Cardiff Council’s current consultation on their next 10 year plan (the Local Development Plan) is relying on online mechanisms which will exclude many citizens.
There is appetite in a number of parts of the city for ward-based consultation sessions on the LDP. But the response of the Council to date has been ‘no’, based on the ‘Delivery Agreement’ that sets out an online-only approach to this stage of the consultation. When the Delivery Agreement was consulted on, a number of individuals and organisations specifically highlighted the need to deepen engagement with residents. This seems to have been ignored.
Whilst appreciating that the Delivery Agreement was written a number of months ago when Covid restrictions were much tighter, things have changed. Current Welsh Government regulations allow certain meetings. For example:
‘Up to 30 people can meet in any outdoor area, including private gardens, public spaces and outdoor regulated premises such as cafes, restaurants and bars.’
and ‘indoor regulated gatherings (previously known as organised indoor activities) (up to 30 people)’.
So there is plenty of scope for consultation meetings to be held safely, e.g. in the parks.
We were pleased to see the announcement of drop-in sessions in the community as part of the consultation on the new Willows school, but this begs questions as to why the same is not possible for the LDP which will affect every citizen across the city for a decade.
Digital exclusion is a significant issue for many people in our city. In addition, the online consultation is not simple. One of the people who attended the Cardiff Civic Society event on the LDP had completed the online consultation and said that it took them 2 hours rather than the 30 minutes suggested. How many people will stick with the online consultation to the end?
If the Council still refuse to engage face to face with citizens on the ten year plan then the consultation period should be extended, by at least four weeks. This would align with the time being allowed to developers to propose strategic sites, so that events could be held as restrictions ease.
But, current Covid restrictions should not be used as an excuse to avoid public engagement on such a vital issue. Come on Cardiff Council – you can do better!