A “Case Study” on the Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council’s clumsy and inept handling of a project to develop an “all-ages” play area in Paget Road, Penarth, has now trained an uncomfortable spotlight on the fundamental flaws in the council’s approach.
In 2013 the Vale of Glamorgan Council had decided – off its own bat – to spend “Section 106” [money to be paid by Penarth Heights Developers Crest Nicholson to “mitigate” the effects of the development] on a new “all ages” Skateboard Park and play area in Paget Road – to replace the existing toddler and children’s play area.
The Vale Council’s Paget Road Skateboard Park decision was made without any reference to Penarth Town Council and with no reference to local residents.
It was only when word of the scheme leaked out in 2014 that local residents demanded to know what was going on and forced St Augustine’s Vale Councillors Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts to hold a public meeting in the Windsor Arms pub to explain the scheme.
The meeting did not go well. The proposed Skateboard Park proved to be highly unpopular with most of the residents attending the meeting .
Despite Vale denials at the time, the Penarth Case Study now admits that “initial consultations with residents received negative feedback”. It says “The previous experience of residents has been largely at a ‘communication’ or ‘consultation’ level of engagement, as a result some residents have been voiced concerns and negative opinions about not only the re-development itself, but of previous plans to invest the Section 106 funding into one park in particular.”
Eventually the Vale Council, with considerable ill-grace – and amidst recriminations galore – climbed down and admitted it would have to re-think its ill-considered scheme . However as recently as last February Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustine’s) was still blaming local residents for having opposed the original plan. [ See PDN http://tinyurl.com 0/zuu3dtq ]
The Vale Case Study Report says that then “A meeting was held with the councillors for the area, and Councillor King’s son, a local skater, who acted as a gatekeeper to other skaters in the area. [ Cllr Peter King (Labour Cornerswell) is a member of Vale’s five-strong ruling ‘cabinet’ and its member for transport] .
The Case Study report goes on to say :”Through the meeting we were able to garner the opinions of the local skaters and found out that rather than developing skating facilities at Paget Road, it would be preferred if the existing skating facilities at Cogan Leisure Centre could be improved and perhaps a scooter area for younger children installed in Paget Road.”
The next stage in the saga was to propose that the Section 106 Crest Nicholson cash should be spent redeveloping the existing Skateboard Park at Penarth Leisure Centre, plus a modified scheme at Paget Road, replacement play facilities at Plassey Square Recreation Ground and new play facilities a Dingle Park (where there are none).
Up to now, little has been said publicly about the plan to develop Dingle Park – but the Vale Case Study says that “The Park is represented by the ‘Friends of Dingle Park’ interest group, the group is primarily vocal on social media but has taken on the maintenance of the park. … it was decided that one of the primary issues in the park is the parks fencing and shrubbery, and that improving these would go a long way to improving the aesthetic of the Park and encouraging more users.”
The report also reveals that there were consultations about Dingle Park with local running groups who said that there was “the potential for a ‘Trim Trail’ to be installed in the park, this would allow the running groups to continue to use the park for fitness runs and may encourage others to utilise the park for fitness in the future.”
The Case Study appears to indicate that the saga has resulted – at long last – in some overdue lessons being learned by the Vale Council – not least the importance of carrying proper consultations with local people – and with the local Council – Penarth Town Council .
The report frankly admits that there was a “previous reluctance from service providers [ i.e the Vale Councillors and officers] to relinquish any degree of power over a project.”
The report also frankly admits “It might have been possible to improve the engagement by working more with relevant partner organisations, we could have engaged with the Penarth Town and Community Council and this organisation as a gatekeeper to other partner organisations with an interest in the project.”
“To have included these organisations from the start of the project would have resulted in a better degree of power-sharing than has been experienced in the project.”
The Case Study report was written by Lloyd Fisher and published by Participation Cymru – an organsation that promotes good practice in public bodies and is downloadable from http://tinyurl.com/gskrfrz
However the Vale of Glamorgan Council isn’t quite out-of-the-woods yet on the development of the Penarth play areas. …It’s now emerged that the revised plans may not have made adequate provision for disabled children.