Penarth Town Council has “ringfenced” £54,000 of local residents’ money to spend on assessing the “feasibility and business planning costs of future major projects” as part of the council’s so-called “Vision”.
The council is shortly to publish a new document called “Your Future, Your Say – A Vision for Penarth” which purports to set out just what it intends to do in the future .
The document distills the essence of various ideas, some of which originate from outside the council and others which look suspiciously like re-treads of previous proposals.
The sparsely-illustrated document – which is somewhat thin on detail – is to be published on the internet, but last night councillors had a last look at the draft before finally signing-off on it.
The 12-page compendium provides an initial tour-de-horizon of Penarth Town Council’s functions and then sets out its “ambitions” – most of which were not mentioned in any of last year’s local election campaign literature and for which the council, therefore, has received no electoral mandate .
The document spells out the difference between what Penarth Council does and what the Vale of Glamorgan Council is obliged to do, and refers to the “Penarth Precept” (which it levies on local residents) as a “small percentage of the Council Tax”. It quotes the usual (misleading) example of a “Band D” property to make the tax sound relatively modest.
The council – says the document – “has to deal with the challenges brought about by the austerity agenda which is now affecting public services across the board” but fails to mention that it has driven up the Penarth Precept every year, for the last 6 years, at a far greater rate than the rate of UK inflation – culminating this year in a rise of 7%.
GETTING INTO DEBT : The document hints that Penarth Council is now planning – for the first time – to get into debt by taking out public works loans. It says its “ultimate aim is to make Penarth an even better place to live and work“.
1. PENARTH CEMETERY
Plans for Penarth Cemetery include the development of a “Scatter Lawn” for cremated remains .
It is pointed out that the cemetery is reaching its capacity in terms of space for new coffin burials but it is hoped to develop the existing cemetery chapel as a public meeting venue.
2. WEST HOUSE
At its West House HQ the council says it is to install more external public seating [It has yet to progress its proposal to move the sloping backless council-initiated “Penarth Bench” from outside Barclays Bank to West House.]
The council is said to be working with “a group of Primary School to introduce vegetable beds into the area with the long term aim of developing healthy eating initiatives through community growing projects”.
The council also plans to introduce a public drinking fountain,an outside event space and a regular “Farmer’s Market” in the West House grounds – a decision which could have implications for the monthly farmers market currently held in the grounds of Westbourne School.
3. TURNER HOUSE
Turner House: The document outlines the proposals [already reported by PDN on https://tinyurl.com/y8lblnkb%5D for the council to “maintain and operate Turner House as a multi-purpose community venue”. Here, it’s envisaged there would be “exhibitions”, “studio space for local artists and makers”, tourist and visitor information and space for hire to for evening art classes.
The most significant admission in the document is that Penarth Town Council has evidently given up on any idea of recovering the millions of pounds worth of original J.M.W Turner paintings, given to the people of Penarth by the millionaire philanthropist James Pyke Thompson.
The paintings, it seems, will remain hidden away in the vaults of the National Museum – which appropriated the pictures in the 1920s. The artworks will only be available to view “digitally” (i.e. on tv screens) at Turner House.
4. THE PAGET ROOMS
The Paget Rooms: The council document says “Although the Paget Rooms remain a popular and well-used venue , the Town Council recognises that the facilities that are on offer to hirers and customers of the building could be improved”.
The council is to look at the “possibility” of introducing “retractable raked audience seating” at the Paget Rooms. [Here the council would be playing catch-up with other auditoriums in the town which already have such facilities. There is raked audience-seating in the large theatre at Stanwell School and retractable raked seating in the theatre space of the new St Cyres School]
5 THE TOWN CENTRE
The council says “There are a number [sic] of further initiatives under consideration including the introduction of community notice boards at key locations across the town, the removal of street clutter in Windsor Road and the introduction of hanging baskets in the town centre”
Parking – the number one public issue in Penarth – receives only a single sentence in the council’s “Vision” document, even though the availability of parking – or lack of it – acts as a huge lever on the future prosperity (or otherwise) of the town. [Roads and traffic management are the province of the Vale of Glamorgan Council]
The document says only that “The Town Council will …work with the Vale of Glamorgan Council to develop the Esplanade and will support any efforts to manage and improve parking provision within the town “. Local residents might have expected a forward-looking document to come up with at least some new ideas to tackle the problem.
6 THE KYMIN
The Penarth Town Council Vision document is silent regarding the council’s under-developed and abortive bid to acquire the Kymin from its owners, the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
It says only that the council now wishes to “move forward with the Vale of Glamorgan Council to improve the facilities available within both the House and Grounds” .
WHAT’S MISSING FROM THE DOCUMENT
The Penarth Headland Link: Curiously – for a document peering into the future – there is no mention of any second attempt to revive the Penarth Headland Link (the walkway it was planned to build along the beach around Penarth Head linking the Esplanade to the Cardiff Barrage).
Penarth Town Council was involved in the public meeting at the Pier Pavilion which floated out the “Mark II” version of the scheme in 2015. (The first Headland Link scheme collapsed after a total of £26,000,000 of public money had been wasted on it.)
The original Penarth Esplanade multi-storey car park was demolished – with the assent of Penarth Town Council – to make way for the walkway that was never built. As a result parking on the Esplanade has become a huge problem.
Penarth Pier Pavilion: The document makes no reference whatever to Penarth Pier or Penarth Pier Pavilion (presumably because both belong to the Vale of Glamorgan Council). However Penarth Council has an official representative on the board of Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd – the firm which holds the 125 year lease on the Pavilion. Many people might have expected the Town Council to at least express a view on the future of Penarth’s most expensive public asset .
Money: None of the proposals made in the “Vision” document is costed and there is no mention – anywhere – of what the financial commitment of such schemes would be. Members of the public therefore, when they get hold of a copy, will have no idea what costs will be racked up by implementing these proposals and what effect this will have on the Penarth Precept – or the future indebtedness of the council. If the local residents give their approval to the council’s proposals in this consultation they may – in effect – be writing a blank cheque to the council and face further increases in the Penarth Precept in the years ahead
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT …
After an initial round of public consultation on the “Vision for Penarth” document the council says ” a further document is to be produced in Spring 2019 which will explain how this consultation have affected [ sic] the way in which the Town Council moves forward across all of the noted project areas”.
The document is not bi-lingual and there was no mention in last night’s council meeting of any intention of producing a Welsh Language version – even though the council has a legal obligation to produce all its official documents in Welsh as well as English.