Chair of the Valleys Bat Group, Ade Williams, spoke against the application. He argued that the plans should be rejected or deferred to ensure the protection of the Horseshoe Bats which reside on the site.
Planning officers confirmed that the existing bats would not be moved to the new bat roost. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) did not object to the application.
Machen and Rudry’s ward councillor Chris Morgan opposed the plans on behalf of Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust and “many constituents”.
The trust said it had concerns the plan would have an “irreparable” impact on the castle’s estate.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “It would be a travesty if work on less important buildings was allowed whilst Ruperra Castle remains a dangerous crumbling ruin.”
Owner and applicant Mr Alkhafaji said: “In my opinion they are a protest group and not capable of looking after historic buildings.”
He added that a “calculated developer would not have touched” Ruperra castle, due to its current state.
At the planning committee meeting, the owner said there would be a phase two application which would focus on restoring the “at risk” castle. No planning applications have been submitted for this.
Mr Alkhafaji said restoring listed buildings is not new to him and his wife Victoria, who is from Caerphilly.
He added: “We have always cooperated fully – when asked for more services we have provided, when asked to amend the scheme we have done so. The council officers are now entirely satisfied with the scheme.”
Mr Alkhafaji revealed that he has spent £200,000 on planning consultancy fees for the applications, which he originally submitted in 2019.
Plaid Cymru councillor James Fussell said: “I would like to think that the groups can be helpful to each other going forward and not antagonistic.”
The Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust has said it is “disappointed” by the committee’s decision to approve the plans.
What are the plans?
The accommodation includes a one-bedroom apartment, five two-bedroom apartments, and one three-bedroom apartment.
Additionally, 22 car parking spaces are proposed to be located on land in front of the Bothy – which is the former dairy and laundry building.
An entrance gate pillar is set to be dismantled and rebuilt to form a wider entrance.
The design and access statement, prepared by Graham Frecknall Architecture and Design, states: “The client’s vision for the proposals was to create desirable living spaces for people who want to live in a remote rural, but accessible, historic location.
“The residences will have a unique historic outlook to the castle and gardens.”
Welsh Government minister Julie James, who has responsibility for planning, will now decide whether the application should be called in for a decision by Welsh Government.
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