Controversial plans to build a museum of military medicine in Cardiff Bay have been approved by councillors despite widespread public opposition.
Cardiff Council’s planning committee voted by six to three in favour of the application for a five-storey museum on the site of Britannia Park. There was one abstention.
It followed a recommendation by Council planning officers to accept the application on the condition that the museum take responsibility for the resiting of a children’s play area and a grade-II listed lock keeper’s cottage.
Two members of the Council’s ruling Labour group voted against the proposal along with the Welsh Nation Party’s Keith Parry. Another Labour councillor abstained.
But committee chair Keith Jones and two fellow Labour councillors supported the proposal along with three Conservative colleagues.
Cardiff Civic Society said the decision was to the “immense shame” of the Council committee.
The council had received 36 formal letters of objection and two petitions of around 300 residents opposed to the plans compared to three letters of support for the museum. Nation.Cymru has revealed at least one of the letters was sent at the request of the museum.
Ahead of the vote, representatives of the petitions appealed to councillors to reject the plans based primarily on the loss of open space. Concerns over the financial viability of the project and subject matter of the museum were not considered by the planning committee.
Lyn Eynon said the plan would “ruin” Britannia Park, adding: “Rusting steel will not be attractive, trees and grass to sit or play will be lost, the Norwegian Church and the park will be overshadowed, ‘lockeys cottage’ and public art must move… There is no need to sacrifice this valued green space.”
Rodney Berman, a councillor not on the committee who submitted a separate petition, added: “There is considerable unhappiness in the local community about this development.
“This is about keeping good quality open space, this is about keeping this part of Cardiff Bay a good quality environment for people to live in, to work in and enjoy. This would all be put at threat by this development.”
Labour councillor Iona Gordon agreed that the park is “just not an appropriate site for the museum” and called on the council to keep and extend the “very popular park.”
Her Labour colleague Peter Wong said the “significant decrease” of public space involved in the development was not acceptable. Both voted against.
Conservative deputy lord mayor Lyn Hudson said it was not the right location for the museum and described the need to remove and resite the grade II listed cottage as “somewhat ironic”.
“They’re building a museum for historical objects and getting rid of one historical object,” she said.
Concluding her remarks, councillor Hudson added: “I’m not happy with the car parking, I’m not happy with the relocation of lockey’s cottage and I’m not happy with where the museum is going to be built.” She later voted in favour of the application.
Jon Hurley, representing the museum, told councillors its application “represents a distinct opportunity to provide a world class attraction which will enhance Cardiff Bay as a visitor and cultural destination.”
He said approval would “allow the armed medical services’ story to be told far more easily and to a far greater audience” while also promising that the museum “will reflect the local history of Tiger Bay”.
Free public toilets were cited as another benefit by Hurley.
Labour councillor Frank Jacobsen said: “It’s a good building, it’s good for education and our children, it is in a contentious position, but I think it’s a good building nonetheless.”
Conservative councillor Mike Pritchard said he believed considerations about the loss of public space were “outweighed” in this case by the “ability of the building to bring people to the area.”