Cardiff’s children are being forgotten in the city’s house building boom

Missing swings at Parc Plymouth

Radha Nair-Roberts

Wales should be rightly proud to be the first and only country in the world to recognize the UN principle that play is vital for children and to turn that principle into law.

Legislating and paying lip service to a laudable principle are easy. However, on the ground, Welsh communities are faced with the reality of new-build housing developments everywhere, which are springing up across our nation at break-neck speed.

It is clear that the provision of outdoor recreation space for play is not a priority for either developers or those local authorities granting them planning permission.

Thus, the very organizations that should be enabling outdoor play are sadly falling well short of their obligations.

Public Health Wales’ Child measurement programme informs us that children in Wales are facing an obesity crisis like never before, due in part to their sedentary lifestyle, exacerbated by a lack of access to outdoor play facilities.

For the sake of our children, of Wales’ future generations, communities across the country need to demand a fair deal for children in the face of the relentless, seemingly uncontrolled, and thoughtless house building.

This building work only results in massive corporate profits, not taking into account the health and wellbeing of citizens, including our children.

New-build developments currently erupting all across Wales seemingly have scant thought for the environmental and recreational impact they have on communities.

Our story of trying to secure a place for our children to play outside in Radyr, Cardiff West, is just one out of potentially hundreds across the country.

By sharing our battle with Redrow and Cardiff Council, we hope others will also gain succour and inspiration to demand a fair deal for their children.

Building sites

Plasdwr, the monster new development in Cardiff West, which is bringing tens of thousands of unaffordable homes (average price £300,000+), is eradicating trees and ancient hedgerows, destroying our green belt.

On their daily commute to their Welsh-medium primary school (4 miles away with no school bus) my children every day travel past many scorched former green fields, which have become overnight building sites due to the Cardiff West LDP.

Developers such as Redrow, Bellway, Persimmon and Barratt Homes are busily removing ancient hedgerows and trees, carving up green fields to concrete them over so they can build thousands of identikit houses adjacent to the A4119.

New developments are mushrooming all along this route, from the villages of Fairwater and Radyr to Creigiau and Pentyrch.

Tenant farmers previously granted the right to work the land are being evicted from their farmsteads to make way for this suburban sprawl.

Sad hay bales on the outskirts of Cradiff

 

We do of course understand the need for new house-building, as Cardiff City grows, but residents of Cardiff West do wonder why there is such an urgent need to develop green field on such a scale.

They will provide largely unaffordable homes, when many vacant properties currently exist in Cardiff, and when there are brownfield sites such as the former BBC site in Llandaff to be developed.

As new developments spring up at break-neck speed, citizens must seriously question if this frantic development is being conducted sustainably, and with due regard for the needs of existing and incoming communities.

Developers, who have been given permission to develop on our green fields, stand to make large profits (Redrow has only just recorded a bumper £380 million in profits).

Yet these gains should certainly not be at the expense of the health and quality of life of current and future generations.

One heartbreaking issue we face as Radyr residents is with Redrow’s new Parc Plymouth estate of 630 homes on 16 acres of greenfield.

As the new estate hurtles towards completion, Radyr residents have sadly realized that as things stand there is no provision whatsoever for any new outdoor play facilities as part of the development.

That equates to probably in excess of 500 children moving into our area with no extra outdoor play facilities.

This situation might be bearable if the existing play areas close to Parc Plymouth were well maintained and in good condition.

Sadly this is not the case – the closest park, the Council-maintained Drover’s Way park, is dilapidated and in a very sorry state, having been largely neglected for a decade or more by the authorities (this in spite of Radyr residents paying the second highest council tax rate in the City).

Parc Plymouth

Poor maintenance and neglect have resulted in many problems, from the dirty, rotting and dangerously uneven ground covering in the play park, broken play equipment and missing swings (which have only very recently been restored after months missing, following complaints from residents).

The complete lack of lighting for the passage from Plymouth Drive make certain areas so pitch black at night that they are simply a mugging waiting to happen.

Poor maintenance of the footpath and overgrown foliage – have contributed to making this area extremely treacherous for vulnerable people (the elderly, frail or disabled) at night.

Only last month I, a wheelchair-bound MS sufferer, suffered a serious fall when negotiating the path at 9.45 pm on my mobility scooter.

Problems with the maintenance of the Drover’s Way park started many years ago, even before the commencement of the Plasdwr developments in our area.

This is an indictment of Cardiff Council, which has not done enough to support the health or safety of the Radyr community.

Contribution

Despite the managed decline, our park remains an extremely popular outdoor hub for our community.

Children adore the green space it provides and come in their droves – toddlers learning to walk and climb there in spite of the aging play frame and dirty, rotting ground covering.

The park is well frequented on a daily basis by adults and families too, as a great spot for meeting friends and walking dogs.

We as residents are willing to share all this with the new incoming residents of Parc Plymouth but these facilities are not fit for purpose now.

It is clearly time for Redrow and those who granted them planning consent at Cardiff Council to put something back into our community, and improve the facility ahead of the incoming new generations of children.

As there is no provision for outdoor play at all with the new development, we suggest that a substantial financial contribution (from the Section 106 Community Infrastructure levy) towards renewing our park be made.

Working with Cardiff Council, it should be possible to make the Drover’s Way park into a facility that is safe and suitable for all ages, be they current or new members of our Radyr community.

Without this, it is extremely difficult to countenance the lack of forethought shown by both planning authorities and house-builders.

The lack of planned outdoor recreational space is unacceptable and will surely only contribute to worsening physical and mental health in our children.


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