Senior manager at Cardiff Council congratulated Museum of Military Medicine on planning permission
A senior manager of Cardiff Council privately congratulated the Museum of Military Medicine for securing planning permission to build a new home in the capital, Nation.Cymru can reveal.
“Well done to you and the team for your perseverance and professionalism”, wrote Ken Poole, the Council’s head of economic development, in an email to the Museum’s management on December 16.
Earlier that day, the Council’s planning committee had voted in favour of the Museum’s application for a new five-storey building on part of Britannia Park despite substantial opposition from residents and the local councillor.
A member of the Museum’s management replied: “We thank the Council for its continuing support for the project.”
It’s the second time in two months that a Cardiff Council official has appeared to welcome planning approval for a controversial development.
The e-mails, which seem to contradict the Council’s claim to be neutral on the development, came to light through a response to a freedom of information request seen by Nation.Cymru.
The correspondence also reveals behind-the-scenes lobbying by the Museum targeted at the Council’s senior management and Russell Goodway, cabinet member for investment and development.
It includes a letter sent last July by the Museum to the Council’s planning department about a delay to the planning process which refers to Britannia Park as “poor quality.”
“You will understand that the museum has expended considerable sums of money to support this application and the whole project has been on stop since last December awaiting a decision,” states the letter.
“We appreciate that there has been a campaign of opposition with reference to the perceived impact of our museum on the Park, but we are clear that the museum, which replaces the Tube, will bring economic benefit, including much-needed investment in the park, which is of poor quality and has been badly maintained [redacted].”
In response, the Council’s planning department told the Museum the wait was down to “how sensitive the MMM development is.”
The correspondence also shows the Museum directly contacted Council chief executive Paul Orders, along with Poole and Director of Economic Development Neil Hanratty, on at least three occasions to share information supporting their planning application.
That included a report on the economic impact of independent museums, even though concerns raised by residents about the financial viability of the project were described as “not material planning considerations” by the Council.
In another of the emails, highlighting the involvement of a trustee in setting-up a Covid field hospital, the Museum asked: “Would you be able to share this with Cllr Goodway please?”
Hanratty replied: “Thank you, yes I will forward to Cllr Goodway.”
The correspondence also sheds light on the Museum’s efforts to coordinate support for its plans.
Nation.Cymru reported in November how the Museum had asked the Cardiff and Vale Health Board to submit a letter of support to the Council, saying it “would do wonders to refute a lot of the claims being made about us”.
The new emails show that the Museum then contacted the Council’s planning department to ensure it was posted on the website.
“On the back of our recent emails [redacted] has been sent the attached letter of support from the Health Board,” wrote the Museum to the Council’s planning department.
“Is it possible that this could please be added to the website as a formal letter of support to the application?”
The letter, one of four letters of support received by the Council for the project compared to 68 in opposition, was uploaded to the Council’s website the following day.
Since planning permission was granted to the Museum, campaigners have turned their attention to convincing the Council not to sell the land allocated to the project.
But in response to a written question from Liberal Democrat councillor Rodney Berman, Cardiff Council stated: “The intention to sell the land in question was made clear in the Cabinet report when the Council acquired the entirety of Britannia Park from ABP in order to protect the green space in the area from the building of two residential buildings and an access road.
“The Council is disposing of the site to the Museum at market value. The Council is not making a financial contribution towards the development of the Museum.”