Cardiff Council are at it again

Loudoun Square, including the Paddle Steamer (right)

Sam Coates

Many Cardiffians will know intuitively what this headline means: to put it kindly, Cardiff Council’s cavalier approach to planning with respect to the wishes of the community, green open spaces, the built environment, and common sense and decency to boot. 

It is also no surprise that some of their wilder plans are being put in place for a part of the city that has consistently been silenced and damaged through these processes, as far back as the 1960s; we are referring of course to the communities of Tiger Bay and the Docks. 

The latest round of soul-destroying plans include a Military Medicine Museum for Britannia Park and the outlandish idea of buying (for a cool £30 million) – then flattening – the Red Dragon centre in order to build what now appears as an even more bizarre proposition in the age of Covid and zoom meetings – an outsized indoor arena (when, moreover, there’s a similar facility down the road by Celtic Manor).

The latest proposition is on a somewhat smaller scale but is no less galling for that – it reflects all that is so depressing about the way in which this council goes about its business.  The Paddle Steamer, an iconic establishment in Loudoun square, now faces demolition off the back of a development that has seen no engagement with the local community, and barely any response to the valid objections already presented in the pre-consultation phase. 

The plan for social housing units is to be welcomed, in an age where councils across Wales have failed miserably in maintaining a stock of council housing, resulting in mass exploitation through private rents as well as homelessness.  However, in an area constantly deprived of the amenities taken for granted in other parts of the city, there seems to have been little thought given to what it means to build these units without any space for a business such as the Paddle Steamer, and other services besides. 

The cafe is a hub for the Somali and Yemeni communities, young and old, and whilst the building and its environs are ripe for renewal, its demolition will come as a huge blow to many of those who use it for various purposes – including informal and pro-bono advice on some of the most difficult matters facing members of the community.

 

Hypocrisy

This is why everyone who is concerned, in Cardiff and beyond, should support the campaign of local residents, being led online by Butetown Matters.  This is just the latest example of council practices and a planning regime that affect people adversely up and down the country albeit in different ways – processes that show little regard or respect for people and their communities, little appetite for understanding what they need, and an attitude that results in developments that are destructive for the fragile ecology of many of our communities. 

This particular episode is all the more pernicious, happening as it is to communities and minorities subjected to repeated structural violence, and this at a time when Cardiff Council is indulging in a huge song and dance about removing Picton’s statue and creating a BAME taskforce to give voice to those very communities.  The hypocrisy and inadequacy of making such symbolic gestures whilst then failing to listen, on one of the first relevant issues that arises, is stark.  

All that need happen here is that the communities in question are treated with respect and on the basis of equality; that they are engaged with, their needs given consideration, and the development adjusted in ways that answers the requirements of all concerned.

So please consider taking a few minutes to register your objections here before the deadline on the 24th of September.

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