It’s emerged that the pro-cycling pressure group Sustrans is now involved in talks with the group set up to re-launch the scheme to build a “Mark II version ” of the controversial Penarth Headland Link along the shoreline around Penarth Head .
The initiative for a “MkII” version of the Penarth Headland Link was first floated out in a public meeting held in Penarth Pier Pavilion on November 24th 2015 – but little has been heard about the embryo project since that date. [See PDN http://tinyurl.com/opohqne ]
On May 9th 2016 however a new Penarth Headland Link “charity” (No 1167209) was registered with the Charity Commission – as was a ‘company limited by guarantee’ (No 09897285) at Companies House.
The “trustees” [ a.k.a. directors ] of the non-profit company/charity are :-
- Jeffrey John Andrews
- Roger Geraint Thomas
- Richard Michael Hodgson Read,
- John Peter William Morgan,
- Peter John Wellesley Bussell,
- Dr Gabe Treharne,
- Alun Michael,
- Louis John Lovell,
- Brendan Sadka,
- James Hunter Leighton
Most of these men were present at the November 2015 launch public meeting. However in that meeting there was criticism from the then Mayor of Penarth Rosemary Cook (Labour St Augustines) that there were no women on the board – and since then two women have been appointed as directors/trustees. They are: –
- Ms Sivaruby Sivagnanam
- Mrs Mari Arwel Jones.
After the inaugural November 2015 meeting, there was supposed to have been a follow-up public meeting in Cardiff in January 2016 and an “update meeting” six months later in Penarth (i.e. June 2016) – by which date the group hoped to have an email contact and a base. It’s not known whether either meeting was ever held.
However on May 19th 2016 the Penarth Headland Link “charity” was officially registered with the Charity Commission.
By this time however there was a subtle change of emphasis in the scheme: – the Penarth Headland Link was now being described – not as a “pedestrian walkway“, but as a “cycle path and walkway” . The formal “Charity Overview” now describesthe activities of the organisation as ” The construction, provision and maintenance of a cycle path and walkway around the coast of South Wales at Penarth Head, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan as a public amenity”.
The pro-cycling body Sustrans – which now appears to become involved in the Penarth Headland Link – specialises in what it calls “travel-behaviour change”. In January 2014 Sustrans was invited by the Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council to “develop a vision for the Esplanade Area” – the results of which have yet to be made public.
Sustrans has been publicly castigated by Labour Councillor and former Mayor of Penarth Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) in connection with its earlier schemes in Penarth.
In the Penarth Times in November 2013 Cllr Rapier wrote:- “Sustrans are notorious for listening to no one and steamrollering counterproductive schemes despite valid objections ” .
Notionally itself a “charity”, Sustrans is actually funded primarily by Government grants – using tax-payers’ money – but also receives cash from bicycle manufacturers.
Cllr Rapier has questioned Sustrans’s ‘charitable’ status saying Sustrans “would not be able to function without the generous sums it receives of our lottery money, Council Tax and massive hand outs from Westminster and Cardiff Bay”.
Sustrans played a key role in the controversial scheme to clear natural habitat and to lay a tarmac roadway over Penarth’s much loved nature-walk, the Railway Path, – so that it could be used by cyclists.
This was a scheme which was bulldozed through by Labour councillors in the teeth of strong opposition by Penarth residents. In July 2013 a public petition forced Penarth Town Council to hold a public meeting in the Paget Rooms. There was an overwhelming majority vote [138 to 5] in favour of a Penarth-wide referendum being held on the project [ See http://tinyurl.com/h6bkvyy ]. The Vale Council – which oversaw the chaotic polling process at the meeting (which kept Penarth residents waiting in a long queue outside the Paget Rooms to register to vote) – said there were 17 (seventeen) too few ballot papers cast in that meeting to trigger a legal obligation to hold a town-wide referendum.
Cllr Rapier said of Sustrans that he had “grave concerns at the degree of influence they have been able to exert over the Railway Path controversy.”
Criticised as one of Sustrans’s silliest schemes is the self-evidently dangerous cycling-contraflow it advocated in Arcot St, Penarth in which cyclists travel the wrong way down a one-way-street against the flow of traffic and where motorists – emerging from angled, chevron car parking spaces – are expected to dodge cyclists who unexpectedly approach them against the flow of one-way traffic. Sustrans admitted that a safety review had revealed a “potential for conflict” between cyclists and vehicles emerging from parking bays – but said the alternative to the contraflow “would have involved a detour of over twice the length requiring cyclists to undertake two right-turn manoeuvres”.
There are now fears that the involvement of Sustrans in the Penarth Headland Link may mean that – once again – again the vociferous cycling lobby – with taxpayer’s cash at its disposal – could exert undue influence on the configuration of the Mk II Penarth Headland Link, a scheme which was presented to the public on the basis of it being fundamentally a route for pedestrians.
One local resident has told PDN “if it’s sensible to ban bikes on Penarth Pier, Penarth Promenade and on Cliff Walk – surely it makes equal sense to keep bikes off the Penarth Headland Walkway….that’s if it’s ever built”.
The background story of the original – defunct – Penarth Headland Link proposal which collapsed in acrimony and cost millions in lost public funds is here :- http://tinyurl.com/p638hcz
An account of the public meeting at which the MkII version of the Penarth Headland Link is on http://tinyurl.com/opohqne
The background on the proposed Tidal Lagoon (which is unconnected with the Penarth Headland Link but may impact upon it) is on:- http://tinyurl.com/nwygqxk
The background on the disappearance of Penarth Esplanade’s original multi-storey car park is on:- http://tinyurl.com/nqykvfz