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Cardiff Council approves recommendations for Maindy Park land swap to expand school

PLANS to expand a school in Cardiff which could see the loss of a historic velodrome have taken a major step forward today.

Cardiff Council’s cabinet today approved recommendations made by an independent advisory committee to go ahead with a land swap which will see land at Maindy Park exchanged for land at Caedelyn Park in Rhiwbina.

If the land swap goes ahead, it will pave the way for the expansion of Cathays High School.

However, cabinet’s decision on the land swap is still subject to approval by the Charity Commission.

As part of the land exchange proposal, the land at Maindy Park will be swapped for land at Caedelyn Park in Rhiwbina (pic: Cardiff Council)

Speaking at the meeting, Leader of the opposition at the council, Cllr Adrian Robson said: “It is unfortunate that we are where we are… it doesn’t inspire confidence in the wider public.”

He also explained how the distance between the two parks could disincentivize people who used Maindy Park from making use of Caedelyn.

Cllr Robson later added: “It is not going to leave a good taste in peoples’ mouths”.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats group at Cardiff Council, Cllr Rodney Berman, also raised the concern that users of Maindy Park might be short-changed through the land swap.

He said the land swap “is not, I think, acting in the best interests of what the trust was set up to achieve”, adding that the swap only “provides convenience for one group of people” in a particular area.

Director of legal and governance at Cardiff Council, Davina Fiore, pointed to the fact that the land exchange includes just under five acres of land at Maindy Park being retained by the trust.

The land at Maindy Park which has been put forward for disposal to make way for the expansion of Cathays High School (pic: Cardiff Council)

The retained land includes the leisure centre and swimming pool, meaning that those recreational facilities would remain unaffected by the proposals.

Plans also made provision securing public access to the Trust’s retained land and space for public car parking in the evenings and at weekends.

The planned expansion of Cathays High School would increase its capacity from 1,072 places to 1,450 places.

However, the plans have been opposed by some, predominantly due to concerns over the loss of Maindy Velodrome which would be demolished to make way for the new development.

The velodrome hosted the British Empire and Commonwealth Games – what the Commonwealth Games used to be called – in 1958 and has helped nurture British cycling talent, with past users of the site including Geraint Thomas, Owain Doull, and Elinor Barker.

The Maindy Park Trust Advisory Committee, which consists of three independent members of the council’s standards and ethics committee, met a number of times over three months to discuss the controversial land swap and come to a decision.

The advisory committee was set up to manage the council’s conflict of interest arising from its role as the sole trustee of Maindy Park Trust – the charity which owns the land proposed for the school expansion – and its role as the local education authority which has put forward the plans for Cathays High.

Eventually, it agreed to make a recommendation to the council’s cabinet in favour of the land swap subject to a number of conditions, including:

  • The new velodrome is to be built and operational prior to the proposed land swap taking place;
  • The terms and conditions recommended in the Qualified Surveyors updated report are to apply; including specifically in relation to overage provision – being 50% of the uplift in value to be paid to the trust if the site is sold for future development during a period of 75 years from the date of the release of the restrictive covenant (which would entitle the trust to receive a share of any potential increase in value if an implementable planning permission is obtained for a higher value use of the land);
  • Improvement works to be carried out at the retained land at Maindy and Caedelyn including improved drainage of the site, walkways, lighting, and other measures to reduce antisocial behaviour in the area;
  • Arrangements are to be made between the trust and the council for a lease or licence to be agreed to cover the future maintenance and management of the land at Caedelyn and Maindy by the council with no ongoing revenue costs to the trust which exceed income;
  • The council is to carry out a review of the governance and financial management arrangements of all trusts of which the council is a trustee, and;
  • The provision of an information board on site to explain the historic use of the site as a velodrome

Only cabinet members who have not had any previous involvement in the council’s development proposals for the Maindy Park land, and do not have any other personal and prejudicial interest, were able to take part in the decision making process.

These included Cllr Dan De’Ath, Cllr Jennifer Burke-Davies, Cllr Ashley Lister and Cll Julie Sangani.

Now that the recommendations have been approved, the council will make an application to the Charity Commission for consent to go ahead with the land swap.

Once the Chairty Commission receives the application it will assess whether the trustee’s decision is in the best interest of the charity and if it has sufficiently considered conflicts of interest and the views of beneficiaries.

After the advisory committee made its decision on the recommendation to be made to cabinet in January, the Charity Commission said: “We understand this issue is important to local people and will take care to listen to a variety of perspectives.

“We will seek representations from members of the public when making the decision and will publicise our reasoning once it has been made.”