Lawyers involved in the West Cross skate park saga complain about Swansea council leader
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
The leader of Swansea Council said a complaint has been made about him by lawyers acting on behalf of objectors to a seafront skate park.
Cllr Rob Stewart told a meeting of full council that he had taken advice from the authority’s monitoring officer, and that as a result he would not take part in a cabinet debate or decision about a potential transfer of land to facilitate the planned skate park at Llwynderw, by West Cross.
“I am very frustrated and disappointed at not being able to do so,” said the Swansea Labour leader.
He did not specify what the complaint was about, but it is understood to relate to comments he had previously made on Facebook.
Cllr Stewart said the decision not to take part in the cabinet land transfer debate would enable him to speak more freely on the skate park saga.
He said it would “come as no surprise” to councillors that he had voted in favour of the land transfer at a previous cabinet meeting in January this year, and that he was pre-disposed to support the same decision being made again.
Given that the skate park already had planning consent, and that funding was coming via Mumbles Community Council, it seemed only a matter of time before the £361,500 project would get under way once the land transfer was agreed, notwithstanding opposition among some about its location between Mumbles Road and the promenade.
But lawyers on behalf of seven objectors successfully challenged the land transfer decision in a judicial review, and it was formally quashed by a judge in July.
It was quashed because the council accepted that prior to the land transfer decision being made, it did not publish its intention to dispose of the land for two weeks in a local newspaper. The council accepted that its decision did not comply with the 1972 Local Government Act.
Speaking at the time, Acuity Law, on behalf of the seven residents, said the decision vindicated their clients.
The council said the land transfer proposal had gone through a very thorough consultation process. There were 157 responses to the consultation, with 148 in favour of the proposal.
The upshot was the clock stopping on the skate park, frustrating the project’s many supporters.
Speaking at full council, opposition leader, Cllr Chris Holley, offered support to his Labour adversary.
He said he felt “very disappointed” that the leader could not take part in the land transfer decision.
He said it was “very critical” that Cllr Stewart should be able to take part in such debates, and felt he had been picked out by the complainants.
Cllr Holley added: “I’m sure that all of us elected members, whatever party they belong to, feel the same about that decision.”
Cllr Des Thomas, who chairs full council meetings, said: “It’s somebody playing the political line – sorry, the legal line. If they are able to do it, they are doing it, whether we agree with it or not.”
Speaking afterwards, Acuity Law partner Hugh Hitchcock said the company continued to be instructed in respect of the judicial review and other related matters, and was in regular contact with the council.
He said: “The complaint that has been made is between our client, the council and the individual councillors and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage pending the outcome of the council’s investigation.
“We also consider it inappropriate for the councillors in question to comment in respect of this matter in the current circumstances.”