THE chairman of a group which is raising money for a skate park project in Swansea said legal action being taken by a small group of residents felt like a “slap in the face”.
Jason Williams, who leads Mumbles Skatepark Association, said everyone who has been supporting Mumbles Community Council in its bid to build the £360,000-plus facility was incredibly disappointed with the recently-lodged judicial review.
Mr Williams said skate park supporters felt the action was an attempt “to fetter and stall” a project which would deliver “a massive benefit” to the community.
“There have already been numerous hurdles, and a lot of bureaucracy,” he said. “Thankfully we have planning consent.”
Mr Williams said there had been hope at one stage of completing the project at Llwnderw, West Cross, this summer, giving young people something to look forward after a torrid year of Covid restrictions.
“This is just a slap in the face,” he said.
An online petition in support of the project has now received more than 5,700 signatures.
The skate park is to be funded by the community council, with the volunteer association raising money for things like benches, bike parking and upkeep costs.
Mr Williams said he considered the skate park a redevelopment of the existing mini half-pipe and adjacent length of hardstanding, rather than a new scheme. The proposed bowl-shaped skate park, designed by Maverick Industries, would largely follow the direction and footprint of what is there currently.
The bone of contention for the seven Mumbles Road residents who live nearby and who lodged the court proceedings is the way Swansea Council approved a transfer of land to Mumbles Community Council – a prerequisite for the scheme to proceed.
The residents claimed the council’s cabinet had given too much weight to the planning consent which was in place for the Llwynderw option, given that two other potential sites had been assessed to try to determine which one of the three was the best option.
They also alleged that cabinet hadn’t considered objections to the land transfer when approval was given at a meeting in January this year.
A letter from a legal firm representing the residents said one them, Mark Bailey, had previously offered to take over and enhance the land at Llwynderw – in response to a Swansea Council invitation for expressions of interest in the site – and that he hadn’t received a reply. The offer included relocating the mini half-pipe to somewhere closer to toilets and parking facilities.
Mr Bailey, the managing director of Trade Centre Wales, has been criticised on social media for his stance. But, despite the skate park’s large support, concerns about the proximity of the Llwynderw site to Mumbles Road, and the absence of toilets and on-site parking have been raised by other people throughout the process.
Mr Williams – a keen skateboarder himself – said parking and public toilets were close by in Blackpill, with more parking at West Cross. He said the Llwynderw site had good public transport access and was also easily accessible from the prom.
One of the aims, he said, was to create an open, family-friendly and accessible facility.
“There are lots of views around skate parks,” he said. “They used to be hidden away in corners – and that can encourage anti-social behaviour.”
He added that, in his experience, onsite toilets were “a rarity” at skate parks.
Swansea Council has previously said it was disappointed with the judicial review court proceedings, and that it was studying the court documents.
The process could potentially, among other outcomes, lead to the land transfer decision being quashed.
Mumbles Community Council is not a defendant, but it is following developments.
Martin O’Neill, community council chairman said: “The judicial review is what it is and those who have called for it are entitled to do so.
“Although some may see this process as a nuisance which delays something that has had a lot of time and effort put into it we, as a council, need to co-operate and contribute to its successful completion even though the review is not into our processes.
“The review should be seen simply an element of scrutiny that we as a council must expect to be open to at all times. It is in our interests that the review is completed as quickly and as comprehensively as possible as when it is I would hope there would be no further questions to answer.”
For skateboarders in Swansea like James Kenning, the Llwynderw project has to go ahead.
“We have been waiting years and years,” he said. “Mumbles Community Council has battled hard for it to happen in a time-effective manner.
“It seems that for everything positive there is a negative setback along the way. It just seems there is endless controversy about a project that’s only going to benefit the community. It’s getting frustrating.”
Mr Kenning, who works at Exist Skate Store, Oxford Street, added: “Look at most cities across the UK, and they’ve got this type of facility.”