Future for Our City?

A true modern city, fit for today’s challenges, must embody different values.

An “oasis for humanity and nature”: the Green Citadel, Magdeburg is one vision of the future city. Pic: Pablo Clavo

Lyn Eynon, on behalf of Cardiff Civic Society responds to Cardiff’s Council’s replacement local development plan’s draft ‘Vision, Issues and Objectives’ document.

Cardiff’s civic leadership has long craved a city of gleaming towers of glass and steel, with cars offering freedom to everyday suburban life. This 20th century dream has now become a 21st century nightmare, in which the promise of progress confronts the risk of natural and social collapse. A true modern city, fit for today’s challenges, must embody different values.

The Vision statement starts well. Cardiff must become a fairer and more sustainable city. But that will need a radical change of direction. These principles must underpin everything Cardiff Council decides or does, and infuse every policy of its Local Development Plan.

Council has declared a climate emergency and set a One Planet goal of a carbon neutral city. Senedd has now declared a nature emergency too. These emergencies are real and demand a radical shift in our aspirations and in our priorities if our city is to become sustainable.

Cardiff has grown in both population and economy. But expansion has not brought an end to inequalities or to deprivation, either within Cardiff or across the Capital Region. Our city may have become bigger and richer, but it has not become fairer.

In the pursuit of economic growth, the city has destroyed many of its assets, both natural and historic. Green spaces have been concreted over and built heritage torn down. The value of places has been measured only by how much it adds to the price of land.

The city’s human fabric too has been damaged. Communities have been dislocated and weakened. Regeneration has thought only of land and buildings, not about local people. Gentrification has pushed up rents, squeezing out both residents and businesses.

The pandemic has forced us all to think about how we live and work. All, it seems, except Cardiff Council, whose recovery strategy rehashes old plans, building higher but seeing no further. We need to renew, with our people, our nature, our heritage, and our region.

Climate change and biodiversity loss demand action now. We should renew not demolish. Construction on green space must be a last resort, and never less than fully compensated.

We want good jobs and affordable homes. We want equality for all our diverse identities, in a city which is truly child-friendly and welcomes young and old, and is fully accessible to all. We want neighbourhoods with all we need for daily life, open spaces, trees, active travel and public transport. We need health, education, social infrastructure. We want a green City Centre and Cardiff Bay for everyone, with local businesses and grassroots culture.

Placemaking is not just for officers, politicians and developers. It must be democratic, led by citizens, rooted in communities, open to everyone, whatever their identity or background.

Cardiff is the capital of Wales. It should lead our national aspiration for the well-being of current and future generations, through harmonious integration of our natural, built and human worlds. This will not be easy. It demands civic leadership willing to engage with and learn from the ideas of its citizens. It requires commitment to put people before profit.

Setting our objectives to achieve the vision of such a city would truly be a capital ambition.

NB. This blog post is taken from ‘Comments on Cardiff RLDP Draft Vision, Issues and Objectives ,’ 23/07/2021 Lyn Eynon for Cardiff Civic Society. Here is a full copy of the document:

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