Council leader Rodney Berman is under fire
Apr 24 2009 By David James
PUBLIC anger at Cardiff’s schools reorganisation and council proposals to build on green spaces across the city erupted in the face of councillors yesterday.
Councillors faced angry residents shouting and booing as they walked into City Hall for a meeting of the full council.
Posters dubbing Liberal Democrat council leader Rodney Berman and his Plaid deputy leader Neil McEvoy “Wanted” men were handed to passing members.
And green placards awarding the pair 0 out of 10 for their running of the city were thrust in their way.
Councillor McEvoy said he was pushed and shoved as he walked into the building by protesters campaigning against plans to build a new school on Rumney Recreation ground.
He said: “I had one man pushing me and one woman struck me from behind. I told her to keep her hands to herself. As I was driving up someone kicked my car.
“I took a lot of abuse, a lot of people saw that and some of the protesters from Mary Immaculate said they were disgusted by it.”
Coun McEvoy said he would be making a formal complaint as, when he left the council chamber, his car had been scratched and dented.
Inside City Hall, the leaders of the city’s coalition executive faced further airing of public concerns through five questions from members of the public.
All of the questions focused on the schools reorganisation, plans to build a lorry bridge into Bute Park and demolish sports facilities at Sophia Gardens to make way for a car park for Sky TV, and on the city council’s general policy towards green space.
The city’s Conservative group tried to bring the issues together with a motion calling on the council to protect all green spaces across the city and immediately cease leasing or selling off either schools’ land or parklands.
The motion was backed by the Labour group, but the ruling Liberal Democrat and Plaid executive voted together on a Lib Dem amendment which “ripped the heart out of the motion”, Conservative councillor Craig Williams said.
The amendment promised to “ensure any proposals to sell off, lease or build on parks and other public open spaces continue to involve consultation with local councillors, stakeholders, residents and statutory bodies”.
Pentyrch councillor Williams, who proposed the motion, said the amendment was a “whitewash”. He was supported by colleague Craig Piper who called on councillors to listen to their constituents.
Coun Piper said: “Politicians are nothing without the people we represent. We need to respect public opinion on this issue and people across Cardiff want their green space protected.”
The Liberal Democrats and Plaid rejected the Tory calls, arguing that the motion would hinder the council in assessing proposals for open space while not providing proper protection.
Culture executive Nigel Howells said: “Isn’t it fair to consider proposals on their merits rather than by a blanket policy that could be subject to legal challenge?”
Plaid’s Gwenllian Lansdowne described it as a “simplistically-worded motion that doesn’t achieve what it sets out do to in the first place.”
Outside City Hall, Llanrumney, residents who had travelled to the meeting by bus said they just wanted their green space protected.
Joan Smith, 70, a resident of High Croft Walk, a group of eight single-bed flats for disabled and elderly residents overlooking Rumney Rec, said the schools plans were horrendous.
She said: “It will cut off our light and our privacy. It could lead to problems with vandalism and litter – we already have problems without a school there. It will be horrendous.”