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Farcical level of consultation over paddling pool revealed.

September 11, 2012 10:30 PM

The row over the plans to remove the paddling pool from Ynysangharad Park has intensified as local Welsh Liberal Democrats hit out at what they say is the "absolutely farcical" level of public consultation carried out by the Council.

Campaign Manager Karen Roberts submitted a Freedom of Information request asking the Council to provide details of the questions asked and the feedback received during the exhibition in Pontypridd town centre earlier this year regarding the plans to renovate the Lido and remove the paddling pool.

"The response was quite frankly unbelievable. The Labour Cabinet want to take away one of the most used and best appreciated features in Pontypridd, one used not only by local residents but by visitors from all over RCT and beyond, yet they have no interest in really taking people's views on board.

"The reply informed me that no formal specific questions were asked. Instead officers informally collated comments made whilst they discussed the proposals with attendees. Presumably if they had a sudden rush of several visitors at once some of these would have been missed.

"They say there were 636 visitors to the exhibition over four days and that 'most' of the comments were positive and there was 'overwhelming support' for each of the regeneration projects on display. Yet they list 23 comments which include such random lines as 'can you do anything about the pigeons' Nothing in there gives rise to their claim of overwhelming support and certainly there is no mention of anyone wanting to see the paddling pool go.

"This is certainly not what I would call proper public consultation. If they had consulted fully then they would have found, as we have, that there is a huge amount of public anger at the proposal to remove the paddling pool"

The FOI response stated

'Comments that specifically related to the Lido fell into 3 categories; those that were in support of the proposals, those that thought a roof was needed, and those that wanted to retain a free facility. '

Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell said it was typical of the way in which the administration conduct its business.

"Everything about this proposal has been dealt with in a behind closed doors, some may even say underhand, manner. From the refusal to give councillors a copy of the Business Plan, to the lack of adequate information given to and consultation undertaken with the public.

"The Park is public property - and from whichever pot it comes the money will all be from the public purse in one way or another. People have a right to have their say.

"It is why we are leading the call for a referendum on the matter, although opponents have already been spreading rumours about the cost of such a referendum and how it will leave the Town Council unable to fund other activities.

"Yes there will be a cost implication if it goes ahead, but the Council should have a contingency fund to cover it. Such baseless threats are tantamount to blackmailing the public. If it means that there will be a few less Christmas lights for one year in order to continue the fight for something which has given pleasure to so many for so long and which is a major feature of Pontypridd then I am sure people would go along with that.

"If the Labour Cabinet had done its job properly in the first place, been more open about what they were planning and why and entered into proper debate with the public then maybe there would not be quite so much anger directed at them now.

"We have made our position clear in this form the start - we have only pointed out what is happening and outlined options. It is public opinion driving this now."

ENDS

Full response from Council FOI Officer below.

Dear Ms Roberts

Further to your request for information below please find the Authority's response below: -

At the March 2012 Pontypridd Regeneration exhibition no formal specific questions were asked. The approach taken was for Officers to informally collate comments through discussing and explaining the proposals with attendees. The recurring responses were collated and are provided in the attached document.

As you may be aware you have a right of appeal in respect of the Authority's response. An officer independent of anyone who was involved in completing the original response would conduct such an appeal. If you wish to exercise this right please set out in writing your grounds and send your appeal to the Council's Corporate Feedback Co-ordinator. Her name is Mrs. Christine Macey and she may be reached at Chris.Macey@rhondda-cynon-taff.gov.uk <mailto:Chris.Macey@rhondda-cynon-taff.gov.uk> or on 01443 424076 .

Additionally you may, if you wish, find out more about the Act from the Information Commissioner at <http://www.ico.gov.uk/>.

Kind Regards

****** ******

Corporate Governance Team

Public Exhibition March 2012 - Comments

The following are the most frequently provided comments that were provided during the 4-day exhibition in March 2012 from the 636 attendees.

General comments:

There were also a number of project specific comments:

Will there be a bus link to Sainsbury's?

Will there be a lift included in the train station works?

Would love to see the Lido restored to its former glory

Will the fountain be restored?

Will new signage be introduced to advertise the Lido?

Is tactile paving being introduced?

Can you do something to get rid of the pigeons?

The Lido needs a roof

The traffic flow through and around the town needs to be improved. Are there any plans to do this?

For the baths to continue its important part in the park will be fabulous, for all the valleys as well as Ponty.

Can a free facility for the children remain

I'm glad that it's going to be heated, it's a great idea

What green technology is being considered for the Lido?

Can't wait to see the Lido, people will flock here, if there was a moveable roof it could be used all year round.

Most of the anecdotal comments that were noted by officers during the exhibition were of a positive nature, and on the whole there was overwhelming support for each of the regeneration projects that were on display.

Comments that specifically related to the Lido fell into 3 categories; those that were in support of the proposals, those that thought a roof was needed, and those that wanted to retain a free facility.