We do not feel the appointment of the Nuffield Trust to ‘advise’ Velindre on the nVCC model is near sufficient to address our concerns regarding the development. Here is the letter we have sent to politicians and the media regarding the chronic failings and inadequacies of the proposed model.
Dear Welsh Government Ministers and recipients,
Having campaigned since March for the duration of lockdown and now entering into a second lockdown; Save the Northern Meadows feel we must reaffirm and expand on our position regarding our petition ‘Hold an independent inquiry into the choice of site for the proposed new Velindre Cancer Centre’, as a result of the discussion and developments following the petitions committee meeting on the 15th of September.
- Vaughan Gething, Health Minister failed to comply with his statutory duty to respond to the Petitions Committee promptly. There has been no explanation nor apology for this.
- Velindre University NHS Trust failed to comply with the strict instructions provided for submissions to the committee. Despite the rigidity, we complied with the instructions, reducing hundreds of pages of information into just four. However the Trust felt sufficiently comfortable to violate these rules twice – submitting a 7 page letter to the committee for consideration, and attempting to sidetrack our request for an independent inquiry into the choice of site, by submitting at 08:59 their decision to employ the Nuffield Trust to review and advise their model. This action was plainly deliberate, disingenuous and designed to distract, divert and undermine the Petition and the Committee. The outstanding arrogance of such an action as a public body, is insulting and must not be tolerated.
- Our petition calls for an independent inquiry. The Trust in question has swiftly appointed the Nuffield Trust to advise. Nuffield shall be ‘advising on the clinical model.’ Whilst no question is being raised about this respected body’s capabilities and expertise to review and advise, to allow VCC to appoint its own adviser; over the Welsh Government appointing an independent inquiry is unacceptable. A body should be appointed independently of VCC, not commissioned by it, and a full inquiry conducted.
- Our submissions provided evidence of multiple failures by the Trust. The attempt of the Trust to appoint their own reviewer is bizarre and reeks of malfeasance. Surely the time to seek advice has passed as:
- Evidence from clinicians working at the Trust has been provided which casts significant doubt over the model of care proposed. During the consultations mentioned by the developers, these clinicians felt under pressure to support the nVCC. The Save the Northern Meadows campaign has helped these individuals to bravely come forward and voice their concerns. Yet those who have spoken out have been abused on social media. One Facebook group, organized by the wife of a member of Transforming Cancer Services whose very role is to push forward the development has claimed that the letters of concern are false, are not written by clinicians, and are “fake news”. The organizer even made a threat to report one doctor to the General Medical Council. The Trust has done nothing via social media to condemn the group’s inaccuracies, despite multiple individuals vilifying large numbers of NHS Doctors and attacking respected elected officials because they had the bravery to whistleblow.
- There is evidence the Trust has lied repeatedly regarding the number of emergency transfers needed between VCC and UHW. They have stated this number is less than 30. We hold a freedom of information request which states this number is closer to 100. Why is the Trust lying about such a serious aspect of patient care?
- There has been poor engagement by the Trust with the local community. Many local residents were wholly unaware of the applications until we raised awareness. The current pandemic and the closing of the local library made it very difficult for residents to find information, and by definition excluded those who did not have access to the internet.
- The Trust makes inconsistent submissions to the planning department. For example, in 2017 they estimated that ‘low’ levels of damage shall be done to the local nature reserve. In 2020, their estimate changed to ‘high’. How can this be the case? It grossly undermines the accuracy and quality of their assessments. There are countless such examples.
- The Trust claims the site is to promote the patient’s ‘healing experience’ and the counter-petition emphasised the ‘healing architecture.’ Yet no healing shall happen on site as there shall be no surgical unit. Further, there is significant evidence from 2014-17 which demonstrates the Trust pursued the site due to its potential for developing its educational qualifications and its brand with the addition of a Conference Centre – now named the Centre for Learning and Excellence. Yet in 2020, when building is about to start, the Trust cannot provide any details regarding what may or may not be included on this site. Why is this building with footprint this cost and size being blindly pursued when there is no architectural design, and no accurate projections for what shall actually be on site?
- The Trust have purported to engage with local groups including friends of forest farm and local sporting clubs. These have turned out to be shams. Based on these ‘consultations’ planning documents mislead members of the planning committee into believing those groups support the development. This was highlighted in particular when Friends of Forest Farm found itself having to publicly correct a wholly false and misleading statement made by the Trust within their Green Infrastructure Management Plan for 2020 (three years after planning permission was granted), who claimed they ‘manage the Country Park, Glamorganshire Canal and the Longwood SSSI.’ We are meant to believe the processes for environmental protection envisaged are robust, as required by Welsh Legislation. Yet the Trust does not even know who manages these areas for nature conservation, demonstrating the farcical consideration of environmental issues by this public body and the planning department.
- The Trust failed to give any, or any adequate consideration, to any brownfield sites, including the obvious location of Whitchurch Hospital and its grounds. Cadw were not engaged at the time regarding the possibilities of adapting or delisting Whitchurch Hospital. The £26.9 million granted for constructing access through a nature reserve could be spent better on acquiring a suitable site. Transforming, rebuilding and reusing a brownfield site would set Cardiff out as an innovative, strategic and forward thinking capital city, investing in expanding green infrastructure across the city. This can still be pursued. Although developers have argued relocating the project at this late stage would cause significant delays, the project director himself stated in 2017 that all the planning work would not have to be redone. Clinicians have also denied changing the site would result in damaging delays to service provision.
- The Trust have failed to address the real risk of the development increasing flood risk to the houses bordering the Glamorganshire Canal, proposing surface water from the site should be drained into the canal via the nature reserve.
- The Trust have spent £17million pound and ten years on their project so far, have accomplished very little, failing to address or even acknowledge the basic unanswered questions regarding the model of cancer care. Unmanaged spending is reflected by the purchase of ‘the Grange.’ £6 million was spent on acquiring the site, for it then to be disregarded and the meadows chosen for development – despite the Welsh Government’s statements VCC should use a site already owned by the NHS. No business case is available as publishing costs could prejudice the future of the site – because moving to the meadow shall cost significantly more than building on the Grange. Such flippant treatment of public funds should not be accepted or ignored. The very fact of this smacks of a vanity project. Why do they refuse to deal with this? They fail to acknowledge many other concerns raised by us, which shall be provided in Annex A below.
To allow the Trust to continue with their own ‘review’ of their own model would be a mockery of good governance and the future generations and Nolan Principles.
Why is the Trust afraid of an independent, external review even after six years of planning? If ‘advice’ is taken over an external independent inquiry and independent clinical review of the model, the Trust will continue to violate the Nolan Principles, harm the local community, harm nature, and harm the cancer care provided to future generations.
We call on Ministers to act decisively and urgently. The time to act is now.
Enabling work is due to start, and huge, eye watering sums of public money are at stake. We accept we urgently need updated cancer services. Damaging the long-term health of our community and our environment is not a sustainable way to achieve this. As well as local health and safety, hundreds of trees, bats, hedgehogs, grass snakes, red and amber listed birds and their habitats, among many others are in danger.
This very legislature voted to acknowledge the climate emergency. We know Cardiff may be under water in less than 30 years. Castle Street has been closed to try and reduce the increasing pollution. Earlier this year we saw appalling extreme flooding all through South Wales and Cardiff; are we to pretend this isn’t affecting us?
How much evidence, how many emergencies, how loud do we have to shout, how many protests do we have to organise before Ministers listen and understand we cannot afford this development to go ahead on this land?
As Cardiff enters its second lockdown, these facts are even more relevant. Should construction begin now, over two hundred households will be condemned to dust pollution from the construction site, pollution which shall continue for at least four years, likely causing life limiting illnesses within this community. There are no alternate green spaces or gardens for this community. However, there are plenty of alternative building sites. We know these were not adequately considered by the Health Board in the first place because of grandiose, ill-defined ambitions, and their only response is they want to build on the meadow as it is “healing”. This is an oxymoron. Beautiful, sensitive gardens can be built around a hospital on a brownfield site. Why use millions of pounds of public money to destroy them in the first place? An independent inquiry would provide a proper analysis of the finance as well as clinical considerations.
As a result of the above, our submissions to the petitions committee, our submissions to the planning committee of Cardiff Council, and the submissions made by the local and national clinicians questioning the proposed model of care, allowing Velindre University NHS Trust to continue to dictate the terms of its own review would constitute an utter violation of the principles of good governance and neglect the communities of Coryton, Whitchurch, Rhiwbina, Llandaff North and North Cardiff, as well as the wider medical and scientific communities in Wales.
We urge the Ministers to consider the health of present and future generations with the highest esteem, and with this in mind, commit to a truly independent inquiry into the choice of site of the new Velindre Cancer Centre.
The Save the Northern Meadows Team
nVCC has claimed repeatedly in publicity that 60% of the Northern Meadows will remain intact after the development. This simply can’t match nVCC’s own ground plan. Copied below and widely used by the media (see below). Strips of foliage around the development’s fringes is deceitful as dismembered foliage wouldn’t count as ‘meadow.’ Furthermore, across planning applications and meeting minutes, the assertion other sites are too small as they shall not allow for expansion demonstrates the building will certainly expand and encroach upon the nature reserve in future.
This image is also deceitful, as it appears to show the forest within the railway cutting between the Hollybush Estate and the new site shall remain intact, as does Lady Corey Field. This shall not be the case, as to construct the access bridge from Asda, construction vehicles must access the space below. Meaning the forested area shall almost completely be destroyed in the attempt to access the site.
Furthermore, Lady Corey Filed was given to the community by Lady Corey for recreational purposes only. The community has not given consent for the space to be used, yet the plans show the planting of two trees in the centre of the field (presumably as ‘mitigation’ for the 600 lost in the railway cutting) as well as the construction of pathways and a railway track through the area.
Save the Northern Meadows submission to the petitions committee: https://business.senedd.wales/documents/s104403/09.09.20%20Correspondence%20-%20Petitioner%20to%20Committee.pdf
Campaigner Cat Lewis discusses experience as a cancer patient campaigning to save the meadows: https://savethenorthernmeadows.wales/velindre-patient-shares-meadows-story/
Open letter by Dr. Ashley Roberts: https://savethenorthernmeadows.wales/open-letter-by-dr-ashley-roberts/
Survey results of 400 local people and our view of the development and meadows: https://savethenorthernmeadows.wales/survey-results/
A handful of individual responses submitted in objection to three applications: https://planningonline.cardiff.gov.uk/online-applications/files/73E2BC401EFCC48E745FB458611A4D7A/pdf/20_01108_MJR-OBJECTION_-_DATA_-_SAVE_THE_NORTHERN_MEADOWS_-_EMAIL-2342475.pdf
The ‘real’ save the northern meadows story, detailing the issues facing the local community and the horrendous abuse we have been subjected to: https://savethenorthernmeadows.wales/the-real-save-the-northern-meadows-story/
The Gair Rhydd take on the campaign:
Information on climate change and the importance of preserving biodiversity where we have it:
Saving meadows (Plantlife):
Two in five plants are threatened with extinction (Natural History Museum):
UK in the relegation zone for nature, reveals Natural History Museum and RSPB:
- The Uk is the G7 country with the smallest proportion of its biodiversity left
Cardiff ranks low on the green spaces table (wales online):
And is the 6th most at risk city in the world from climate change (wales online):
‘The areas of Wales set to be underwater in 30 years due to climate change’ (wales online):
Yet the least damaging phase of the plans shall cut down 122 trees (wales online):
Yet MS Janet Finch-Saunders has called for a review regarding the impact of tree felling on flooding:
Wales should be the leader in preserving biodiversity, as envisioned by the Future Generations and Environment Acts, as well as the decision to declare a climate emergency. As a result of increases in flooding in the area – including flooding at the foot of the Glamorganshire canal – the decision to drain surface water into the canal (discharge of condition 17 on the planning portal) could exacerbate local flooding, as trees must be felled by the development.
At a time when the world has failed to meet ANY biodiversity targets, the destruction of a greenfield site by a Government purporting to care about climate change is laughable.
People want a green recovery to Covid-19:
And we have seen calls for areas to be re-greened in order to help millions of people to access green areas. The meadow used to be an industrial site, and could demonstrate to the UK what re-greening takes.
Annex D: Friends of Forest Farm Clarification
Again, groups of volunteers are being held responsible for correcting VCC’s false assertions within their planning documents.
Annex E: Changing impact on the nature reserve
Identified within attached: Letter re Discharge of Conditions 10,13,14,16,17.
Annex G: Examples of Inconsistencies
Footnote 8 demonstrates how conditions set out by the Welsh Government never allowed the Trust to consider brownfield sites. Yet in public correspondence it is repeatedly stated brownfield sites were considered. This response was sent to a member of Save the Northern Meadows on the 22nd of September 2020:
I apologise for the time it has taken to respond to your email.
We do understand your concerns about the choice of location for the new centre.
We chose the northern meadows site because it will provide a much better experience for our patients. It will be much easier for them to get to because we know that three-quarters of our patients come from the M4 or down the A470. They will no longer have to travel into the village of Whitchurch. The site’s green outlook will also provide patients with a much better healing experience, contrasting with the current Velindre location.
Before selecting the site, we looked at other options including brownfield sites. None were suitable.
The Welsh Government funds the new Velindre Cancer Centre project, including public information. Whilst I appreciate that you may disagree with some of what we are saying, we are seeking to inform people so that they understand what we are proposing and why. We will continue to communicate with the local community throughout the project so that we can develop an amenity that works for everybody.
We are seeking to develop part of the site, not all of it, and we believe we can enhance it in many ways, including its biodiversity. We want to work with members of the community to make our ambitions a reality and I hope you will be prepared to have your say when we do this.
On behalf of David Powell,
The assertion only part of the site will be developed is also false. In many documents and communications from the Trust, it has been stated Whitchurch Hospital site is too small for development as there is no space for expansion – a statement refuted by Annex H.
Therefore, the community cannot trust the Trust will not expand to the whole of the meadow site as demand increases. Indeed, this is all the more possible as the Trust will be decreasing the number of hospital beds on site to 42.
From planning committee conditions page:
1. DESCRIPTION OF PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT
1.1 Outline permission is sought for a 42 bed cancer centre, conference/learning and research centres and Maggie’s Centre with associated infrastructure, including a double decked car park and energy centre.
Chapter 4 of the environmental statement
4.2.3 The new Velindre Cancer Centre will comprise a maximum 40,000 sq.m of gross internal floor area for Cancer health services (planning use classes: C2 Residential Institutions, and D1 Non-residential institutions). No surgical treatment will be undertaken at the centre, but space for the delivery of the following critical services will be provided: radiotherapy; chemotherapy; pharmacy; inpatient beds; outpatients services; support services; and imaging. A conference centre facility will also be provided.
4.2.6 The building will be between two and three storeys.
The assertion no surgical treatment will be undertaken at the centre voids the statement in the VCC response to the public that the meadows will provide the best ‘healing experience.’ Without a surgical unit no healing will take place at the site.
In addition, inconsistent messaging abounds regarding the conference centre mentioned in 1.1.
Below is an interview with Deputy Health Minister Julie Morgan.
Are there plans to build a conference centre as the wording in the planning application refers to this?
VELINDRE SAID: No, the ‘conference centre’ will be a ‘Centre for Collaborative Learning’.
5.4 in the above Planning Permission: The proposed site will also include a conference centre, which would be an integral part of the facility, with additional parking only being required for those attending a conference/event in the centre. Despite the reasonably sustainable nature of the location, with direct rail links to Cardiff Central railway station (via the half hourly service from the adjacent Coryton Station) it is considered that additional parking would still be required for those attending the facility.
This is not a minor change because it must have figured in the search for a particular size of site. It’s presumed in the floor space according to the Planning Permission.
Within the same Q&A, another inconsistency, and lie emerges as told by the Trust:
I’ve been told that the number of emergency calls to Velindre is higher than the 30 per year stated. Is this correct?
VELINDRE SAID: We treat tens of thousands of patients at the cancer centre every year and fewer than 30 patients a year on average need an unplanned emergency transfer. Of these 30 patients, fewer than 10 patients a year are critically unwell and have access to the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTs) who can assess, stabilise and transfer these unwell patients to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW). UHW is less than three miles away and can be reached within minutes. [ed. resorting to EMRTs to cloud the main point: 100 x 999 calls]. If the new cancer centre was on a large acute site, the size of the site could still mean that patients need an ambulance transfer.
The clinical team has a freedom of information request that clearly states these transfers are actually closer to 100 a year – nearly three times the numbers stated.
Planning applications are also periodically updated and changed, causing significant stress for the community.
For example – the community fought hard to secure a 9 month temporary access road via Park Road and into Whitchurch Hospital in 2017, of which they were reassured would be sufficient for the building work.
In 2020, this was proposed to be extended to 48 months by application 20/01110/MJR. Yet the community noticed in proposals for Whitchurch Hospital within application 20/00357/MJR, Park Road was a key access for new houses proposed.
Now it appears these fears have been confirmed, with doc 20_01110_MJR-201001_GIMS_STATEMENT_-_FINAL-2375378.pdf starting within the first paragraph of section 3 that this will now be a permanent access road. Yet as highlighted in many documents, the Trust stated this project will take traffic out of Whitchurch. They also repeatedly and categorically denied the temporary access road would become permanent in March of this year (see ‘engagement Chris Lines access rd). With this change, the Trust has finally demonstrated how little they care for the local community, or for basic honesty and the Nolan Principles.
Annex H: Cadw not engaged re use of Whitchurch Hospital
Please see attachment letter: FW/ Conference Centre and Cadw
Please see also ‘FW/ Whitchurch Hospital Cardiff Comms’ 1 and 2
Flooding and Drainage to Nature Reserve
Find images of flooding off of Forest Farm Road in February attached to email.
Discharge of Condition 17 relates to the proposal to drain surface water into the Glamorganishre Canal.
£17 million spent on a project with no architectural design, and no physical work completed over six years.
See attachment: Velindre FOI_TCC Budget CORP
No information available regarding actual site design, including conference centre:
(PDF Version attached: FW/ Conference Centre and Cadw)
“The Collaborative Centre for Learning, Technology and Innovation will contribute to the transformation of the way in which care is planned, organised and delivered across south east Wales.
We do not have any detailed plans for the centre at the moment but we are not planning for a separate building. We estimate it would need about 350m2 of space within the new cancer centre.
As such, I cannot say how many meeting rooms it will hold and what capacity they have and what hospitality facilities it may need. So, the answers to your questions are:
What is proposed capacity?
It’s too early to say.
How many conference rooms will be involved?
It’s too early to say.
3. Does it include accommodation?
No, it won’t.
Does it include hospitality facilities including a bar?
There may be a need for some hospitality facilities but we will not want a bar.
How many car going spaces are attached to it?
We have parking spaces for 43 visitors to the cancer centre and this will include visitors to the Collaborative Centre.
How many staff needed, how much parking spaces will they require?
We do not have plans at the moment to recruit additional staff for the Collaborative Centre. We will accommodate any staff parking within the limits set of our planning permission.”
Footnotes were removed by formatting. Key footnote information is below:
View the increase in submissions against application 20/00357/MJR following mid May. On May 22nd, Tessa HM posted the application link to the Save the Northern Meadows facebook group. Following this, over 50 objections were raised, and MS Julie Morgan and MP Anna McMorrin now agree the application should not proceed. Many who used the meadow daily were not aware of the development, even in March 2020.
Paras 2.96 – 2.97, Strategic Outline Programme (2014) <http://www.transformingcancerservices.wales/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Strategic-Outline-Programme-Redacted.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2oBt-ieysD3zR0giOISUZrKevCNjDltMAotlImNXOuZtrbD1o7Trgj0T8>;
Para 2.14 and Fig 2-10. Programme Business Case: Economic Case Section (2017) <http://www.transformingcancerservices.wales/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Confidential-Programme-Business-Case-for-Transforming-Cancer-Services-MARK-UP_Redacted-FINAL.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0VOkqvp8v7h5lubxnNk3c8Ym5qlP-vQuQ4XBgQvJUWb12PdOZZpP3vnmA>
Doctors from outside and within Velindre have questioned the model as highlighted by our statement to the petitions committee and WalesOnline and the BBC
The project is estimated to cost around £218 million under the MIM model, which could see the public pay back up to four times what was initially spent. This sum does not include the – estimated – £26.9 million for enabling works.
Find the Nolan Principles here http://www.wales.nhs.uk/governance-emanual/nolan-principles