Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Communication, Communication, Communication

It's a re-hash of Tony Blair's old mantra that is the focal point of this week's edition of our local paper here in Cardigan.

The Tivy Side reports fairly in today's paper and on its website here, on a public meeting that I organised and chaired last Thursday between housing association Tai Ceredigion and local residents regarding a potential development of 6 single bedroom flats in the Maes-Yr-Haf area of town.

As the article states, it was an angry meeting that faced senior officers of Tai Ceredigion last week in the Bethania Chapel vestry here in town. It dealt with the twin issues of the plans to build these 6 flats and also Tai Ceredigion's closure of a well used local path adjacent to the development site just days earlier, despite my protestations to them to leave it open until the meeting at the very least so that they could hear the views of local residents on the matter.

In my 7+ years as a Councillor, it was one of the most challenging meetings that I have had to chair because of the understandable frustrations that were felt by residents who disagreed with Tai Ceredigion's concept of consultation on both of these issues. Anger was expressed at the lack of consultation in general and also, some of those who had had discussions on the issue of the footpath closure refuted the statements that Tai Ceredigion stated that they had made. I therefore organised Thursday's meeting to give the community an opportunity to air its feelings and it did so without hesitation. There was no point having a short half hour meeting so instead we went on for two hours. I hope that I gave everyone ample opportunity to have their say during that time to those making the decisions.

Today's Tivy Side editorial dealt with the twin issues covered in the meeting and concluded with this statement:
"Communication is more about listening than it is about talking. Tai Ceredigion is very good at putting out its spin in smart press releases throught its consultant PR company, particularly about how much it 'consults' with people. But it is engagement with the community and listening to their views that really counts. That's real, effective public relations".
The community are gathering together to launch a potential legal challenge to the closure of the footpath.

In the meantime, the planning application for the adjacent build is being submitted this week and the community will have 21 days to respond with its views to Neuadd Cyngor Ceredigion, Planning Department, Penmorfa, Aberaeron, Ceredigion, UK, SA46 0PA. I'll be writing a letter to the Tivy Side later this week with the details once I know the application number.


  1. Mark,
    I was pleased to be able to dispel the myths and scaremongering rumours at the public meeting. The proposed flats are to meet local housing needs, and it is disappointing that you went on the public record at the meeting to oppose the new development. It is your own County Council that has requested Tai Ceredigion to develop these much needed flats, and your fellow Councillor, Cllr Catrin Miles, and yourself confirmed the need for more one bedroom homes in Cardigan. We have consulted with the directly affected tenants on both issues, and prior to that had detailed discussions with yourself and the other local County Councillors about the proposed new homes within your respective wards. The plans for the six flats were ammended following the comments from both yourself and the most affected tenant. Therefore to accuse Tai Ceredigion of inadequate communication is unfair in my personal opinion. I will continue to argue for the need for more affordable homes for local people, and will be happy to speak alongside Council officers to evidence that local housing need at any future Town Council and County Council or public meetings. If that is not evidence of a willingness to engage effectively with the local community then I look forward to hearing the Tivyside's Editor's lecture on how to do it properly, as I have a mere thirty years experience of housing management and community development to call on. I look forward to continuing this important debate as the formal planning process begins, and will attempt to speak for the long line of local people on the Council's housing register,who nobody else appears to be speaking up for at present.

  2. Steve, I'm not sure that you necessarily did but we will see from the responses during the consultation process.

    As I stated twice at the meeting, new social housing are clearly needed of that there is no question but the question arises as to where they need to be built. Each application must be judged on its own merit and I have my concerns as to the merit of this development - concerns that were not allayed through the amendments o the plans that you mention.

    I am however a Councillor in a representative democracy. My role is to represent the views of the people of Cardigan to the Council and not the views of the Council to the people of Cardigan. I will therefore await to see what responses are forthcoming in the formal consultation process from local residents and I shall take my lead from there. If you are right about the dispelling of myths at the public meeting and there are no objections then clearly you will have nothing to worry about.