If you aren’t angry that Cardiff Lib Dems decided not to register Rumney Rec as a village green then you are in a small minority. The village green application included a long history of facts and difficult legal questions to answer. The uninterested observer may think the anger at the Council committee is simply disappointment after all a public inquiry with a QC was held to help resolve these questions.”
That isn’t the full picture. As Cllr Derrick Morgan rightly said Rumney Rec is an issue that arouses passionate feeling and the overwhelming support of local people. Derrick Morgan set out a number of problem areas in the advice that did not make sense and required further explanation. However the Public Protection Committee decision was scarred by Lib Dem intransigence and the refusal to listen to local people. Hardly surprising as only the Lib Dem led Council objected to the village green application.
Don Taylor from RREEL wanted to address to committee as did I. I told the chair of the committee that I didn’t want to filibuster, I wanted to ask questions and address elected representatives on an issue of huge importance of people in East Cardiff. We could have been allowed to speak, even for a brief period of time. However the Lib Dem Chair of the Committee decided that the public should not be allowed to address their elected representatives for any period of time.
The report of Mr Blohm itself contains a number of factual inconsistencies. For example he found that Squire Williams regulated use of the land that is now the Rec. No evidence was presented that this was the case. In fact evidence that Squire Williams did not regulate use was given at the inquiry by the Hobbs Sisters, Joyce Pitman, Ray Connolly and Jeffrey Bonsey. Despite people who were there at the time telling him what happened Mr Blohm reached the opposite conclusion.
The report also had puzzling legal findings that none of the Lib Dem members of the committee were interested in asking questions about. For example Mr Blohm’s conclusions on implied licence appear to directly contradict advice that he gave on his own chambers website on 8 March 2010.
All this and more was highlighted to the Committee. All of it was ignored by the Lib Dem members including East Cardiff Trowbridge Cllr Geraldine Grant who decided that the Rec should not be protected. I know from being a Cllr that it isn’t good enough to follow blindly every piece of advice without asking questions. It isn’t just reasonable for Cllrs to ask questions and demand answers when they don’t understand the advice they are being given or when the advice does not make sense. It is the duty of Cllrs to ask questions when that happens. If they aren’t prepared to do that why bother standing for election?”
When I was a Cllr we had meetings where external lawyers were present so Cllrs could ask questions to ensure they understood the advice they were being given. Yesterday the Committee were told that they wouldn’t get any more answers regardless of the questions they asked.
Labour Cllrs, Tory Cllrs and even a Plaid Cllr wanted to have their questions answered. However the determination to see off the Rec came from Lib Dem Cllrs who looked and talked like they were acting as a party block. Its no wonder watching Llanrumney Cllrs Heather Joyce and Jackie Parry were furious.
No-one should think the fight is over. A legal challenge and judicial review is difficult and expensive. Even if that does not go forward there is a still a planning process to contend with and a Council election in 2012. Somehow I don’t think we’ll see much of Rodney Berman and Neil McEvoy in East Cardiff when the 2012 Council election comes around.
The community fight to save the Rec has shown dignity, passion and rare ability to present a convincing case. The campaign will continue and I will continue to be in people’s corner.
Vaughan Gething – Labour and Co-operative Party Welsh Assembly Candidate for Cardiff South & Penarth
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