By Siôn Ford
The Norwegian Church has stood in Cardiff Bay for decades and has always provided an opportunity for culture and integration, originally offering travelling Norwegian sailors a place for prayer. A historic remnant of the bygone era of Tiger Bay and the Cardiff Docks, the Norwegian Church has more recently functioned as an arts centre.
Last year, Cardiff Council signalled its interest in making the Church available for a new commercial opportunity in an effort to combat budgetary challenges. The Church is owned and managed by the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust, although Cardiff Council is the sole trustee and has been accused by members of the Welsh Norwegian Society of mismanagement.
In a detailed statement, the Welsh Norwegian Society accused the Council of negligent financial management, citing a “pattern of non-compliance”. In addition, they advised that multiple requests to allow an advisory committee to assist in the management of the Church have been refused by the Council:
“We have repeatedly called for the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust to reinstate the Norwegian Church Advisory Committee which was created when Cardiff Council became sole trustee, to provide independent oversight of the Trust, and to enable conflicts of interest to be identified and managed. Cardiff Council [has] ignored our requests and the Advisory Committee has not met for at least four years, possibly even longer.”
Aside from its cultural and historic importance, the Church has received multiple grants and donations to assist in refurbishment and maintenance. Supporters of the campaign to transfer the Church to public ownership argue that it would be morally wrong of Cardiff Council to seek to benefit from this via commercial opportunities.
However, there has been a more positive development recently. Council Leader, Councillor Huw Thomas, has discussed the possibility of initiating a Community Asset Transfer (CAT). This process could see the Norwegian Church being transferred in ownership from the Council to community ownership, but is dependent on the new Trust demonstrating their project’s feasibility.
The Welsh Norwegian Society is in the process of trying to secure the necessary funding to conduct a feasibility study. Whilst they have applied for funding through the Architectural Heritage Fund, the group says that it still needs to raise an additional £4,000 and has appealed to the public for support.