Why Velindre and Cardiff Council are operating unlawfully on the Northern Meadows

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Community members will gather again from the 6th of December.

Below is a letter sent by a member of Save the Northern Meadows to the Head of Planning at Cardiff Council, Mr. Simon Gilbert. It outlines why we believe the work which happened on the 25th – 29th of October, and which will start again from the 6th of December, constitutes clearance works, is enabling works, and should have planning Condition 17 (17/01735/MJR) in place before work can start.

Right now, Velindre and the Welsh Government are working without the correct environmental conditions in place, and there are many significant unanswered questions about the development.

Dear Mr Gilbert,

I write in response to the email sent on your behalf by Justin Jones on the 26th November 2021.
 
My email addresses the first point only due to the severity and immediacy of the situation with further work due to start in 3days time, on Monday 6 th  December 2021.
 
In your email you said: Conflict with condition 17 (CEMP) of the cancer centre approval, reference 17/1375/MJR I note your concern in regards to an alleged breach of condition 17 by undertaking vegetation removal on the site and the adjoining Whitchurch hospital. I understand condition 17 of planning application reference 17/01735/MJR uses the term “clearance and enabling works” but that must be read in terms of the development that the permission has authorised, and the condition relates. The planning system can only regulate development that is controlled under section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and Planning (Wales) Act 2015 and I am informed by my officers who have undertaken site visits, that the removal of vegetation is not “development” under the planning Acts and therefore cannot be controlled through the planning permission. As a result, the Local Planning Authority concludes that the actions undertaken are not in breach of condition 17.
 
In your statement above, you appear to have misquoted Condition 17, which actually states:


“Prior to the commencement of any site clearance, construction works or development (except to demolition) a CEMP for the whole site shall be first submitted to and approved in writing by the LPA.”
 
The extract above from Condition 17 clearly lists the site clearance, construction works and development as three separate and distinct categories which require approval by the LPA before commencement. Yet in your reply above you claim “that the removal of vegetation is not development” and so is not controlled by planning permission.
 
Your claim that the actions which occurred between the 25th – 29th October 2021 sit outside of planning is illogical. The CEMP and Condition 17 were generated out of your own planning process, with the conditions put in place by your own planning committee and officers.
 
The approval of the CEMP, to include any site clearance is a stipulation within Condition 17.  
 
Your own document clearly states that “prior to the commencement of any site clearance…” yet you then claim that the site clearance that took place between the 25th  – 29th October does not count as being governed by Condition 17.
 
The key word in the condition is “ANY”. Any is a definitive term which covers ANY SITE CLEARANCE and is not open to interpretation, yet this is what you have done to justify the actions which took place.


Cardiff Council Planning Department is not above the law. You cannot manipulate and mould facts within official documentation to suit yourself and a developer. The documentation is clear, was created by your department, sets out the requirements for commencing works, and yet you are choosing not to adhere to it.
 
Members of the community on the ground on Monday 25 th  October attempted to explain and show this documentation to Police along with showing them the online Council Planning Portal which clearly showed that the CEMP had not been approved. A call was then made to your department by a police officer present who
was told it was fine for the work to happen. By this action you misled the police, contravened your own rules, enabled Velindre to act unlawfully and demonised and criminalised distressed local people.
 
Works should not have taken place during that week as Condition 17 had not been fully discharged by the LPA and so your claim is refuted in the strongest possible terms that a breach has not taken place. It clearly has.
 
In addition, the work carried out was not simply the removal of vegetation as you state in your email. It involved site clearance involving an excavator – removing roots and soil, a lorry and crane, an extensive workforce and the use of chainsaws in the removal of trees, of which we have video footage. This is clearly enabling works.
 
During the course of these works many health and safety breaches occurred which have been reported to the HSE.
 
Additionally, Project Director, Mr David Powell, advised the community that Velindre had been required to gain consent from Welsh Government to undertake the works between the 25th  – 29th October 2021. The Welsh Government is funding the enabling works. This is irrefutable evidence that the work undertaken was in fact enabling works.
 
Our assertion that this was enabling works is further supported by the NRW Protected Species Licence S089035/1, which clearly states that this licence is granted under Regulation 55(2) (e) of the Conservation of Habitats and Species
Regulations 2017…….whilst undertaking enabling works…”
 
Further, the second page of the licence document, point 3, states:
 
“All the work carried out under this licence will be undertaken in accordance with: The method statement entitled Velindre Cancer Centre Enabling Work V5 dated 10.09.2021…”
 
received by NRW on the 13th  September 2021, with the licence being issued on the 20th  September 2021. There were paid ecologists working for Velindre and supervising all of these enabling works, as set out in the NRW licence. If your claim that the works undertaken were not enabling works then in fact, Velindre were working outside of the licence granted by NRW.

Velindre has now issued information to certain sections of the community advising they will be re-commencing works on 6 th  December without any of the above issues being addressed or corrected. Further, Julie Morgan has contacted Velindre on behalf of a constituent and confirmed in writing to the constituent that she has: “double-checked and have been categorically told by Velindre that none of the work involves Forest Farm land. The Nature Reserve will remain untouched.” The work commencing on December 6 th  will take place only on Velindre owned land.”
 
For Velindre to inform Julie Morgan, our elected representative, that the Nature Reserve will remain untouched by the borehole work is simply untrue and has only distressed and angered local residents even further. Velindre’s actions are yet again inflaming an already tense situation and it is now important that Cardiff Council take action to defuse it.
 
Additionally, no work has taken place to make-safe the proposed PROW diversion, which remains unsafe and utterly inappropriate for community use.
 
Nothing has changed. Because of the unresolved issues listed above it is imperative that you pause the enabling works that are due to commence on 6th December.

Again I reiterate, the CEMP has not been approved, Condition 17 not fully discharged, the PROW diversion not improved and Velindre has once again misled the community.
 
The work planned for the 6th -17th December must not go ahead. I await your reply without delay.  

Kate, on behalf of Save the Northern Meadows.

Map of Forest Farm boundary

Taken from the Forest Farm website on the 5th of December 2021

Images of the location of clearance and upcoming enabling works:

The brown, dead area is where Velindre cleared vegetation – at the exact location of their access road. This is part of forest farm land. The oak trees behind the dead area are in the path of the access road. These trees are hundreds of years old.
The access road will then travel across the grass in this image, and through the trees highlighted here. A TPO protected tree is in the path of the road here.
Enabling works will also occur in the railway cutting, which also makes up a part of Forest Farm.
Herons nest along the North Eastern boundary of the railway cutting, at the oldest heronry in Cardiff. These will be just one of the species sacrificed for the development.