It was feared a few months ago that Newport’s Mansion House would be sold off to speculators. Most recent developments in the area are flats. That is a likely outcome for this large site. A loved Newport building could be lost forever by the decision of a ‘ here today, where tomorrow?’ Tory Council.
Their LibDems coalition partners have shown some appreciation for the great Newport buildings in the past. Will they really go along with this penny-pinching decision? The ‘savings’ will be minimal when they are spread out over the city’s council taxpayers. The loss of the Mansion House would be permanent and deprive future generation of a fine part of our history. It’s at the heart of our pride in being Newportonians. No other place in Wales can boast of such a splendid advantage.
At my request a Historic Building Inspector from Cadw has now visited the property and a full internal and external assessment undertaken.
He reports: - “In the case of property originating after about 1840 – and thus relevant to this building – they provide that only buildings of definite quality and character can be listed. The Mansion House is a large late nineteenth century suburban villa which has been in local authority ownership since 1939 and which was extended around this period to provide additional accommodation associated with its new use. This later flat-roofed extension combined with elements of its original design combine, in Cadw’s view, to cause an imbalance with the composition of the house. Internally, the property is well preserved, retaining some good individual features such as the stained glass windows, but overall the Mansion House does not, in Cadw’s view, stand comparison with other buildings of its period and type in the immediate area and beyond. Cadw’s view therefore is that the listing criteria are not met in the case of the Mansion House and accordingly there are no grounds for listing.
An unlisted building situated in a designated conservation area, such as the Mansion House, cannot be demolished without conservation area consent from the local authority or in the case of local authority owned property, the Welsh Assembly Government. Where a local authority is concerned to protect an unlisted building from unsympathetic alteration it can restrict the right of owners to carry out certain categories of permitted development works by making an Article 4 Direction under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. A Direction would require an application for planning permission to undertake works, which would otherwise enjoy permitted development rights. Newport City Council would be able to confirm whether the Mansion House is subject to an existing Direction or, if not, whether it has plans to introduce one.”
It will be one where we all use our laptops and absent MPs can appear as holograms. There has been some progress and we can now receive – but not send – messages on our blackberries.
Bills are now amended by clerks cutting out bits with scissors and paste them on paper. There could be edited on a screen visible to all. It will take a while to drag this conservative institution out of the nineteenth century.