‘We have the evidence that cancer centre work is underway without permission’, say campaigners
Campaigners who oppose the location of a new cancer centre for south east Wales on a green space in Cardiff known as the Northern Meadows have produced evidence they claim proves that work which is destroying the site is going ahead in breach of promises previously made.
The decision to build the centre in the Whitchurch district of the capital rather than co-locating services with a district general hospital has proved highly controversial.
The Save The Northern Meadows group says the current meadows clearance works undertaken on behalf of Velindre University NHS Trust constitute the “main works” rather than “enabling works”. This, says the group, is contrary to an assertion made by the Trust to Health Minister Eluned Morgan when it applied for £258,000 funding to undertake the works.
A four-week programme began on October 2 that entails felling the trees and strimming the Northern Meadows to the ground.
Velindre Trust applied to Baroness Morgan for the funding to carry out vegetation clearance, stating it was a new element to the enabling works which was not known about at the outset and that additional capital funding was needed.
A spokesperson for Save The Northern Meadows said: “The enabling works are clearly defined by the Welsh Government funding and through the planning process, and consist solely of the Asda bridge, the temporary construction access roads and certain utilities.
“The rest of the project, including the building of New Velindre itself, is known as the main works. Velindre Trust has chosen the Acorn consortium to carry out the main works. The Welsh Government has not yet made the decision whether to approve and fund the main works or not.
“There is considerable evidence that instead of being part of the enabling works as claimed by Velindre Trust, the clearance of the Northern Meadows being undertaken now is part of the main works.”
The spokesperson set out six facts he said proved the campaign’s case:
* To carry out this current clearance work the public footpaths across the Northern Meadows have been closed. In the documents posted on the entrances to the meadows Acorn states these clearance works are for the main works. In addition these documents have been signed off as being correct by Cardiff Council Legal Services.
* Natural Resources Wales have confirmed to the Save The Northern Meadows community that the dormouse licence they issued on September 28 2023 “relates to the construction of a new cancer centre on the land you refer to as the Northern Meadows and not for the enabling works you have referred to”.
* In correspondence regarding the Velindre Cancer Centre meadows clearance, a senior member of Cardiff Council planning department wrote: “the development may proceed on the site provided it is in accordance with the respective permission and associated conditions (ie it is not limited to ‘enabling works’).”
* In the Acorn document setting out their plans for the first nine months of the main works, the consortium includes the clearance work that is being undertaken now along with topsoil stripping, tower cranes installations etc. This clearance work is identified as being within the main works (MIM) boundary. MIM refers to the Mutual Investment Model 25 year contract for the construction and running of the new Velindre – a contract that has not yet been signed. None of this work has anything to do with the enabling works of the Asda bridge, the temporary construction access roads and bringing in utilities to the site.
* Even a director of Velindre’s board has confirmed in writing that the current clearance works are taking place on the main site: ‘We are in the process of further preparation works on the site of the new Velindre Cancer Centre. Our team are currently preparing for tree salvage and translocation as part of our ongoing works on the main site.”
* Two companies that are part of the Acorn consortium, Sacyr and RSK, are carrying out the current clearance works. The Acorn consortium is the group of companies chosen by Velindre Trust to undertake the main works. The decision whether or not to approve the Full Business Case, and so release the funding, for the main works has not yet been made by the Health Minister.
The spokesperson for Save the Northern Meadows said: “There is now a lot of evidence that the current clearance works on the Northern Meadows are part of the main works, and not the enabling works as claimed by Velindre Trust.
“We therefore call on the Health Minister to immediately halt these clearance works, and investigate whether Velindre Trust misled her when they applied for £258,000 of funding for these clearance works stating they were enabling works.
“It is frankly unbelievable that Velindre Trust states these clearance works were ‘not known at the time of establishing the enabling works Full Business Case’. From the very first day that Velindre Trust senior managers concocted their ill-fated idea to buy the Northern Meadows nature reserve to build on, they would have known the meadows would have to be cleared and trees felled.”
A Velindre University NHS Trust spokesman responded: “As stated previously, the clearance work on site is one of many activities underway to prepare for the development of the new Velindre Cancer Centre, which is critical in safeguarding the provision of crucial treatment and care for the 1.5 million people of south Wales over the coming decades.
“The works are not reliant on the Welsh Government’s approval of the business case and are being delivered by Acorn on the basis of the planning permission granted by Cardiff Council in 2023 (Reserved Matters application) and the European Protected Species Licence issued by Natural Resources Wales.
“The activity is key to enable the development of the new centre, must be carried out during the appropriate ecological window and is being conducted under the supervision of ecologists.”
Baroness Morgan has refused to intervene to stop the ongoing work.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.