A DEBATE which wasn’t supposed to happen about a contentious proposal to redevelop a Swansea farm spluttered into life at a council meeting.
The Liberal Democrat-Independent opposition had tried unsuccessfully to table an emergency motion to discuss the Labour administration’s decision to seek a commercial partner to restore and redevelop Home Farm at Singleton Park, thereby creating 42 new homes.
But the issue arose at the full council meeting on April 25 when leader Rob Stewart said he wanted it to make it clear that only expressions of interest were being sought at this stage, and that it was part of a wider plan to redevelop a number of council-owned sites in the county.
And Cllr Stewart invited the opposition to put forward viable options for Home Farm, which is currently a council depot. “We would welcome your ideas,” he said.
Opposition leader Chris Holley said he would “really, really like to have this debate” as soon as possible, but declined the offer of putting forward suggestions, claiming that his group would get the blame if things went wrong.
The discussion continued when Cllr Stewart said the opposition’s emergency notice of motion had been submitted too late, and that the council’s legal officer had been “clear on her advice”.
The Labour leader also said the Lib Dem-Independents could have attended the April 18 cabinet meeting, when Home Farm was discussed, or called it in for pre-decision scrutiny. “This (proposal) has been known about for many, many months – there have been many opportunities to engage on this,” said Cllr Stewart.
Before the meeting, Lib-Dem councillor Jeff Jones said his party had got wind of a Home Farm housing proposal last autumn, and that the Labour administration had said at the time that councillors, staff and the public would be kept fully informed, and that no significant decision had been taken.
Cllr Jones said the matter was only publicised just before the April cabinet meeting, and that the cabinet report described the development plans as “well advanced”.
He doubted whether traffic in and out of the former farm would stay the same or decrease if houses were built, as was said at the cabinet meeting.
Cllr Jones also questioned a cabinet member’s comment that it was more accurate to refer to Home Farm being in Sketty rather than Singleton Park. “Unfortunately, users know that when you walk around Singleton Park you go around Home Farm,” said Cllr Jones. Cllr Jones said he believed houses should not be built at Home Farm, but he supported restoring the old buildings there, which include a grade two-listed farmhouse.
Cllr Jones also claimed Labour made much of its environmental corporate objective, but that it was, in his view, “selective”. In response, Cllr Stewart said: “This is a further attempt by the Lib-Dems to stop the restoration of buildings in Home Farm.” He added: “I repeat that no part of the public green area of Singleton Park will be touched. “This is about redevelopment of the compound and restoration of the buildings.”