A LAWYER representing a group of Swansea residents who challenged a skate park decision said his clients had been fully vindicated.
And he called on Swansea Council to apologise to the seven Mumbles Road residents – claiming the authority had not condemned abuse and harassment of the claimants when it had the chance to.
The council has not responded to this claim, but has previously said that the proposal to transfer land for a seafront skate park at Llwynderw – the subject of the legal proceedings – had gone through “an exhaustive consultation process” before a decision was made.
As reported by the Local Democracy Reporter Service on July 8, the High Court has quashed the decision made by the council’s cabinet to transfer the Llwynderw land.
It was quashed because the council accepted that prior to the land transfer decision being made, it did not publish its intention to dispose of the land for two weeks in a local newspaper. The council accepted that its decision did not comply with the 1972 Local Government Act.
Hugh Hitchcock, a partner at Acuity Law, on behalf of the claimants, said: “We are pleased the court has quashed the decision that was the subject of the judicial review proceedings.
“The fact that Swansea Council elected to propose to quash the decision voluntarily without raising any defence to the claims brought by the claimants is illustrative of the strength of the claimants’ position and, equally, of the flawed process followed by Swansea Council.”
Mr Hitchcock said the claimants “have been proved fully vindicated in highlighting a matter of serious public concern”.
And he called on the council to say sorry for what he alleged had been a “refusal to condemn the unacceptable abuse and harassment of the claimants who were only exercising their democratic right to challenge this unlawful decision”.
Mr Hitchcock was referring to skate park supporters who, aware of the residents’ legal action, took their frustration out by beeping their horns when they drove past that stretch of Mumbles Road.
Residents, including entrepreneur Mark Bailey – one of the seven who brought the action and who, it emerged, had previously proposed paying for the existing skate ramp at Llwynderw to be relocated – felt under siege.
It led to a confrontation at the end of May between Mr Bailey, his wife and a group of young skateboarders at the skate ramp. The exchanges were filmed, and led to an unreserved apology from the Trade Centre Wales boss and his wife.
Mr Bailey’s Facebook apology said he and his family had been subjected to “significant abuse” in the run-up to the incident, culminating in “objects and verbal abuse being thrown at me as I tried to drive into my home” on one particular occasion. But he added that this was not excuse for the skate ramp altercation.
Mr Bailey also said he stood by his offer to invest in a new skate park elsewhere in the local area with “proper facilities and parking”. In the filmed exchanges, he said he had offered £500,000 towards a new facility.
Swansea Council will consider its next steps following the court’s quashing of the land transfer decision.
It said the skate park had widespread support in the community and would have provided a modern and much-needed facility.
A spokesman said: “The intention now is to bring a further report to cabinet in due course which will consider the court’s decision and what steps may be needed to bring another land transfer proposal before cabinet, should cabinet request one.”
Martin O’Neill, chairman of Mumbles Community Council, said: “This is an issue between the signatories of the judicial review and the city and county of Swansea.
“It’s in the hands of the city and county of Swansea and how they choose to proceed at this point.”
Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart confirmed in a written response to Mayals and Newton councillors Linda Tyler-Lloyd and Will Thomas last week that the authority had been contacted with a proposal to remove the existing skate ramp at Llynderw and pay for its relocation.
But he said the council had not “received any formal offer of sponsorship or funding to develop a new skate park that meets the aims and aspirations of the Mumbles Community Council”.
The High Court order will, at the very least, delay the £360,000 skate park, because the land transfer process would have to start from scratch again.
But the location of the skate park, which has been at the heart of the saga, may never be satisfactorily resolved for some.
Given that Mumbles Community Council is to pay for it, the skate park has to be in its boundary, which stretches down to Blackpill. Independent experts commissioned by the community council concluded that Llwynderw was the most appropriate site, partly because planning consent for the project had been granted there.
The experts did acknowledge that land by the Blackpill Lido – a few hundred metres away – was closer to toilets, parking and refreshments.
Nearly 23,000 people have signed an online petition in support of a skate park at Llwynderw.
Some people worry about its proximity to Mumbles Road, but no-one – publicly at least – opposes the idea of a new skate park somewhere in the area.
Cllr Linda Tyler-Lloyd, whose Mayals ward incorporates the Llwynderw site, said: “Nobody who has contacted me over the last couple of years has said there should not be a skate park.
“I feel desperately sorry for the skateboarders – they were pinning their hopes on Llwynderw.”
But Cllr Tyler-Lloyd, who is also a Mumbles community councillor, said she felt mistakes had been made about opting for Llwynderw.
She said she felt other sites could be explored, such as woodlands on Fairwood Road, West Cross – opposite the new Co-op shop. She also noted the parking facilities and toilets on land by Blackpill Lido.
In her view, the community council should appoint a projects manager for schemes like the skate park.
“If this had been done in the first place it would have been in place by now,” she said.
The current skate ramp between the prom and Mumbles Road has been in place for many years. There is a bus stop around 200m away, and it’s accessible for many skateboarders and scooter riders on foot.
West Cross councillor Mark Child – a skate park supporter – attended the council planning committee meeting in February last year when the Llwynderw project was approved by just one vote.
Addressing the committee, Cllr Child asked whether Llwynderw was the best site, before adding: “Who knows, really? It is good enough – and we should not let the best be the enemy of of the good.”
The latest developments are a blow for Mumbles Skatepark Association, which has been supporting the community council and also raising money for added extras at Llwynderw such benches, bike parking and upkeep costs.
Its chairman, Jason Williams, is firmly of the view that the approved project is a redevelopment of the site rather than a new skate park per se.
Referring to the court order, Mr Williams said: “We are obviously disappointed, because there has been a lot of hard work to get to where we are.
“We hope that this is all purely administrative, and that it can back to cabinet and be resolved appropriately with as little delay as possible.”
He added: “There has been a massive level of community consultation and engagement.
“It was noted when the proposed land transfer went to Swansea Council’s scrutiny committee and then cabinet that the level of positive feedback was the highest they had ever seen.
“Also, they had never seen such a broad level of support from the community.
That really emphasises that the community is crying out for this.”
There were a small number of objections to the land transfer, and those involved in the legal action felt their concerns had not been considered.
The quashing of the land transfer decision leaves as many, or more, questions than answers.