The playground at Britannia Park, near the Norwegian Church and Waterguard public house in Cardiff Bay is under threat.
Plans to build a Museum of Military Medicine on Britannia Park will lead to the closure and removal of the existing playground.
There is no funding and no firm plan in place to replace the playground with a new one.
Cardiff Council gave permission for the museum to go ahead at its planning meeting on 16 December 2020. The planning conditions attached to the approval referred to the need to replace the playground. However, residents are concerned these conditions will not be honoured.
Welsh law demands that children should be consulted on major developments which affect them. However, Cllrs Huw Thomas (leader), Cllr Peter Bradbury (parks) and Cllr Graham Hinchey (children) have angrily dismissed a request for children’s voices to be heard.
Campaigners have expressed concern. A campaigner from the Friends of Britannia Park said:
“The inclusion of a planning condition relating to a new playground provides no certainty that one will be provided. Unfortunately developers in Cardiff have a track record of promising community facilities such as playgrounds and then failing to provide them. Furthermore, Cardiff Council has a mixed record in enforcing planning conditions such as these.
“The planning committee should not have provided planning permission for the scheme without first receiving written guarantees that funding and concrete plans were in place to immediately replace the playground on the site. Even better, they should have rejected the scheme altogether, as it breaks the local development plan’s requirement to protect green spaces. We are now calling on Cllr Huw Thomas to call a halt to these plans by not selling this land – which is owned by the people and children of Cardiff.”
As part of a consultation within Cardiff Council, an officer with responsibility for parks provided the following comments [our italics]:
“”There is currently no large scale detailed plan indicating how the play area will be affected. This is essential to establish whether the building will impinge on the grass area only or upon the safety zones of the current equipment, determining whether the main equipment would need to be moved or just minor items of equipment relocated. The equipment currently present is of variable condition and age but any relocation of equipment and safety surfacing would require funding. The current play area is widely used by a number of families living locally as well as people visiting Britannia Quay.
“During construction of the building consideration needs to be given as to whether the play area will need to be closed for safety reasons and loss of the play facility for any period of time is unlikely to be seen as acceptable by the public. However Parks have no objection to its relocation if a suitable site and funding can be found and it represents an opportunity to provide a new high quality play environment to enhance the open space.
“Longer term, having the play area so close to the new building may not be desirable for either the play area or Museum, so it is advisable that proposals are considered for an alternative location. I understand that a landscape study is due to be undertaken to cover this area up to the barrage and this would need to identify an alternative location for the play area and sources of funding. Much depends on the timescale for construction of the building as alterations to the play area would not be required until just before building work is due to start.” (Source: Cardiff Council planning committee papers pack)
A general planning condition, with no detail and no secured funding has been placed on the Museum. It reads as follows:
“Prior to the opening of the Museum the surrounding landscape of Britannia park shall be improved in accordance with a scheme of landscaping/public realm enhancements which shall first have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning authority prior to the commencement of development. The scheme shall include but not be limited to all hard and soft scape areas; enclosures; tree works and tree planting; play areas and play equipment; public art installations; seating; lighting and other landscape features in the context of a specific microclimate study..”
As noted above, the planning condition is not considered adequate by the Friends Britannia Park campaign to ensure that a playground will be included on the site.
In pressing ahead with these plans, council leader Huw Thomas, cabinet member for children, Graham Hinchey and cabinet member for parks are ignoring the rights of children under Welsh law.
In December, the Civic Society wrote to the three elected officials to ask the following questions:
- How do these plans accord with goal five of Cardiff’s Child Friendly Strategy that “Children have good physical, mental and emotional health and know how to stay healthy [and that in order to support this] children, young people and partner organisations work together to ensure access to safe outdoor environments for formal and informal play.”?
- How do these plans accord with section 11 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 that places a duty on local authorities to assess and secure sufficient play opportunities for children in their area? We remind you that the Play Sufficiency Duty comes as part of the Welsh Government’s anti-poverty agenda and that Britannia Park is located in Butetown, an area of multiple deprivation.
- What steps have you taken to ensure that children have been consulted as part of the cabinet’s plan to sell off this play area and threaten the viability of the children’s playground? We remind you that the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 states in Part 1 Chapter 2 states that a local authority must make such arrangements as it considers suitable to promote and facilitate participation by children in decisions of the authority which might affect them.
Cllr Huw Thomas answered with an angry response to the Civic Society which ignored their questions about children’s rights. In effect, children’s rights with regard to the Britannia Park playground have been dismissed out of hand by Cllrs Bradbury, Hinchey and Thomas.
Reclaim Cardiff have launched a letter writing tool where you can send an email to the council not to sell the land.