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Former Plaid Cymru candidate backs Tory plan to ‘pause’ building of cancer centre

02 Apr 2021 4 minute read
The current Velindre Cancer Centre in Whitchurch. Photo via Google

A former Plaid Cymru Senedd candidate has backed a Tory plan to pause the building of a cancer centre.

Ashley Drake resigned as the party’s candidate for Cardiff North following a row over its support for building the Velindre Cancer Centre in Whitchurch in the city.

Since his resignation he has thrown his support behind a plan put forward by leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, the party’s candidate for Cardiff North, Joel Williams, to stop the building of the centre while an independent review is carried out.

The issue has proved controversial and prompted protests over its environmental impact on the green space at the Northern Meadows where it is to be built.

There has also been disagreement among cancer experts about whether the new centre should be located alongside an existing hospital.

In a letter Drake has accused Plaid Cymru of betrayal of its environmental principles, cancer specialists and patients with its “knee-jerk short-termism”, for sticking with the Welsh Government’s decision to approve the cancer centre, and has said that the Tory plan is “precisely” what the party should have done instead.

In a private message to colleagues before the official policy change, former leader Leanne Wood said opposition building the cancer centre could “harm my campaign in the Rhondda as Labour are running hard on this issue”.

It is understood that the decision was made by the party on Tuesday at a meeting of its current group in the Senedd.

Drake has been accused by a spokesperson for the party of “sharing selective quotations from private conversations” and of not engaging “constructively” on the issue.

On the plan put forward by the Conservatives, Ashley Drake said: “Never will vote Tory but this is precisely what ⁦‪@Plaid_Cymru⁩ should have done & what ⁦‪@PlaidCardiffN⁩ had campaigned for since 2016.

“The shameful acceptance of a flawed plan & refusal to meet clinicians will damage Plaid for yrs. An appalling strategy based on ignorance & arrogance.”

‘Deeply regrettable’ 

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson told the BBC: “It is deeply regrettable that Ashley Drake has yet again chosen to misrepresent events by sharing selective quotations from private conversations.

“Numerous conversations took place over several days with Ashley Drake and it is disappointing that he chose not to engage constructively.

“Plaid Cymru has clearly set out our support for a new cancer centre for the south east of Wales and will continue to ask the questions that demand answers to ensure the best service possible for the people of the region.”

In a joint statement Conservatives Joel Williams and Andrew RT Davies said: “We’ll establish a new cancer centre in south east Wales following an independent clinical review.

“The independent clinical review, commissioned by the Welsh Government, will examine the most appropriate clinical model to ensure we are creating the safest cancer facilities for those in the greatest need.

“Whilst the independent review is undertaken, which would be conducted promptly, the development of the Northern Meadows would be paused, pending the outcome of the independent clinical review.”

In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Leanne Wood said: “I have never opposed the building of a new hospital at Velindre.

“Yes, there has been a local campaign to raise questions and there are still questions that need to be asked and answered from a planning perspective, an environmental perspective and in terms of the deep concerns that some clinicians have expressed about the model that is being used and we take our scrutiny role very seriously.

“But a decision has now been made and a Plaid Cymru government, if elected on 6 May, will honour that decision and not overturn it.

“I’m disappointed that my political opponents have chosen to use this issue in a political way in the Rhondda and to misrepresent my position. To use cancer as a political football is pretty sick.”

Facebook post, Drake said: “Principles have been cast aside in the name of political expediency – the very thing that gives politics a bad name.

“It is also clear that the link between the Velindre support groups and the Labour Party is very strong, and Labour has shamelessly weaponised this issue for their own political gain, particularly targeting Leanne.

“I was always taught to stand up to bullies. I just wish Plaid’s leadership had the backbone to do the same.”

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