Celebrities, Environmentalists, Religious Leaders and the Arts join the Chorus of Voices demanding ‘Save Britannia Park’ from the Military Medicine Museum

Over 50 individuals join in solidarity to support the Friends of Britannia Park in opposing plans for a Military Medicine Museum

They round on the Council for allowing the sale of the park and not protecting a vital open green space in Cardiff Bay

The plans will go to Cardiff Council Planning Committee on Wednesday

Further objections expressed relating to the lack of a credible financial plan and the appropriateness of the museum for the chosen site

Britannia Park, Butetown, as viewed from the big wheel which is often a temporary feature of the park. Photo credit: Martin Weller

Experts and practitioners in the fields of environment, ecology and economics have been joined by those involved in the arts, creative industries, community work and heritage, together with faith leaders, pacificists and politicians, to support a campaign to save Britannia Park from being sold by Cardiff Council, for the purposes of building a Military Medicine Museum.  It was announced last week that the proposals will go before the Planning Committee this Wednesday, despite opposition to the project being vociferous and wide-ranging. It is a project that is drawing criticism from many quarters for a variety of reasons, and in response over 50 figures from various parts of Welsh public life, including a host of familiar names, have put their name to a letter opposing the development.

As the letter notes, the issue relevant to the planning committee on Wednesday relates to the closing down of the only open green space in Cardiff Bay, a key reason the park was previously protected and in fact bought by the council. They “purchased the park after the last, successful campaign by residents to protect it, leading those who campaigned to mistakenly assume that the only open green space in Cardiff Bay would be kept as a vital amenity both for the community and visitors. Moreover, the council has previously set a precedent for rejecting its development for these reasons.” However, despite these clear environmental and well-being concerns the plans have been pushed forward. 

However, the problems extend further.  The project has been rejected by numerous other cities already, which seems to be of little surprise given the lack of any sustainable financial plan.  In fact, as the letter reads, it “has been shown to be unsustainable and the institution’s own representatives have admitted as much. The economic benefits will actually be negative; Cardiff rate-payers are in danger of being saddled with more debt by its elected representatives.” 

The plans have drawn wider approbation from an array of voices in particular because of the lack of desire amongst local residents and the various communities of South Cardiff for a museum of this sort. The letter questions how appropriate it is to be “building what is effectively a monument to the British Empire and its armed forces in the historic neighbourhood of Tiger Bay & the Docks, and at the doorstep of our Senedd.” This comes at a time where Cardiff Council have established a BAME Taskforce to give prominence to the voice of minorities, and where there have been calls to establish a museum for the minority communities of Cardiff and Wales. As the letter notes “Tiger Bay and the Docks deserve a museum, but it is not this one.”

Ossie Wheatley, the former Glamorgan Captain, and representative of the group ‘Friends of Britannia Park’ states:

“How ironic that Cardiff Council should announce their plans for the enormous redevelopment in Cardiff Bay of over 1000 new homes, an indoor arena, offices, an hotel, cultural attractions etc, etc, at the same time as they are supporting the application to build a Medical Museum on half of Britannia Park. Plainly the Council do not appreciate the importance of Britannia and Waterfront Parks to local residents as well as visitors in providing the only small green spaces left in the main part of  the Bay. The significance of the Park is only going to increase in the face of  the redevelopment of County Hall and the Red Dragon Centre – which covers 30 acres! GREEN SPACE MATTERS. To put a 70 foot high industrial block on the Park is a blot on the landscape and an attack on the ambience of the whole Bay.”

Nirushan Sudarsan and Elbashir Idriss, speaking on behalf of the local group Butetown Matters, state:

“We believe the Butetown community should be consulted on major developments and have an active role in the decision making process on any developments that impact our community. A Military Medicine Museum which was offered to other cities and refused by those cities shouldn’t simply then be dumped in Butetown. Local communities are losing their vital spaces without proper consultation and discussion. Our city is changing rapidly and communities are being sidelined and marginalised as developers are coming in and changing the spaces we value and want. Communities need to have the right to challenge the unfair power of developers. We need to give communities a real voice in the planning process and make community objections so they can be consulted properly.”

 Huw Williams, who helped to organise the letter and has been organising with the recently formed group, Reclaim Cardiff, commented:

“It is clear that there is little welcome for this project in Cardiff and that everyone, from local concerned residents, to the wider community of Cardiff, and Wales as a whole, is dismayed that Cardiff Council should push ahead with this despite the environmental and economic issues and the fundamental objections about placing this museum on this site. The number of different voices that are objecting speaks volumes. It should be emphasised that council leaders, Huw Thomas and Russell Goodway in particular, could have stopped this process in its tracks months ago by simply refusing to sell the land, and protecting it for the community. The fact they have gone on to pursue this regardless speaks volumes for how little they are willing to listen to the citizens of Cardiff. As residents see their city being rapidly transformed, and not for the better, this autocratic approach to local government is doubly unacceptable and cannot go on.”

Full text of the open letter:

We write with deep concerns about the fact that Cardiff Council has decided to move ahead with plans for a Military Medicine Museum on Britannia Park in Cardiff Bay, and that the Planning Committee will be considering the case this Wednesday. It is to the Council’s discredit that we have reached this point at all, but it is even more concerning that they should try and move ahead in the teeth of opposition from local residents and the wider public.

The Council purchased the park after the last, successful campaign by residents to protect it, leading those who campaigned to mistakenly assume that the only open green space in Cardiff Bay would be kept as a vital amenity both for the community and visitors. Moreover, the council has previously set a precedent for rejecting its development for these reasons. Yet, we are now in the situation where the Council seem set to wave through a project that will destroy this much-loved haven in a sea of concrete – a decision made all the more inexplicable by the fact that there are unused hectares within a stone’s throw of the park.

Whilst we assert that the plans must be rejected on these grounds alone, we would also like to note the wider implications of such a development. The financial plan has been shown to be unsustainable and the institution’s own representatives have admitted as much. The economic benefits will actually be negative; Cardiff rate-payers are in danger of being saddled with more debt by its elected representatives, who are welcoming a project all other cities have rejected when they could simply refuse to sell their own land. However this is not an issue of concern for Cardiff alone; as the Capital City of Wales such developments have implications for the whole of Wales.

Finally we would express our concerns about building what is effectively a monument to the British Empire and its armed forces in the historic neighbourhood of Tiger Bay & the Docks, and at the doorstep of our Senedd. To confront our imperial past, and past conflicts, is one thing, to try to use it as an attraction in such a location is an affront to what we believe should be a progressive Welsh nation, and one that seeks to build institutions that celebrate all our communities and their past, in all their diversity. Tiger Bay and the Docks deserve a museum, but it is not this one.

Yours Faithfully

Ossie Wheatley, Former Chair of the Sports Council for Wales

Honorary Distinguished Professor Howard Williams

Christine Glossop, Retired Health Visitor & Welsh Norwegian Society

Nirushan Sudarsan, Butetown Matters 

Elbashir Idriss, Butetown Matters

Steve Khaireh, Horn Development Association

Dr Eleanor Keen, Ecologist

Dr Einir Young, Sustainable Development Practitioner

Nigel Pugh, Environmentalist

Sue Edwards, Cylch Alexandra

Anthony Slaughter, Leader of the Green Party in Wales

Nerys Lloyd Pierce, Chair of Cardiff Civic Society

Nick Clifton, Professor of Economic Geography

Calvin Jones, Professor of Economics

Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Wales

Fr Allan R Jones, Canon Regular of St Augustine

Parch Anna Janes Evans, Cadeirydd Cymdeithas y Cymod

Jane Harries, Cymdeithas y Cymod

Robat Idris, Cymdeithas y Cymod

Leila Usmani, Be Diverse

Ali Abdi, National BAME Youth Forum

Mabli Jones, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith

Rhys Taylor, Cardiff Councillor

Leanne Wood, Member of the Senedd

Dr Neil Evans, F R Hist S. Honorary Research Fellow, Bangor University

Paul O’Leary, Sir John Williams Professor of Welsh History

Dr Patrick Finney, Historian & Head of International Politics, Aberystwyth

Andrew Green, Former Librarian, National Library of Wales

Dr Marian Gwyn, Heritage Consultant

Taylor Edmonds, Where I’m Coming From

Rosey Brown, Sull Collective

Steph Bigold, Creative Commons Cardiff

Dr Rhiannon Williams, Theatre & Performance, USW

Eddie Ladd, Dancer & Performance Artist

Dylan Huw, National Theatre of Wales

Elgan Rhys, Dramatist

Beti George, Broadcaster

Chris Corcoran, Broadcaster, Writer & Comedian

Leroy Brito, Stand up comedian, Actor & Writer

Catrin Dafydd, Author & Poet

Professor Mererid Hopwood, Author & Poet

Dyfan Lewis, Author & Poet

Iestyn Tyne, Y Stamp 

Elan Grug, Y Stamp

Esyllt Lewis, Y Stamp

Eugene Capper, Bubblewrap Collective

Katie Hall, CHROMA

Cian Ciaran

Gwenno Saunders

Dr Gareth Bonello, Musician and Heritage Researcher

Bethan Mai Morgan Ifan, Artist & Musician

Jenny Cashmore, Artist

Elin Arfon, ESRC DTP Scholar

Dr Huw Williams, Philosopher, CU

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