Yesterday’s Politics Show pitted the usual suspects – an urbane professor of urban planning against the shifty council leader – to debate the future of Cardiff bay housing. Are they really the slums of tomorrow?
Has the local council (the Lib Dem led, supported by Plaid one …) really given permission for 9,000 more tacky boxes without any infra structure when most of the current properties have negative equity if morgaged and are difficult to let at ‘economic’ rents?
What is surprising about these kinds of issues is not the blindingly obvious: much of the housing development is awful, built to the lowest possible standard, a discrace to the design and architectural professions (if they were ever involved); Rodney Berman admitted that the Council had sold off land to replensish its dwindling capital coffers and regretted that the current ‘housing blip’ might mean there’s no more coming. No, the revelation as always is that Rodney Berman tries to pretend either ‘is wasn’t my fault guv’ or ‘ actually there isn’t a problem’. And the interviewer, while seeming to press hard, actually lets him get away with disingenuity (aka a politician being economical with the truth).
Take the ‘there’s no infrastructure for these thousands of homes – everyone has to drive everywhere’ question. Oh that’s not true says our Rodders – there’s an Asda round the corner (ideal for low environmental impact shopping – like the morning paper), and a 50 metre swimming pool – yes the one that isn’t quite an Olympic pool, is privately financed so your Cardiff Council Max card won’t get you a discount and the much lauded (and appreciated by me) WAG scheme to let wrinklies in for free doesn’t work either. Pull the other water wing Mr Leader!
As for libraries, schools, a place for the Scouts or WI to meet: well, we clearly don’t need such things – or if we do we can get our Chelsea Tractor out and Zoom Across Town .. No, we’re all high earning singletons and the bars in the Bay will suit us fine.
Many, many years ago in my first job as a government press officer I had to release a report that looked at the development of the New Towns in the sixties (yep, that long ago). Called “The First Hundred Families”, its simple conclusions caused quite a stir. If people are to be happy in their new homes they need pavements, street lighting and infrastructure – a local pub, a post office (remember this was a long time ago and governments then thought post offices were important), a place to meet etc. And the community had to make sure these things were there at the start.
Now: large scale development is the province of private capital – they’ve already given the council millions for the land, and they’ll make their money out of the suckers who buy the tacky boxes. Infrastructure? That’s for idiots or Tesco/Asda et al. Our newly re-elected leader seems to agree. Just don’t buy a house in the Bay.