In all corners of Cardiff communities are campaigning to save their green areas. They’re angry that Cardiff County Council seems to be developing the city at the expense of the environment and the communities’ wellbeing. Yet are they simply making the tough decisions needed to ensure that the city continues as a thriving capital? From Rumney, to Bute Park, and St Mellons – here’s the update on the debate so far.
Fighting for Rumney playing fields
A community campaign, the RREEL Action Group, is fighting to stop the council from building on Rumney Recreational Ground and Eastern Leisure Centre. The council plans to knock down two existing schools in the area, sell the land to developers, and build a new school on the playing fields.
Chairman of RREEL Action Group, Don Taylor, said:
“This is an exceptionally beautiful site. It’s an asset to the whole city, not just our community.”
Although they welcome a new school, many local residents feel that the council is putting financial gain before the community’s best interests. Politicians Alun Michael MP and Lorraine Barrett AM have also objected to the plans.
Despite this support, campaigners fear that the council will be successful with their planning application and the diggers will move in, just as they’ve done in Bute Park.
Battling over Bute Park’s dual identity
Stretching out behind Cardiff castle is the historic Grade 1 listed Bute Park. It’s just been voted the best park in Wales, in Britain’s Best Park competition. Yet it’s not just a beautiful and tranquil haven, but is also host to some the best events in the city. From gigs to festivals, Bute Park has become the heart of a thriving capital.
It’s this dual identity that has caused conflict. The council’s been keen to make access to the park easier, especially for lorries when setting-up events. Their plans have been successful and the building of the new bridge and roadway has just got under-way.
Yet members of the Bute Parks Alliance (BPA) believe that Cardiff’s green areas should be protected and left untouched. BPA member, Gill Boden, said: “We have lost more than a third of our city centre parkland to development and privatisation already. Ongoing council plans to develop green areas in the city show that this erosion of our green lungs is not about to abate.”
This fear over the future destruction of green areas has recently hit the St Mellons community, as tension rises over whether a new A48 link road to Wentloog will be given the go ahead.
Will St Mellons’ Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) be saved?
St Mellons lies within a SSSI and local residents worry that the planned link road will be detrimental to the wildlife in the area. They also fear their health, safety and the value of their homes will all be affected. The Health Impact Assessment states that the link road would have a negative effect on the community, but no environmental evaluation has yet been published.
People are clearly concerned about the future of the Cardiff’s green areas. Yet there are communities throughout the city that are taking their future into their own hands by adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.
Cardiff communities grow together for a greener future
Recently the Swansea-born Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warned that if we didn’t start addressing environmental issues then we’ll face a crisis of biblical proportions. He said people must change their lifestyle and that learning to “grow your own” is a key step towards a sustainable future. In order to achieve this he called for more land to be made available for thousands of new allotments across Britain.
In Cardiff, there are 857 people on the council’s waiting list for allotments, with the average wait for a plot being 12 months. But help is at hand for would-be green fingers. This winter Cardiff’s multi-award winning organisation, RCMA Social Enterprise, is to create a community run market garden.
Simon Michaels, a director at RCMA, said:
“There has been a lot of political support for RCMA. Encouraging people to “grow their own” is very much at the heart of the sustainable strategies.”
Convincing people to live sustainable lifestyles is important, however unless major changes are made on a governmental level then we can’t begin addressing the environmental crisis. Councils are forced to make difficult and unpopular decisions; Cardiff must continue to develop, and improvements in housing and infrastructure are essential. Yet these decisions should not be made for financial gain at the expense of the environment. Local action groups are doing essential work in challenging the reasons behind the council’s policies.