NigelBlues Report on Canton/Riverside Stadium Meeting

Last updated : 07 August 2003 By Matthew Gabb

Despite plenty of hot air, not just caused by the sweltering temperatures, the Canton councillors meeting passed without major objections or dissent and with Councillor Thomas privately admitting to supporters his belief that the stadium development will be passed at the planning meeting next week.

The meeting itself is part of the process and democracy so should be welcomed as, no matter how badly City fans want the stadium and how worthy we may feel it is, it will affect the lives of local residents for generations to comes.

Despite newspaper and radio announcements and hundreds of invites issued in the community, it was poorly attended - just 75 or so present, almost half of whom were Cardiff City supporters. Just as well really as no more could have fitted into the Canton library venue.

The meeting itself was hampered by badly organised and incredibly poorly run. Councillor Thomas chaired it, Councillor Patel in support of him. However although refusing to state their positions and personal opinions - other than Councillor Patel saying he told Sam that he would not stand in his way of the stadium - their demeanour and attitude spoke volumes.

Anyone who had anything to say in objection to the development, no matter how inaccurate and ludicrous their point was, was allowed their say without their wild question being answered by the councillors. Anyone who spoke in support of the stadium and who attempted to answer/correct these questions were shouted down.

Although no media notice stated it was a residents meeting only, the councillors only wanted to hear from those who lived locally and not allow supporters from outside the district to speak or ask a question. To their dismay, there will still plenty who were City fans and Canton residents and in support of the stadium, a concept they struggled with all night.

Stripped down, what did emerge was that only a couple of residents were against the stadium development itself. One lady was worried about losing land with wild flowers but was told the environmental report concluded there was nothing special in the area. Another mourned the passing of land for walking but the councillors confirmed that land has been designated for sports purposes. Another man, I think he used to be Spider in Coronation Street, bizarrely to me, spoke about his sadness that he may no longer be able to see foxes crossing the road in Leckwith Avenue.

The residents seemed to be badly informed and without depth of knowledge about the project not realising or appreciating, for example, that the club are paying £168k to provide restricted parking areas for their benefit or that the roads and railways are being improved in the area as part of the development. The councillors never told them that, supporters had to.

The councillors however did advise the residents that Canton will have 100% parking restrictions on matchdays - which should please one lady complaining how she struggles to cope as football matches are apparently played at Ninian Park every day of the week! This will not come into place until the new stadium is built which, to my mind, is another reason to support it. I was later told the councillors may have told a little white lie and that whilst the parking restrictions will apply on 100% of Canton streets, it will be for 50% of available parking spaces but that is for others to discuss.

There was no co-ordinated stadium objection as most who were present were generally concerned with their own personal circumstances and car parking by their property. Very few were bothered about Retail affecting Canton shops, other than Councillor Patel, although it is fair to say most were unhappy at the retail development coming with the stadium and its possible effect on traffic. It however goes without saying that, for this project, you can't have the stadium, new housing, road and rail improvements without the retail to help finance it.

The councillors showed their colours with Patel declaring they were giving Cardiff City £80M of land making it the most expensive wasteland in the world, he didn't answer when challenged to justify that figure. Besides, the land is being leased. Thomas exclaimed how it is in "everyone's interests" that the plans go to the Welsh Assembly but couldn't answer when asked how he justified that.

Not once did the Councillors declare a positive about the stadium and development. That is, they failed to say how it would regenerate unused, and some waste, land. There never mentioned the road improvements, they did not say how many jobs it would create (1,500), the major investment into their community, the social and other housing being built, the sports and leisure facilities would be beneficial to the community and how the local economy and even many businesses would benefit as a knock-on effect of this. It needed supporters to do that and when they did, they were generally shouted down, but put across the points that the councillors didn't or wouldn't.

And that was it. Councillor Thomas met the supporters for 15 minutes afterwards and given some facts and figures, some of which he was surprisingly unaware about ...or did not want to be aware of. Other than justifiable concerns about car parking and the retail development, and neither seemed major as there were solutions or compromises, there were no significant objections.

Some residents spoke to supporters too saying they were not against the development but had individual worries and that was understandable. What was gratifying, and shows how far the club has come, is nobody spoke about the threat or danger of hooliganism. Maybe ... just maybe ... we have grown up at last and the improvements have been noticed.

Is the stadium project really this close to proceeding? We'll soon know.