Questions raised over city venues – Echo

St David’s Hall. Pic: Walt Jabsco

Martin Shipton, South Wales Echo, 15 June, 2021

This article was originally published in the South Wales Echo. Please support strong local journalism and buy a copy of your Echo regularly!

A GROUP dedicated to preserving Cardiff’s heritage says it is worried that the city council held a top-level meeting with developers to discuss the future of two concert halls without an agenda or minutes.

The local authority owns St David’s Hall – the National Concert Hall for Wales – and Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, both of which are located in the city centre.

The Motorpoint Arena is leased to the entertainment group Live Nation UK .

n March 22Othis year, five senior councillors and three senior council officials attended a meeting to discuss both venues with Live Nation.

Nerys Lloyd-Pierce, chair of Cardiff Civic Society, submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for details of the meeting’s agenda and the identity of those who attended on the council’s behalf.

The local authority responded that the meeting was attended by cabinet members Huw Thomas, the leader of the council; Russell Goodway, who holds the investment and development portfolio; Caro Wild; Chris Weaver; and Peter Bradbury.

Also present were senior council officers Paul Orders, the chief executive; Neil Hanratty, the director of economic development; and Chris Lee, the director of finance.

The response stated: “There was no formal agenda. The meeting was to discuss Live Nation’s intention to deliver its ‘Academy’ product in Cardiff city centre and the consideration of potential venues.”

Ms Lloyd-Pierce said: “Russell Goodway is allocating millions to develop a new arena in Cardiff Bay.

“At the last count, the figure was £269m – and this for an arena nobody but Cllr Goodway is convinced is necessary.

“We are likely to lose a broad range of events at St David’s Hall with a commercial model, to the detriment of the city’s cultural scene.

“It’s also worrying that a meeting of this importance, considering the future of public assets, was not minuted.”

A spokesman for Cardiff council, said: “Live Nation is exploring several potential options for their Academy product and the council is supporting them to help bring the product to Cardiff city centre.

“On St David’s Hall, the council remains committed to securing a financially sustainable future for the building as the National Concert Hall of Wales – ensuring its continued use for classical music events and community events.

“There is no new approach agreed or any new parties involved, and any link to any third party is just speculation.”

Meanwhile, Cardiff council’s decision to meet representatives of a group hoping to revive the idea of a Severnside Airport to the east of Newport has been greeted with scepticism by Ms Lloyd-Pierce.

Another FoI response from the council shows that Councillors Thomas, Goodway and Wild, together with Mr Hanratty, met two representatives of Dragon Associates, consultants for the Severnside Airport project, in March this year.

No agenda or minutes of the meeting have been published.

Ms Lloyd-Pierce said: “Why are senior councillors meeting with a group promoting an airport that would be in competition with Cardiff Airport, which is publicly owned.

“Could this be aimed at undermining the Welsh Government?”

A Cardiff council spokesman said: “The idea of a Severnside Airport has been around for several years.

“The leader and cabinet members were invited to receive a brief update on the current state of the project.

“If anything at all were to proceed, then clearly the Welsh Government would play a key role and would have to be a key partner.”

It is understood that the Welsh Government, which owns Cardiff Airport, has no plans to invest in Severnside Airport.

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