AN independent committee will be set up to help decide the fate of a park which has been earmarked for a controversial school expansion.
Cardiff Council has voted in favour of setting up an independent committee to advise on the proposed land exchange for Maindy Park.
The Maindy Park Trust Advisory Committee, which will be made up of three independent members of the Standards and Ethics Committee and/or the Governance and Audit Committee, will advise cabinet on whether or not Maindy Park Trust’s land at Maindy Park should be exchanged for land at Blackweir Fields and Caedelyn Park.
If approved, the land exchange will pave the way for the expansion of Cathays High School – a development which would provide a larger and more modern school for a densely populated area of Cardiff.
However, the development would also mean the loss of Maindy Park, which includes a velodrome that was built for the Empire Games in Cardiff in 1958. The velodrome continues to be well-used today.
The proposed development and land exchange has drawn staunch opposition from residents and park users. A consultation saw 248 out of 253 respondents answer in opposition to the plans.
Part of the backlash that Cardiff Council faced around its proposed land exchange centred around the concern that the authority would be in a conflict of interest – being the sole trustee of the registered charity, Maindy Park Trust, and the local education authority.
As such, the council proposed to remedy this conflict of interest by proposing that an independent committee should be set up to act in the interests of Maindy Park Trust and advise cabinet members on a decision.
It has also been proposed that any cabinet members with a “serious conflict of interest” in relation to the land exchange should refrain from taking part in a decision on Maindy Park Trust.
It is understood that there are four remaining cabinet members who have no “serious conflict of interests”.
However, questions have been asked as to what should happen if the independent committee decided against the land swap.
There is also the question over what the Charity Commission will have to say about the proposed land exchange.
Even if the committee approves the council’s proposal, it would need consent from the Charity Commission under charity law.
The council is also undertaking a separate project to relocate the existing Velodrome to the International Sports Village, which the council is developing as a centre of high quality sports facilities.
Leader of the opposition at Cardiff Council, Cllr Adrian Robson, said at a cabinet meeting:
“I have no problems with the recommendations for an independent panel… I think that is sensible, but what I would be interested in… is what happens if that panel or if the charity commission decides that this really shouldn’t go ahead.
“What is the back up plan here from Cardiff Council?”
Cllr Huw Thomas commented:
“I think it would have been much clearer from the process perspective had we known of the current issues around it.
“We are where we are. We are working our way through it.
“This report and the report that will subsequently go to council is concerned with the process of making a decision on that land.
“In terms of your question on what happens in terms of the school, that is a legitimate question, but a separate question.”