Cardiff needs visionary planning

Judith Woodman says Liberal democrat plans would have breathed new life into the capital’s Central Business District

It is hugely disappointing that the Liberal Democrat vision for a Central Business District in the capital has been repressed. Cllr Russell Goodway, Cardiff Council’s new cabinet member for economic development, has dismissed the previous Council’s plans for a £160 million Central Business District for Cardiff as a “pre-election gimmick”, and questioned whether the plans were ever “founded in substance”. The plans were launched by the previous Liberal Democrat Council last summer, saying they had the potential to create thousands of financial sector jobs in Cardiff.

Our plans to redevelop Central Square were aspiring, aiming to breathe new life into a stagnant and run down part of the city. They would have created many new jobs which are badly needed and showcased a vibrant, fast-moving and international city.

Cllr Goodway says has alternative plans but plans don’t become a reality unless they are debated, promoted and pursued. For all the years his former administration were in power they didn’t deliver a convention centre, something that would have happened under our plans. Having such a centre was the number one priority for business people in the city when we took power. Ideally it would be located in the city centre close to hotels and transport links.

The enterprise zone would provide Welsh jobs, and it is more important than ever that the Welsh Government ensures this is not lost. In March they failed to secure a major investment from the Green Investment Bank and only last week the First Minister had got facts wrong in bringing 600 new jobs to the city. He should step in now to secure the future of the Enterprise Zone. Two months ago Business minister Edwina Hart thought our plans worthy and I understand conversations between the council and Welsh Government were ongoing, even quite recently about what benefits could be offered to businesses that came on board.

Plans take time to come to fruition. They don’t happen overnight, and you do get setbacks. That does not mean you give up at the first hurdle. For example, the plans we inherited for the Cardiff City Football Club development, were never going to work the way Cllr Goodway wanted. The concept was fine but the delivery was never going to work. Can he say otherwise? We could have walked away. But that was never going to be the best thing to do. We had to work at it, bring in Peter Ridsdale and find a way for it to work, which we did. You need perseverance to achieve the confidence of private sector investors.

We have a similar situation regarding the Central Business District. It is complicated and given the economic climate, confidence from the private sector needs to be encouraged. Yet Cllr Goodway is talking down Cardiff by his announcement. Our plans were to have a first class transport interchange and then locate workers close to it. This is a common sense concept, not a Labour idea. We put money in our budget to provide for a first class bus station, which is there for all to see. Of course, Cllr Goodway may wish to spend less than we planned. But if he does the bus station will not be one our city deserves.

Judith Woodman is Liberal Democrat Councillor for Pentwyn and Llanedeyrn and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group.

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