A CONTROVERSIAL land swap in Cardiff which could see the loss of green space and a much loved velodrome took another step towards becoming a reality this week.
An independent committee, called the Maindy Park Trust Advisory Committee, decided this week to recommend to Cardiff Council that land at Maindy Park should be swapped for land at Caedelyn Park in Rhiwbina.
If the Maindy Park Trust Advisory Committee’s recommendation is approved by Cardiff Council’s cabinet – and if this decision is given consent by the Charity Commission – plans to expand Cathays High School can go ahead.
However, this will mean the loss of Maindy Velodrome, a historic cycle track which was opened in 1951 and continues to be widely used today.
Here’s more of a look at what’s to come next for Maindy Park.
Why did the committee decide the land swap should go ahead?
The Maindy Park Trust Advisory Committee was set up to try and negate the conflict of interest Cardiff Council, as the educational authority and sole trustee of Maindy Park Trust, would have had in making a decision on the proposed land swap.
The committee is made up of three independent members of the Cardiff Council Standards and Ethics Committee.
After three meetings, a site visit and listening to the representations of different community groups, the committee decided that they thought the land swap would be in the best interest of Maindy Park Trust.
At their final meeting on Monday January 23, the committee chair, Jason Bartlett, said: “The land left at Maindy will provide a larger area of green space than currently, and together with the land at Caedelyn, means there will be two areas of land for the benefit of all Cardiff residents, which will benefit more people than having one specialist activity on one site and will be of a greater financial and amenity value and therefore is in the best interest of the charity.”
However, there are many who are still opposed to this decision and who do not agree with the view that the land swap would provide an adequate replacement to what is already at Maindy Park.
Some residents argue that they will be losing an accessible piece of parkland for an area which is already a dedicated piece of public open space much further away from where they live.
What are people saying about the future of Maindy Park and what impact the land swap could have?
The Save Maindy Velodrome campaign group said they are ready to challenge any final decision on the land swap.
One of the conditions that the independent committee attached to their recommendation to cabinet included a commitment from the council to place an information board on site to explain its historic use as a velodrome.
A spokesperson for the Save Maindy Velodrome campaign said: “Also in the view of the Advsiory Committee, losing the historic, wonderful and much loved Maindy Velodrome was an irrelevance as its historic value was too low to be of any serious value to the Trustee and Beneficiaries (the people of Cardiff).
“Clearly an absurd proposition. The biggest challenge the Advisory Committee put to the Council was to ask [if] they consider putting a plaque on the site saying there used to be a fantastic velodrome there.
“Please note that, if successful, this novel route Cardiff Council have chosen to remove Trust protection to cherished Cardiff parkland will create a precedent in Cardiff.”
The campaign claims: “All Cardiff parkland with Trust protection (such as Bute Park) will be open to development via approval of a Council run ‘Advisory Committee’.”
In response to this, a spokesperson at Cardiff Council said: “This is not correct – many parks/green spaces we have held in trust are protected by Fields in Trust an independent UK-wide charity, dedicated to protecting green spaces.
“The Advisory Committee was independent and had independent legal advice on charity law and independent valuation advice.”
The council added that its cabinet members or the Charity Commission could decide that more than an information board is needed to mark the park’s history.
On the need for a new school at Maindy, the spokesperson said: “The current school has been identified as a priority scheme which looks to address those schools identified as in poor condition, with major defects, suitability issues or nearing the end of operational life.
“The redevelopment and expansion of the school would provide opportunities to meet the projected demand for places from within its catchment area and neighbouring communities, as well as meet demand for city-wide additional Specialist Resource Base (SRB) places for learners with Autism Spectrum Condition.
“It will provide pupils, staff and the local community with access to modern, improved and inspiring facilities, fit for 21st century learning.”
Maindy Park has had a long history stretching back to 1922 when it was gifted to the people of Cardiff by the Marquis of Bute.
The Maindy Recreation Ground was opened in 1928 and two bowling greens were added to the park in 1929 and 1930.
The park is perhaps best known for its velodrome, which hosted the British Empire and Commonwealth Games – what the Commonwealth Games used to be called – in 1958.
Maindy Velodrome has also been responsible for nurturing British cycling talent.
Past members of the cycling club Maindy Flyers include esteemed cyclists Geraint Thomas, Owain Doull and Elinor Barker.
Former Maindy Flyers coach, Alan Davis MBE, said: “If this track didn’t exist, if they hadn’t seen cycling going on, they wouldn’t have won four of those five Olympic gold medals.
“All of the senior moments for cycling in Wales have come from this facility.”
One major point of controversy in relation to the new velodrome which has been proposed as part of the Cardiff International Sports Village plans is its steepness.
It is proposed that the new velodrome will have a banking of about 28 degrees, which is ten degrees more than the current banking at Maindy.
Mr Davis said this is a significant difference that could effect who would be able to use the track.
He said: “Younger riders will really struggle with this. Additionally, younger riders ride smaller bikes.
“Not only are they at greater risk of clipping a pedal, but their bike is designed to be closer to the ground, so that increases the risk even further.
“It is a big debate at the moment between the council and a number of the cycle clubs and coaches that use Maindy now as to whether or not that is safe.”
As well as fearing the exclusion of certain groups of people from being able to use the new velodrome, Mr Davis said he is concerned about the loss of a range of activities at Maindy Park which help to build more than just medal winning cyclists.
He added: “There is a whole range of different events, and Cardiff JIF would never forgive me if I didn’t mention cycle polo that takes place at the five a side courts at the top.
“There is this whole range of things that can be catered for here and cyclists can come along and they can enjoy cycling and then if they decide they want to specialise in one aspect of the sport or another, they can move in different directions.
“This gives them a foundation to do them all. A purpose built, fixed wheel velodrome doesn’t.”
Mr Davis raised these concerns at the first Maindy Park Trust Advisory Committee meeting in October.
At the meeting, a Cardiff Council officer, Eirian Jones, said: “My understanding is that the specification for the new velodrome has been designed for road and track users and it is no more than 28 degrees.”
A planning report on the new velodrome proposed for Cardiff Bay states: “An infilled flat 3 metre wide tarmac zone and 3 metre safety zone will be provided to allow for beginners.
“Once the Velodrome is operational, there will be opportunities for group and club bookings and regional/national events, with the typical attendance anticipated at the Velodrome during group and club bookings potentially between 20 and 45 riders per hour and for events in between 50 to 300 participants per day.”
What happens next?
Cardiff Council said cabinet members will likely make a decision on the proposed land swap at the next cabinet meeting on Thursday March 2.
However, this decision will need consent from the Charity Commission and the council will need to make an application to them for this consent.
A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said: “We have not yet received an application from Cardiff Council for consent for the land swap involving Maindy Park and Caedelyn Park.
“When we receive an application, we will consider it carefully to 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.
“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.”
If the proposed land swap is given the go ahead it will be subject to a number of conditions, including:
- The new velodrome is to be built and operational prior to the proposed land swap taking place
- 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
- The provision of an information board on site to explain the historic use of the site as a Velodrome
One of the council’s scrutiny chairs, Cllr Joel Williams, has signalled to the authority that he wishes the Policy Review and Performance (PRAP) Scrutiny Committee to discuss the Maindy Park Trust Advisory Committee’s decision.