A CABINET member has been repeatedly asked if correct processes were followed about controversial new cycle paths in the west of Swansea.
There has been vocal opposition to a new cycle route on Mayals Road, Mayals, and another one which runs up part of the nearby Clyne Valley and emerges at the top of Olchfa Lane, Killay.
Work has begun on both shared-use path schemes after Swansea Council secured Welsh Government funding, with cabinet approving these and other “active travel” projects at a meeting last July.
Some residents, and councillors representing these areas, felt they’d had little or no say about the Mayals and Olchfa projects, which have to be delivered this financial year.
These concerns were put to Cllr Mark Thomas, cabinet member for environment and infrastructure management, at a council scrutiny meeting.
Cllr Thomas said the authority had followed Welsh Government guidelines, and that active travel schemes could not be re-routed once approved.
But he said the council was always willing to listen to suggestions about how schemes could be tweaked and improved, as it had in the past.
William Anderson, secretary of the Blackpill, Derwen Fawr and Mayals Residents Association, said Welsh Government design guidance had been “ignored” by the authority, but Cllr Thomas said the design guidance he was referring to hadn’t been adopted yet. Mr Anderson said it had been, in 2013.
Cllr Thomas said officers had considered suggestions from residents about the Mayals Road scheme following two public meetings, but could not re-route it along nearby Fairwood Road as some people wanted.
“We believe the designs we are implementing are the best ones,” he said.
“It’s not in anybody’s interest to implement schemes that don’t work.”
The meeting heard that a public consultation had taken place in 2017 when the council drew up an integrated network map – a planning blueprint for short-term and longer-term active travel projects across the city.
Councils bid each year for a share of active travel funding to deliver these projects.
At the cabinet meeting last July, members were told that £1.8 million had been awarded for new shared-use paths in Mayals and Sketty. A cabinet report outlined where these new routes would go, but didn’t include maps.
Letters sent to affected ward members four weeks later confirming that the schemes would go ahead were followed up by emails from officers with more detail. Residents likely to be directly affected were notified in writing in October.
Sketty councillor Peter Jones, who attended the two public meetings, said he sympathised with Cllr Thomas but said he didn’t think the guidelines allowed for “reasonable democratic discussion”.
“Those (Mayals) residents didn’t feel that they had been consulted – certainly not in any meaningful way,” said Cllr Jones.
“Most people were not against it. They wanted to improve it. They felt they had not been given the opportunity to make those suggestions.”
Cllr Thomas said officers had a compiled a 19-page report on the back of the two meetings, and that some changes had in fact been made to the scheme.
Cllr Mike Day, who also represents Sketty, said a petition signed by 650 people calling for the Olchfa link scheme to be put on hold had been rejected by the council.
Cllr Day said: “I’m very disappointed that all stakeholders were not involved over these particular proposals.”
He said something needed to be done to stop these issues from recurring.
Cllr Thomas said the Olchfa scheme had been altered after a resident had pointed out that a rare fungus was in the vicinity, but he added that a full consultation “would elongate the process immensely”.
Mayals councillor Linda Tyler-Lloyd said she was “exhausted ” by the issue and had endured “a year of sleepless nights”.
The Welsh Government has previously said the Mayals Road scheme meets the relevant design guidance but that it had suggested some changes. A spokesman said the guidance “emphasised the importance of consultation throughout the development of any project and we are keen that lessons are learned from this scheme”.