Council reconsider commercial development after local campaign response

Community Collaboration: Campaigners from Green City Events meet with supportive Cardiff Council members at the disputed site in Splott. Source: Green City Events.

By Sion Ford

A former public park in Splott, which had been used by contractors as a base of operations for the Splott Road bridge works, has been at the epicentre of a four year campaign by environmental organisation Green City Events. They wanted to see the land given to the local community.

The bridge works have recently been completed and the land, located on Railway Street, has returned to a state of disuse. Despite the extensive efforts of Green City Events to secure the land for the local community, the Council had consistently communicated their intention to sell.

Citing the ‘development/commercial potential associated with the site’ in a statement to Green City Events, Cardiff Council communicated their decision that the land: “is not to be made available for community use”.

This decision is considered devastating as this is one of Cardiff’s most deprived areas, especially as it is following the closure of the Communities First Resource Centre earlier this year after the initiative had its funding stopped.

Green City Events had been working towards using the land to create a multi-use community hub, and had carried out extensive community consultations.

Their plans for the site included a community green space, to be used for both communal gardening projects and educational purposes; an environmentally sustainable area for local enterprises and small businesses; a community resource centre, offering educational activities and classes; and a space for community-led projects.

Both Splott and Adamsdown have been ranked as two of Cardiff’s most deprived areas in the Welsh Government’s 2014 Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation report, with both areas returning low scores for open spaces and physical environment.

Given the past decision to develop the Howard Gardens area in Adamsdown into commercial student accommodation, some believe that this announcement indicates that the Council continue to favour commercial interests over community concerns.

Green City Events claim that with their work they put forward a “thorough proposal, complete with impact assessments and financial forecasts” which underline their vision’s sustainability and viability.

The project on the bridge works in Splott would be funded by a proposed combined pot of grant funding and private investment, with a view to becoming self-sustaining through the resources it can offer.

There have been a number of community consultations on this by Green City Events, and the project has had the backing of Network Rail, local organisations, councillors and local residents.

In response to the Council’s persistence in selling the land, an online petition to reverse this decision had been launched by Green City Events and gathered over 2,000 signatures in the space of three days.

Rebecca Clark, founder of Green City Events, subsequently met with councillors to discuss the issue. Posting an update on the petition’s webpage, she advised that a meeting with Councillor Russell Goodway “had a promising outcome” and that the Council had committed to a decision by Christmas.

When asked about the Council’s original decision, Clark stated that the organisation were “upset and angry” and that the Council had been “giving us years of false hope” with regards to the proposed community venture.

Clark claims: “Why would the Council choose not to support a project that will have such positive social, environmental and economic benefits to the deprived wards of Adamsdown and Splott?”

“We have the support of local organisations, Councillors, and individuals. We do not believe that the Council’s decision making process has been fair, democratic or transparent.”

The decision to prioritise commercial development in spite of the local community’s clear preference would have come as a major disappointment to the campaign and its supporters, especially considering that other areas of Cardiff have seen similar industrial spaces develop into sites which have benefited the local community and independent businesses.

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