Alice in Wonderland hole digging

I thought a primary rule of politics was to stop digging when you are in a hole: not Cardiff’s leadership apparently.

There’s been good advice given since Ocober 2008 that Cardiff’s Local Development Plan wasn’t any good. Amongst others, Cardiff Civic Society (disclaimer, I am it’s chair and have worked with the team who produced the society’s LDP submission) identified that the recession (and global warming) would blow a hole in any estimates made previously.

CCS executive member David Eggleton told them at a ‘stakeholders meeting’ at County Hall on the 22nd October 2008,”regrettably, it seems to me that there is an elephant in the room that we are studiously ignoring. We are entering a financial crisis, the worst for a century and an environmental situation that could require drastic action; would it not be appropriate to have a contingency plan in the event that the LDP is not found sustainable by the inspectors”. The council’s answer to this? “We carry on to produce the LDP, no contingency plans”. This objection amongst many others was re-voiced in June last year in CCS’s coruscating submission. Now the council is claiming global events have taken them unawares.

What is sad is that the press is taking the Lib Dem/Plaid party excuses, hook line and sinker. Here’s yesterday’s Wales Online:

“Cardiff council is set to admit defeat in its long-running battle to save some of the city’s last remaining unprotected areas of green open space.”

– just untrue. The council’s policy – which has widespread support, of maintaining green spaces – is only threatened because the LDP was so badly constructed that it failed to present viable, sustainable plans to support the policy. Neither the Inspectors (who have to be neutral about what is proposed as policy), nor the Assembly, are opposed to the policy: but they are saying the plan doesn’t support those policies. The failure is Cardiff Council’s alone. That’s bad enough, but to seek to blame others for that failing is shameful.

Assertion two: “In the papers, officers blame the worldwide recession for scuttling their previous hopes of catering for the expected growth of the city largely through building flats in areas like Cardiff Bay and Butetown with small-scale in-fill development throughout the city.”

– devious diversion. Again, there’s nothing wrong with flats on brownfield sites if they are part of a bigger plan to meet the needs of a holistic policy that includes family and low-cost housing. Until recently it was easy (‘cos they made money) to persuade developers to throw up jerry built apartments and boxy houses for tiny families. As above, the recession was flagged 18 months ago but the steamroller city process rolled on regardless. What was lacking was policy to encourage house building of the right kinds, in the right places. Again, blame anything, and any one, rather than the guilty party.

The final paragraph of the Wales on Line article is breathtaking: it’s not a quote, doesn’t seem to have come from the officers’ report, so one guesses it is inspired investigative journalism, the writer’s own conclusions, or – just maybe – a planted official line from the council: “Asking inspectors to withdraw the plan means the city will be spared a costly and probably futile legal battle in which the council would face widespread opposition from developers and business leaders in a hearing presided over by Assembly planning inspectors who have already indicated they agree with the business community’s concerns.”

– by legal battle, this might mean the public hearings: yes, (see previous) this would have been futile. More importantly, the paucity of the council’s approach and the shallowness of its evidence would had been forensically exposed. Embarrassing, or what?

And again, the blatantly misleading assertion that the Inspectors have ganged up with developers. Actually, if you read the Inspectors’ notes they present obstacles to the get-rich-quick developers. What they do is simply demolish the evidence the council has produced: an LDP, for all our sakes, has to be based on consensual policies, and a viable, sustainable plan to deliver them. It’s neither rocket science, nor too difficult.

But hey, what’s reality around here, this is Cardiff. Let’s keep digging, its saves thinking about how we have failed the citizens of the capital city. And, while we’re at it, let’s throw the mud at others, it might stick and we might hang on to power just a little bit longer.