Welsh Government decide not to call-in Ruperra planning applications despite a recent biodiversity commitment
Ruperra Castle Preservation Trustees were hugely disappointed that Julie James, Climate Change Minister, has decided not to call-in the Ruperra planning proposals for determination by the Welsh Government. This is despite concern for the future of protected species living on the site, including rare Greater Horseshoe bats whose maternity colony is in Ruperra’s Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This is also in spite of the Minister’s recent written statement issued in December 2022 to all local authorities in Wales committing Welsh Government to strengthen protection for all SSSIs in Wales.
Caerphilly County Borough Council can now go ahead and issue the decision by the Planning Committee on 28 September 2022 which was supportive of the proposals for conversion of outbuildings next to Ruperra Castle into a residential community with no plans for Ruperra Castle, a building of huge historical importance and at risk. We believe the proposals will impact irreparably on the setting of the scheduled monument and Grade 2* Listed Castle, and its Grade 2 Registered Garden and parkland, and damage, rather than enhance the precious biodiversity of the area.
We are saddened that it is so difficult to protect heritage assets in Wales like Ruperra Castle, the Coal Exchange and many others despite the good intentions set out in Wales’ ground-breaking Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and in the Senedd’s founding principle of sustainability. Welsh people deserve these fine words to be followed by Government action, including better protection of our historic environment. Built in Caerphilly in 1626, Ruperra Castle is significant in Welsh history, and one of only a handful of pageant castles (built for show, not defence) left in the UK. It would be a tragedy if, without necessary repair work, it deteriorates further and is lost forever…
Many eminent historians and archaeologists agree that intervention is long overdue. They include Adam Nicholson, who in his book “The Earls of Paradise” mentions the woeful state of Ruperra Castle, this “great Jacobean house… burnt out and in collapse….” built by Sir Thomas Morgan, steward to the 3rd Earl of Pembroke.
We are petitioning the Senedd to press Welsh Government to require preparation of a conservation management plan for all scheduled monuments at risk, including Ruperra Castle. If you haven’t yet had chance to sign or share the petition, please do so:
Senedd petition: Make conservation management plans compulsory for scheduled monuments at risk such as Ruperra Castle
Built in Caerphilly, 1626, Ruperra Castle is significant in Welsh history, one of only a handful of Pageant Castles left in the UK. It was home to the Morgan family and played host to Charles I, and the military in WWII. In 1941 it was gutted by fire and it is still a ruin at risk. A scheduled monument and Grade II* listed building, yet it has deteriorated through private ownership. One of the towers has fallen and without considered intervention it will deteriorate further and soon be lost…
Scheduled monuments are protected to preserve archaeology and buildings so that future generations can learn from our past. Many monuments are stable, others need managing to slow or avoid the effects of natural deterioration. Cadw’s website suggests owners may find it useful to draw up a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) to guide their decisions, but it’s not a requirement.
Welsh Government should make CMPs compulsory for scheduled monuments at risk, to avoid neglect and subsequent loss. This includes identifying significance, risks, and opportunities to conserve and improve the monument, so as not to damage what is special and guarantee we pass on what is valued to future generations.
This will ensure monuments at risk like Ruperra Castle aren’t neglected for another 80 years. It will also help alleviate worry about losing significant parts of our precious heritage and aid our wellbeing. The community has been trying to save it for 25 years
Sign this petition
On 20 December 2022, Julie James, Minister for Climate Change, wrote to all local authorities in Wales to give notice of proposed planning policy changes to strengthen protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This could be good news for the biodiversity of Ruperra, its SSSI and the protected species living there such as bats, which play an important role as pollinators. These are currently at risk of potential harm by the proposed developments to convert outbuildings next to Ruperra Castle into a private residential community.
Earlier in December Julie James attended the United Nations COP15 Biodiversity Summit where leaders agreed a new ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework to put the world on a path to restoring nature by the end of the decade. In attending COP15, Julie added Wales’ voice by pressing for urgent transformative action across the whole of society. She emphasised the key role that subnational governments, cities and local authorities play in protecting and enhancing biodiversity and in delivering actions across planning, implementation, and monitoring.
The letter from Julie James highlighted the essential role that the planning system must play in meeting the challenges and gave notice of proposed changes to planning policy in relation to net benefit for biodiversity and the protection afforded to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and trees and woodlands. We are pleased to hear that a consultation exercise will take place on amendments to policy early in the New Year. Read the letter from Julie James which makes a commitment to step up and ensure delivery to realise ambitions.
The Ruperra Castle and woodlands SSSI is a nationally and internationally important roost site for the Greater horseshoe bat in Wales. One of the outbuildings provides a maternity roost with other buildings providing hibernation sites during the winter. Bats are very sensitive to light pollution and disturbance - excessive regular disturbance could mean the loss of the location as a suitable roost.
Greater horseshoe bats are a protected species and have always been scarce in the UK. Their British numbers declined significantly in the last two centuries and they were in danger of extinction. Numbers of Greater horseshoe bats have increased in recent years - this may be due in part to a series of warmer winters, and also due to increased protection of the few known breeding roosts.
Despite concern for the future of protected species living on the site, on 28 September 2022 the Caerphilly Council Planning Committee voted to approve all four applications subject to a long list of conditions. However, there are currently ‘holding directions’ on these applications while the Welsh Government decide whether to call them in for their own determination. Holding directions are issued infrequently and indicate that the proposed development is likely to raise planning issues of more than local importance. We hope this commitment to strengthen protection for SSSIs is demonstrated by the Minister taking a decision to call in the Ruperra applications.
Search for Sites of Special Scientific Interest on the Natural Resources Wales website where you can access more detailed information about each site.
We are delighted that you can now view the Ruperra walking map in two of Natural Resources Wales carparks:
Huge thanks to Natural Resources Wales who helped to make this possible alongside funding from the local community.
You can’t visit Ruperra Castle as it is privately owned and a dangerous ruin but there are public footpaths which allow good views of the Castle. The closest car park is the Woodland car park at Coed Craig Ruperra which is a 30 minute walk. Download walking maps and find out more about visiting the area
Improving walking routes around Ruperra Castle
We are often told that people are unsure which paths are rights of way and get lost trying to find the Castle. We want to improve sustainable access so that everyone can enjoy our heritage and countryside, which can have a positive impact on wellbeing.
We have raised over £1,200 of our £4,000 target and have already:
• produced a new map of the area showing sustainable access routes on public rights of way
• shared the map with the community, making it available to download from our website and by giving away 5,000 new map leaflets for those who need a physical map to follow and keep
• put up map signage in local carparks.
Our next steps are to:
• create an information panel about the Castle at a good viewing point
• introduce Ruperra Castle waymarkers on some walking routes.
Donate to our campaign
Despite objections, we were disappointed that Caerphilly Council’s planners recommended approval of plans for Ruperra which - as well as the heritage and nature conservation issues - ignored the public right of way that we have been waiting patiently to be re-opened. We still await Welsh Government’s decision on whether to call in one or more of the applications for its own determination.
Public right of way LLanfedw FP1 goes through the Castle grounds between the locked gates at the North to the South of the site (purple line on image on the left). This path forms part of the Rhymney River Circular walk, which is enjoyed by many. To continue the walk, walkers must currently take a path outside the west wall of the Castle grounds which is very steep and uneven at one end, with the other end being very muddy in the winter.
Welsh Government planning guidance for local authorities states the need for adequate consideration of the rights of way before the decision on a planning application is taken; and the need, once planning permission has been granted, for the right of way to be kept open and unobstructed unless the statutory procedures authorising closure or diversion have been completed.
LLanfedw FP1 wasn’t indicated on any of the proposed site plans (latest site plan - image on the right). Despite objections being made to this there was not adequate consideration given to it so that walkers can navigate it safely. The gates approved are not permitted on a public right of way. They would act as a physical and psychological deterrent to walkers.
There are currently ‘holding directions’ on these applications while the Welsh Government decide whether to call them in for their own determination. Holding directions are issued infrequently and indicate that the proposed development is likely to raise planning issues of more than local importance.
We believe there are very good grounds to call in the applications for a national decision as they:
Find out more about Rhymney River Circular walk and visiting the area
Purchase your Christmas cards from the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust and give a little to our charity at the same time.
Our beautiful Ruperra Castle: stag in the snow cards were designed by Jan Teagle. Did you know the first Sir Thomas Morgan enlarged the 16th century deer park at Ruperra and there were still deer on the park at the beginning of the 20th century?
Cards are A6 and come with envelopes. They are blank inside for your own message so could also be used as note cards. If you live locally, we will deliver for free, or we will confirm postage costs if you live a bit further away.
Any profits raised will support the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust, a registered charity whose aim is to save Ruperra Castle and surrounding buildings and gardens by campaigning to secure them to use for community benefit, and to ensure a better future for our precious local heritage.
Find the order form for cards and books at the bottom of this page
Or email email@example.com with your address and postcode.
Ruperra Castle books
We have a range of books that will make wonderful Christmas presents which we are also happy to deliver locally for free:
You can buy all four books for £15 tied together with Christmas ribbon. Find out more about our books
Find the order form for cards and books at the bottom of this page
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your address and postcode.
We are offering a free copy of Pat Jones-Jenkins' book, Serving under Ruperra, for any new members that join before the end of 2022.
Serving under Ruperra,1900 - 1939: A collection of memories, is an illustrated account taken from recorded testimonies of people who worked on the Ruperra Estate in the 19th and 20th centuries up to 1939. Ruperra provided employment for locals and specialist roles from further afield.
The Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust membership community is open to everyone. It is an easy and inexpensive way for you to support the work of the Trust and help us save Ruperra Castle and surrounding buildings and gardens by campaigning to secure them to use for community benefit. By becoming a member, you can play your part in trying to ensure a better future for our precious local heritage.
£10 annual membership (£5 concessions, £15 family): find out the benefits of membership and register before the end of 2022 to receive a free book
£6: Just buy the book and learn more about local history
Did you know that Caerphilly has another Castle that is steeped in history, and very different from Caerphilly Castle?
Ruperra Castle is a Grade 2* Listed Building and Scheduled Ancient Monument - one of very few "pageant" Castles in the UK ie built for show not defence - a stylish renaissance home built in 1626 by Sir Thomas Morgan and his wife.
The Castle has a colourful history; it has played host to Charles 1 and to the military in WWII, been a family home and hunting lodge, and provided employment for local families over generations. The derelict gardens still retain echoes of the past including the remains of a magnificent MacKenzie and Moncur glass house, one of the largest and finest in Wales.
The Castle was gutted by fire in 1941 and now stands as a romantic ruin and a building at risk of collapse. The unique surrounding Listed Buildings include Stables, Bothy and Generator House, which is home to a rare Greater Horseshoe bat maternity colony. The Castle is located not far from the village of Draethen, and although it is not open to the public there are a number of viewpoints from public footpaths.
Join the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust on 8 November at 17:00 at Coffi Vista, The Twyn, Caerphilly CF83 1JL to hear a talk from one of their Trustees, Dr Elaine Davey, about its history and significance. You can also view a new embroidered artwork of a reborn Castle and gardens by artist Haf Weighton, who involved the local community in creating it. Haf will be attending the event and will say a few words about the artwork which will be on display in Coffi Vista throughout the winter.
The event is free but booking is essential - refreshments can be purchased in Coffi Vista.
Book free tickets for this event
Caerphilly County Borough Council Planning Committee has approved proposals for conversion of outbuildings next to Ruperra Castle into a residential community.
Caerphilly Planners had recommended all four applications be approved subject to a long list of conditions. Despite concern for the future of protected species living on the site, including bats, the Planning Committee voted to approve them on 28 September. Unless Julie James MS, Planning Minister in Welsh Government, decides to call in the applications decision letters approving the applications will be issued by the Council.
It has been three years since the current owners applied to convert two of the outbuildings and change their use to a private residential development with no proposals for the preservation of Ruperra Castle.
A Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust (RCPT) spokesperson said, “We are disappointed that Caerphilly’s Planning Committee has resolved to approve these plans as they will impact irreparably on the setting of the Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade 2* Listed Castle, and Grade 2 Registered garden and parkland, and do nothing to enhance the biodiversity of the area. A recent Ambio report showed Britain is bottom of the 14 nations for biodiversity, having lost more wildlife than any other G7 country, and been shown to be one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet. Welsh Government Ministers are now looking at the proposals to decide if the matters raised by them are of national importance and if so, to call in the applications for their own determination.”
Caerphilly Planning Committee will consider proposals for conversion of outbuildings at Ruperra next week
Caerphilly Planners have recommended that controversial planning applications to turn outbuildings next to Ruperra Castle into a residential community be approved at a Planning Committee meeting next Wednesday.
It has been three years since the current owners applied to convert outbuildings and change their use to a private residential development with no proposals for the preservation of Ruperra Castle.
Ruperra Castle is a grade of the Grade 2* Listed Castle and Registered gardens and parkland, currently a ruin at risk of collapse, which has played a big part in the history of South East Wales.
Planners have recommended all four applications be approved subject to a long list of detailed conditions requiring prior approval. The decision will be taken by Caerphilly Councillors at a Planning Committee meeting on 28 September at 17:00.
Read the reports and watch the meeting live
The Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust want to ensure a better future for Ruperra Castle, and the precious listed surrounding buildings and gardens, and are campaigning to secure them to use for community benefit. The Trust believes a structural survey and repair schedule for the Castle and a holistic estate masterplan are needed before any decisions are taken on separate parts of the site.
They object to the current applications submitted in 2019 as:
A Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust spokesperson said “Thank you to the 85 organisations and individuals who objected. We know the community will be disappointed in these recommendations as the proposals would not generate the scale of resources needed to preserve the Castle and do not enhance the biodiversity of the area. The applications are premature in the absence of a comprehensive plan for the whole site. This proposed development conflicts with overarching Caerphilly Local Development Plan policies, comprising inappropriate development within open countryside and in a Special Landscape Area. With up to 36 people living in these apartments it would result in urbanisation of an otherwise rural setting. However, we are full of hope that the Planning Committee will make the right decision and refuse these plans on 28 September, giving the opportunity for a different future for this unique site and our heritage.”