‘Absolutely devastated’: Plan for £500,000 skate park is to be withdrawn
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Young people say they are “absolutely devastated” that a planning application for a £500,000 skate park in Carmarthenshire will be withdrawn, casting major doubts over the project’s future.
The skate park was initially proposed in Tumble Park, Tumble, in the Gwendraeth Valley.
Carmarthenshire Council pledged £250,000 towards the facility but the location was moved for ecology reasons to a different area of the park, which was closer to people’s houses.
Residents felt strongly that this new location in the park was unsuitable, so yet another place for it to go was explored.
This led to a planning application being submitted last month to build the skate park at an area of hardstanding in Mynyndd Mawr Woodland Park, on the outskirts of Tumble.
But many people have objected to this woodland park location, and Llannon Community Council – which submitted the planning application – has announced that it will withdraw it.
Riot Urban Sports Park, the group which has been promoting the project and which represents the views of skate boarders, said in a message on Facebook that it would no longer carry on.
The group said the skate park proposal was first raised around six years ago when a regeneration project got underway in the village.
It said: “What was the main thing everyone asked for that out-voted everything else? A skate park.
“We came together as a community and created the group to get things under way to give the community what it asked for.”
The Mynydd Mawr planning application needed to be determined before mid-September in order for the project not to miss another National Lottery funding application deadline.
The group’s Facebook post continued: “This meant with the very little time we had left working the National Lottery no other sites could be looked at meaning that Riot has no other options to give the community what it has asked for.
“The Riot team are absolutely devastated hearing the news that we can no longer push this any further.
“All we hope is that the Tumble community listens to the younger generation of 13 years and above.
“They have literally nothing. Football and rugby shouldn’t not be the only options.
“If you want to tackle anti-social behaviour take more time to listen to youths. We did, and the skate park would of been the stepping stones to tackling these issues in younger people.”
The site which was proposed in the 80-acre woodland park is just off a circular, Tarmac path that encloses a large meadow.
Objectors said they were concerned that a skate park would have a negative impact on the many walkers and joggers of all ages who enjoyed the tranquil, remote spot.
Horse riders were also worried about to its proximity to a bridleway.
Objector Ruth Davies, of Tumble, said was pleased but surprised that the community council was to withdraw the application, but that she and others did want a skate park to be provided for young people.
Miss Davies, on behalf of Friends of Mynydd Mawr Woodland, believed a large area within the woodland park for mountain bikers and recreation was more suitable because it was closer to the car park and also the village.
She also said that after hearing about the proposed location by the meadow, she and others thought they would have had more of an opportunity to press the case for the mountain biking area before any planning application was lodged.
Speaking before the community council’s decision to shelve the plans, Miss Davies said: “People just feel that the siting of this (by the meadow) will detract from the park.
“There is quite strong feeling against it. I think a lot of people will simply be dissuaded from using the park. People come here for a quiet walk in nature.”
She added: “I am not saying that the teenagers (using the skate park) would be disrespectful or badly behaved. And we are not suggesting that the skate park should be put in a corner.”
Miss Davies said she felt the facility needed infrastructure such as toilets and CCTV.
The meadow, she said, was ecologically rich and enjoyed by more and more people since the Covid pandemic.
Mynydd Mawr visitor Gerwyn Reynolds said skateboarding – now an Olympic sport – was great for children to get involved in. But he felt the site which had been proposed was too remote, and that as a parent he would want it to be nearer the car park.
“I grew up skateboarding and surfing,” said Mr Reynolds, who was raised in Aberavon but now lives in Pantyffynnon, near Ammanford.
“It’s fabulous that a skate park is being considered. It needs to be thought through, and not just a place for people to hang out.
“It’s a no-brainer to me that this (hardstanding area) is the wrong place.”
Ann Jaycock said she and her husband had walked the circular path, which is nearly a mile long, for 20 years and loved the spot.
She has been opposing the planning application, and also felt the mountain biking area was a more suitable location.
“I understand that youngsters have got to have somewhere to go that’s not going to cost a fortune, but it’s got to be the right place,” she said.
Skate park designer Canvas, which drew up a design and access statement to accompany the community council’s application, said the skate park by the meadow would be low-level but with no hidden areas, and suitable for roller skaters, scooter riders and wheelchair users.
Ward councillor Emlyn Dole, who has offered help to the Riot group to take its scheme forward, said it was important that people’s objections were listened to, hence the original move away from Tumble Park.
Referring to Mynydd Mawr, Cllr Dole said: “We thought that within an 80-acre park there was an opportunity and a place for a facility that would give young kids the sort of chance that Sky Brown (Olympic bronze medallist) had.
“I was excited by that, and so were the kids.”
Cllr Dole, who is the leader of Carmarthenshire Council, said there wasn’t time to consider the objectors’ mountain bike area suggestion because of the National Lottery funding deadline, especially given the previous false starts.
He added that the groundwork required for a skate park for the preferred site by the meadow was similar to that of Tumble Park.
Cllr Dole said the opposition to the Mynydd Mawr proposal would have impacted the time it took to determine the community council’s application.
He said a skate park was not the sort of sporting facility that a deprived area like the Gwendraeth Valley normally benefited from, and that the young skateboarders he’d been dealing with looked after one another and the skate parks they used.
Plans, meanwhile, for a skate park on the seafront in Swansea have been put on hold for now after a judge quashed a decision by Swansea Council to transfer the land needed for it. And an indoor skate park planned in an industrial park in Swansea has recently been refused planning consent.
Cllr Dole said he did not wish to denigrate the views of objectors in his ward, but he felt they’d “lost their voice” if they were to complain now about skateboarders trying out their tricks on the streets.
He said his take on the Tumble project was that it had now hit a brick wall.
“I don’t think it’s going to work,” he said.