The leading lights in the Friends of Dingle Park – the organisation which has transformed Dingle Park from a neglected backwater to one of the most pleasant public open spaces in Penarth – are to retire.
Robert Donaldson and Louise Nash are stepping down – after years of gathering litter, picking up plastic bags filled with dog poo, nurturing bee-friendly wild-flower beds and campaigning for Dingle Park to be equipped with basic amenities such as public seating and notice boards.
Robert and Louise also pressed for the railings of the park to the repaired and – by-passing councillors and managers – the “Friends of Dingle Park” struck-up a highly productive direct working relationship with the Parks Department officers at the Vale of Glamorgan Council which proved highly effective .
One of their other campaign successes was the installation of new benches in Dingle Park where previously there had been none.The new benches – although looking like conventional seats on iron supports – are actually made entirely from heavyweight recycled plastic which will require no maintenance.
Robert and Louise are now hoping that other local residents will now come forward to carry on the work that they’ve been doing and maintain the park to the standard it’s now acheived.
One of Mr Donaldson’s most recent campaigns was to persuade the giant German rail company Deutsche Bahn (a.k.a. Arriva Trains Wales) and Network Rail to tackle the problem of fly-tipping and overgrowth at the nearby Dingle Station.
The Germans and Network Rail have both renaged on promises to carry out remedial work at the station despite constant pressure from Mr Donaldson and failed to meet a commitment they’d made to clear the station last November.
Penarth Town Planning Committee has received a report outlining the protracted correspondence Mr Donaldson had had with the rail operators “over a number of months” . ( See PDN report http://tinyurl.com/j2kzfjq ). Mr Donaldson asked for Penarth Town Council’s support in pressing the matter.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he understood that issues of fly-tipping on railway land was covered by the Environmental Protection Act – which states that within 25 metres of a railway platform there’s “a duty and obligation” on the rail operators to clear that land . Cllr Ernest said the operators could be taken to court and fined if they did no comply and suggested that council officers should investigate the process.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines ) said there were two different enforcement agencies for Environmental Protection Act issues – the Vale of Glamorgan Council or Natural Resources Wales. He suggested that Penarth Council officers should find out which was the appropriate agency to deal with the matter – with a view to going to the enforcement agency “with immediate effect“.
Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) noted that it had taken GPG [ the environmental group Gwyrddio Penarth Greening] about 12 months to “enhance the appearance” of Penarth Town Station and place flower-beds there. He thought that “cosmetics” of railway stations – as opposed to the tracks – were the responsibility of Arriva, whose current contract was currently under review. He was not sure whether “one more go at the conventional route“ [as opposed to enforcement action] to get the matter dealt with would be a better strategy.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts noted numerous attempts had already been made to get Arriva to attend to the problem . He urged the committee to go immediately for enforcement action.
Committee chairman Cllr Neil Thomas said “As I understand it, Arriva is nationalised . Unfortunately the nationality is German”
Cllr Anthony Ernest said Penarth’s railway stations were very important. Tens of thousands of people travelled on them regularly and they were also used by visitors coming to Penarth and if they saw a track littered it did not create a good impression. If the Penarth stations had a few flowers on them it would be a great way of attracting more visitors.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts said with the Wales rail franchise coming up for renewal perhaps the council should be speaking to “people who award the franchise” to make sure there was a tight enforceable condition in the franchise to maximise and maintain the appearance of all stations.
The council is now to establish which enforcement agency deals with railway stations and also write to the body granting the new rail franchises to propose an enforcement clause on the appearance of railway stations.
[PDN Note: The Blair Labour Government artificially forced the public company that owned the UK’s stations and tracks – Railtrack – into administration and transferred assets (without any compensation) to a new state-owned nationalised company Network Rail. Labour minister Stephen Byers dismissed the huge losses made by 250,000 ordinary people who’d bought shares in Railtrack at its flotation as “grannies losing their blouses”].