The eminent Penarth scientist and environmentalist Professor Max Wallis has been expelled from the committee of trustees of the Penarth charity “Friends of Belle Vue Park” for having published a letter alleging the allocation of a mysterious £500,000 offer to redevelop the wooden pavilion at Belle Vue Park.
Professor Wallis had publicly alleged that a £500,000 offer to re-build the Belle Vue Pavilion has been made by the Vale of Glamorgan Council and was discussed with the Friends of Belle Vue Park at a recent meeting.
The money appears to part of a £1,100,000 “Section 106” payment made by Penarth Heights developers Crest Nicholson which is understood to have been initially earmarked to develop community facilities at the former St Paul’s Church in Arcot St – which is much closer to Penarth Heights than Belle Vue Park.
[St Paul’s Church is now – (subject to planning permission) – set to be demolished to make way for a new block of 14 rented social housing social housing apartments being developed by the Newydd Housing Association in a deal said to have been cooked-up in secret by the previous Labour administration in the Vale Council. The current plans for St Paul’s provide only a small “community room” – nothing like the floorspace which was originally available for public use in St Paul’s Church – a building which was bought and paid for by Penarth Urban District Council. All the rest of the re-built block would be crammed with social housing flats – sufficient to house 30+ tenants.]
It’s alleged that to make up for the deficit in the provision of community space at St Paul’s, a £500,000 “allocation” has now been made by the Vale Council for the rebuilding of the wooden pavilion at Belle Vue – which Professor Wallis says Vale officers consider to be “within walking distance” of Penarth Heights.
The first whiff of this compensating offer had come in November last year when Kate Stokes Davies of the St Paul’s Action Group asked a meeting of Penarth Town Council why there had been “no assessment of the community needs at St Paul’s” and why there were now plans to invest Section 106 cash from Penarth Heights in Belle Vue Park – whilst the proposed facilities at the St Paul’s site were being “downgraded”. She asked “Is the community need greater in the affluent Belle Vue area than in the poorer St Paul’s area”.
However it is now being alleged by the Friends of Belle Vue Park that Professor Wallis (no stranger to public controversy) has – by writing a letter to the Penarth Times – “potentially smeared the hard earned reputition of the charity.”
In a furious letter to Professor Wallis , Karen Martin, the chair of Friends of Belle Vue Park (FOBV), says Professor Wallis had wrongly implied the charity was ” a party to fixing a funding deal with VoG Council behind the scenes”. She said “FOBV would never want to participate in any decision making that affects the future of the park, without full consultation with users and residents.”
She says “No commitment has been made to this project” [ i.e. rebuilding the pavilion at Belle Vue Park] “or to the level of potential funding” and accuses Professor Wallis of misusing his position for what she calls his own “personal agenda”.
However Ms Martin’s indignant letter does not deny that the Belle Vue Pavilion project was discussed with Friends of Belle Vue Park – and also confirms that the meeting was attended by “representatives of the Vale of Glamorgan Council” .