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YNYSANGHARAD PARK PADDLING POOL

A COMMUNITY POLL ON THURSDAY 1st NOVEMBER 2012 ASKED:

“Should Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council keep the existing paddling pool in
Ynysagharad
Park as part of the Lido redevelopment"

RESULTS: "YES" 2077  - "NO" 151 - TURNOUT 9.19%

 

REACTION SO FAR (received by GTFM on 2nd November):

 

From Karen Roberts

The residents of Pontypridd Town Council area have sent an unequivocal message to the County Council who want to take away their paddling pool. Hands off!

A community poll held on 1st November delivered an overwhelming 'yes' vote of 2077 to 151 in favour of keeping the paddling pool in Ynysangharad Park. Rhondda Cynon Taff's Labour controlled Council plan to remove the much loved Grade 2 listed pool as part of their plans to bring the Lido back into use, but residents campaigning against it say the paddling pool is every bit as much a part of the town's heritage and should stay.

Council leader Anthony Christopher had tried to dismiss the campaign as political mischief making by the local Welsh Liberal Democrats, who were instrumental in bringing the issue to the attention of the public and co-ordinating the campaign efforts.

Trallwn County Councillor Mike Powell says they will find it a bit more difficult to dismiss public opinion now:

“The Council say they had consulted widely on their plans, but pointed to only 609 people who had visited the Pontypridd regeneration exhibition over four days and who were not asked any direct questions or indeed had any explanations presented regarding the plans.

Now they have more than 2000 residents telling them in answer to a direct question that they want the pool to stay. The poll is not legally binding, but morally the Council surely have an obligation to the people they purport to represent and should take their opinions on board.”

The poll was initiated at a public meeting where a minimum of 150 residents to were required to vote in favour of holding such a poll under the terms of the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2011.  In a statement issued at the time the leader of the Council said that if they were forced to reconsider the position over the paddling pool then they would lose funding for the Lido.  The Council were awarded a grant of £2.3m by the Heritage Lottery Fund earlier this year and are hoping to get further funding form the Wales European Funding Office.

Campaign Manager Karen Roberts says that this statement is not borne out by information received by campaigners from the funding bodies.

“They have told us that there has been no mention of the paddling pool only that the Lido would be renovated.   Aside from that the paddling pool, like the lido, is Grade 2 listed and so needs listed building consent before it can be removed.  That has not been granted yet, and given the level of public objection then there is every reason to hope it will not be.

This campaign has been a genuine, grass roots, community campaign – it shows that people care about the Park and about the pool.  They voted despite the threats of the Council that it could stop the Lido development, and surely now they must reconsider their plans.”


From Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

A spokesperson said:

 

"It is disappointing that individuals have chosen to play politics with this hugely important project for the future of Pontypridd.

 

"The Council will note the outcome of the Community Poll at its next meeting later this Month.

 

"It must be stressed that the result of this poll is not binding on the Council in any way.

 

"When cuts to public sector funding by the UK government are forcing difficult decisions across the country, any amendments to the current proposals, which will effect the viability of the new Lido, place the entire scheme in jeopardy and potentially put at risk grant funding already made available.

 

"It is simply not possible to consider the two facilities side by side.

 

"When discussing the outcome, the Council will consider the future regeneration of Pontypridd and the wider interests of Rhondda Cynon Taf which were not taken into consideration yesterday."

 

 

Background Information

The Community Poll described above resulted from concern expressed by some Pontypridd residents about Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council's decision to demolish the existing large scale paddling pool (pictured above) and incorporate a smaller heated one within a renovated Lido swimming pool complex (picture of exterior below) which is situated immediately adjacent in Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, in the centre of the town.

In the Community Poll residents of Pontypridd were asked to vote “yes” or “no” to a question about the future of the Paddling Pool in Ynysangharad Park. The question was: “Should Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council keep the existing paddling pool in Ynysagharad Park as part of the Lido redevelopment".  

Meanwhile the County Borough Council, who had nothing to do with setting the question, said keeping both pools was not an option, warning that insistence on retention of the Paddling Pool could cause the abandonment of the whole Lido project.  That view is challenged by County Borough Councillor for the Trallwn ward, Mike Powell (Liberal Democrat), who proposed the campaign to save the Paddling Pool.  He told us he believes it is possible to have both pools, which is why the question was worded in that way. 

Although they have no decision-making power in the matter, Pontypridd Town Council had to facilitate the Community Poll under new local government legislation after more than 200 people voted for it at a public meeting.

 

All registered voters living within the Pontypridd Town Council boundary were entitled to vote - and were invited to attend the Polling Station nearest where they live between 4 and 9pm on Thursday 1st November 2012. 

Background Information on the 'Save the Pool' campaign story so far, provided by Karen Roberts:

"The referendum is being held by Pontypridd Town Council. Its official title is a community poll, but that is not a term many people understand. It is a right given to communities under the Local Government Act 1972 as amended by the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2011. The right to demand a community poll is something many people do not realise exists. It is a two stage process.

First there needs to be a public meeting called - at least 50 electors in the area need to sign the letter requesting that. This one was signed by more than 60. This letter has to include the wording for the question to be put in a referendum / community poll. In this case the question was put together by a small steering group which includes Cllr Mike Powell and me and local residents.

The second stage is the public meeting which had then to be called by Ponty Town Council. This took place at the Muni on 8th October. At that meeting it needed at least 150 people to vote in favour of holding a referendum and they had to be in the majority. For more information see:

http://pontylibdems.org.uk/en/article/2012/620789/paddling-pool-referendum-to-go-ahead-after-overwhelming-public-support

The cost is estimated at £10,500. This was explained to people in the beginning, everyone signing the initial letter was well aware of it, and it has been widely publicised. The reaction of people at the Muni meeting and elsewhere has been that it is a small price to pay.


The story has also been put out that this is a political matter, and we are using it as a 'political football.' In fact we have been campaigning to keep the paddling pool for four years ever since it was first mentioned. The number of people involved in this campaign shows it goes well beyond being a Lib Dem campaign - you only have to look at the letters page in the Ponty Observer last week and this.


Tony Christopher gave his reaction last week in the local press and via GTFM when he in effect said that if the paddling pool referendum votes in favour of the pool then the funding for the Lido would be lost. That particular piece caused a lot of anger locally as people felt it was an attempt at blackmail.

This is not borne out by anything we have been told by the funders and we have had loads of FOIs on the subject. We have also had copies of part of the application to HLF and the paddling pool is not mentioned at all. The removal of the paddling pool forms part of RCT's plan, but only they are putting that condition on it.

Many people would say that if that is the case then they would prefer the paddling pool to stay and lose the Lido. That is not what the campaign has been advocating".

 

Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council's stated position:

As Ms Roberts mentions above, the County Borough Council insists that maintaining both pools side by side is not an option, pointing to a lack of financial resources to sustain both facilities. They say the decision to demolish the paddling pool has already been taken following a consultation process which involved nearly 800 local views and a 'U' turn at this stage would threaten the whole Lido renovation project. Their latest statement is reproduced below. It was issued by RCT Council Leader, Councillor Anthony Christopher (Labour) following the vote at the Public Meeting calling for the Community Poll:

“We undertook extensive consultation on this issue with almost 800 people's views being given and that is how we developed our proposals for the Lido"

 “We have already taken our decision in relation to the Lido and the Paddling Pool. If organisers of the Community poll wish to seek the protection of the existing paddling pool they will scupper the entire Lido project.  If we are to make our ambitions for the Lido a reality, it is simply not possible to maintain the existing Paddling Pool.“

"With the continued cuts to public sector funding from the CON/DEM (UK) government the Council cannot afford, nor would it be sustainable to maintain two separate swimming facilities in Ynysangharad Park.  The Paddling Pool is in need of significant investment and we cannot ensure the sustainability of both pools in this current financial climate, especially when a new paddling pool is proposed to be included in the new Lido project. This is something that the organisers of last night's public meeting have fundamentally failed to take onboard in their attempts to turn this important project into a political issue". 

"Our decision stands that the significant potential the new Lido offers to Pontypridd outweighs the loss of the outdated paddling pool. A decision has been taken about one or the other. If we had agreed or decide now to keep the existing paddling pool our plans for the Lido will simply not come to fruition. It is simply not possible to move forward with the two facilities and as a result the decisions rested on a choice between either maintaining the existing paddling pool or developing the new Lido Complex, there was and still is no third option. 

"We find it incredibly disappointing that individuals have chosen to turn this hugely significant project into a political football and those involved are placing the entire Lido project in jeopardy, that is the only outcome they will achieve with this Community Poll". 

 “It must not be forgotten that the new Lido complex has been developed as a Leisure Facility for the whole of Rhondda Cynon Taf and therefore this is not just a matter for the people of Pontypridd, even though it will deliver a significant asset to Pontypridd and its local economy.”


Pontypridd Town Council's position

The Town Council points out it has no part in the current decision making process regarding the paddling pool, even though it has had to facilitate and pay for the Community Poll under Local Government legislation at a cost of around £10,500. However the Town Council was routinely invited to respond with any views it wished to contibute during RCTCBC's planning process. For more information on this  process follow this link:  http://planning.rctcbc.gov.uk/online-applications/simpleSearchResults.do?action=firstPage  

The actual polling process was organised by the special department within RCTCBC responsible for organising all local elections, though the County Borough Council have not otherwise been involved.

What will happen next?

Although the 'Yes' vote may not result in a change of direction in County Borough Council policy, the Council is obliged to consider the result of the Poll within the time-frame laid out in the legislation surrounding the staging of Community Polls. To read more about the legislation follow this link: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/mwa/2011/4/part/7/chapter/1 

Gtfm will continue to report all developments and points of view as they emerge in order to keep local residents as fully informed as possible.