A decision on plans for the renovation and restoration of Insole Court will be made by councillors at a special meeting of Cardiff Council’s planning committee tomorrow, with proposals to return the Gothic Victorian mansion to its former glory set to be given the go-ahead.
The Insole Court Trust has applied for planning permission and listed building consent for a £5 million restoration project, which includes the repair and refurbishment of the mansion house, stable block, cottage, potting sheds and outbuildings, as well as the construction of a new community hall.
It also wants to repair the mansion’s summer house, remove dilapidated World War II garages, and build a new car park on the site of the mansion’s Acer Memorial Garden.
The Trust wants to renovate the house, which dates from 1856, with work including masonry repairs, new windows, re-roofing and a new lift.
There are also plans for a new horticultural training suite, a community hall with space for 80 people, new café, and workspaces for the creative industries and social enterprises.
Planning officers have recommended the plans for approval, subject to conditions, but the Trust is facing some local opposition, particularly to its proposal to build over the Acer Memorial Garden to create a 92-space car park.
YourCardiff reported last year that local residents launched a campaign to save the garden which contains more than 30 trees, including maples and Acers, and five memorial trees.
Councillors will be told tomorrow that around 60 letters and a petition containing 523 signatures have been submitted to the council opposing the proposed car park, with objectors arguing that the loss of trees and open space is unacceptable.
The War Memorials Trust has also said it is concerned with the removal and relocation of the memorial trees, as only a small number are to be relocated elsewhere in the grounds.
The War Memorials Trust said: “Furthermore, those trees being relocated are being placed in disjointed areas leading to a loss of the memorial garden which acts as a focus for commemoration. The relatively recent addition of the memorial garden does not lessen its importance.”
But planning officers say in their report that using the memorial garden as a car park would only result in the loss of 0.17 hectares of open space on the site, and that a new events/croquet lawn would be added to the front of the house which will “significantly improve” the setting of the mansion.
They conclude: “Whilst it has been acknowledged that the creation of a new car park will have a harmful impact, it is considered that this would be outweighed by the numerous positive improvements that would result.”
But The Insole Court Gardens Preservation Group, who plan to speak at tomorrow’s meeting, said they were “amazed” the plans had been recommended for approval.
Group spokeswoman Calan McGreevy said using the acer garden for the car park, rather than the events lawn at the front of the house, was “providing a croquet lawn for an elite few”.
She highlighted that the memorial garden has the rare distinction of being designated both a conservation area and a historic garden and park, and that many of those opposed to the car park plans doubted officers’ assertions that the proposals were in line with local planning policies to protect open spaces.
The planning committee will meet in the George Insole Room of Insole Court tomorrow afternoon at 2.30pm. You can view the plans in full here.