MSs debate petition for compulsory conservation of ancient monuments
By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter
Campaigners fighting to save Ruperra Castle in Caerphilly took their 10,000-name petition to the Senedd as MSs debated a call for compulsory conservation of ancient monuments.
Members from across the political divide thanked volunteers from the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust who have been campaigning for 25 years.
Jack Sargeant, who chairs the petitions committee, told the Senedd the grade II* listed building, near Draethen, Caerphilly – one of only a handful of its kind left in the UK – has fallen into ruin under private ownership.
The Labour MS explained the petitioners are calling for conservation management plans to be made mandatory for all at-risk scheduled monuments in Wales.
The petition argues compulsory plans – which would identify risks, opportunities and historical significance – would help prevent precious heritage from being lost.
Mr Sargeant said a letter from the Welsh Government argued doing so would be “disproportionate in scale and cost, and in many cases unachievable”.
Caerphilly MS Hefin David urged the owner of the castle, Mr Alkhafaji, to come back to the table to discuss its future.
He said: “The fight will go on with Ruperra Castle. The committee will not give up and we will continue to work with everyone involved, but preferably with the landowner to find a way to preserve this majestic monument.”
Calling for a structural survey “at the very least”, he thanked Dawn Bowden, the deputy minister who is responsible for heritage, for agreeing to meet campaigners in November.
He also called for a review of legislation enacted in 2016, which has since been consolidated under the Historic Environment Act 2023.
Plaid Cyrmru MS Delyth Jewell highlighted that all Cadw can do is encourage owners to protect monuments as she backed calls for compulsory plans and agreed the system needs urgent reform.
The South Wales East MS said: “If the government isn’t minded to take that action, I’d welcome hearing more about what should be done to prevent us from losing sites and buildings of such significance. Buildings are more than bricks; they bring our history to life.”
Her Conservative counterpart Natasha Asghar said she was incredibly disappointed by the deputy minister’s response to the petition.
She told the chamber: “If the deputy minister is still of the mind that conservation management plans aren’t necessary, and I hope she does rethink her stance, then perhaps she can look at Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust’s alternative suggestion of issuing a policy statement.”
Rhys ab Owen, who sits as an independent, said Cadw estimates about 600 scheduled monuments in Wales are at risk. He highlighted the history of Ruperra Castle, which was built in 1626 and hosted Charles I during the English civil war.
He said: “It’s such a pity this fantastic castle is being neglected, while only 20 minutes up the road, Tredegar House, another Morgan property, is looked after and being enjoyed by thousands every year.”
In response to the debate on Wednesday October 18, Dawn Bowden reiterated the Welsh Government’s position that compulsory plans for all at-risk monuments would be disproportionate and ineffective.
The deputy minister argued Wales has some of the strongest historical protection in the UK.
Ms Bowden said, even when in place, the plans are not formal legal documents: “They are not the only way to manage monuments and, of course, their effectiveness is dependent upon their implementation.”
Ms Bowden told MSs the owner of Ruperra Castle has informed Cadw he is working on a masterplan for all monuments in his care and he is in talks about a grant towards a structural assessment.
Last month, the Senedd held a similar debate on a petition about preserving Sycharth, the former home of Owain Glyndŵr.
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