Campaigners opposing the building of a new cancer centre on a wildlife haven in the north of Cardiff have gathered to prevent contractors from clearing the site of vegetation. 

Workers initially attended the proposed new Velindre Cancer Centre site on Monday to make preparations, where they were met by a group of protestors belonging to the Save the Northern Meadows campaign. The protestors remained in situ overnight and still occupy the site today. 

Supporters of the campaign to protect the area from the development have been urged to gather at the site for a peaceful protest from 7am on Wednesday, October 27.

Amongst the demonstrators is Cat Lewis, a recovering breast cancer patient, who last month lost her legal challenge against the construction of the new cancer centre.

A spokesperson for the Save the Northern Meadows campaign told The National: "The New Velindre Cancer Centre project today steered straight at a stand-off, with campaigners questioning its legitimacy to work on the development site.

"The enabling works project has shown its intentions by requesting police support and deploying local security staff against campaigners camped on the site.

"Velindre issued a notice of intended forced entry on Friday despite apparently lacking full planning consents for starting the enabling works.

The National Wales: Campaigners argue that the new Velindre Cancer Centre should be situated next to the University of Wales Hospital in the HeathCampaigners argue that the new Velindre Cancer Centre should be situated next to the University of Wales Hospital in the Heath

Velindre NHS Trust provided a statement to The National: "The work being undertaken is limited to that required to facilitate the completion of surveys, and as set out above, it does not constitute the commencement of the development works permitted by the planning permission.

"The clearance proposed has been agreed with the landowners and comprises very limited cutting back of existing vegetation to allow survey access. It is being undertaken in accordance with all of the relevant permissions and environmental requirements and specifically, in accordance with the European Protected Species Licence issued by Natural Resources Wales.

"No trees are being felled and none of the vegetation clearance at this time is permanent. The works are being supervised by a team of qualified ecologists to make sure that it is undertaken in compliance with all relevant environmental legislation.

The National Wales: The Save the Northern Meadows campaign has maintained a vigil at the siteThe Save the Northern Meadows campaign has maintained a vigil at the site

"From a planning perspective, the limited survey works being undertaken are not works constituting the commencement of development (as defined by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s.56) nor are they excluded from being undertaken by the planning permission or any planning legal agreement relating to the site or scheme. 

"Any associated ground cover maintenance being undertaken to allow the survey is not site clearance as required to commence the implementation of the planning permission.

"Permission is not currently in place to undertake tree felling which is required explicitly for the construction of the bridges; that approval will be achieved via subsequent discharge of the CEMP condition." 

 

The National Wales: An image of the footpath closure. Source: Velindre NHS TrustAn image of the footpath closure. Source: Velindre NHS Trust

David Powell, project director for the new Velindre Cancer Centre added: “The works being carried out are focused on limited vegetation clearance that will allow us access to do ground survey work on the site in the coming weeks. The work will only include removal of previously wind-fallen trees as agreed with Cardiff Council.

“The works will be undertaken in accordance with the European Protected Species Development Licence (EPSL) granted by Natural Resources Wales and we will have ecologists on site during the work to ensure that we meet the requirements of the licence.

“In line with the proportionality of the work being undertaken, and the short term disruption to access, we wanted to provide context to key stakeholders ahead of the work beginning. As part of our ongoing engagement, we will provide more notice ahead of any further works on site in the coming weeks.”

Meanwhile, local councillors have expressed surprise and dismay that they weren't informed of the proposed plans sooner. Councillors representing Whitchurch and Tongwynlais, Mike Jones-Pritchard, Linda Morgan, Mike Phillips & Mia Rees released a statement on the Northern Meadows and the proposed Velindre Cancer Centre site via social media:  

"VCC have today begin works in the disused railway cutting, Lady Cory Field and the broader development area. An email sent to local members and Hollybush Residents Association late on Friday was the first we were made aware of this. 

"This late notice is unacceptable and is indivative of the lack of meaningful engagement throughout. VCC had been asked by Cardiff Council to properly inform the community and members (and to avoid half-term). Cardiff Council has today also asked VCC to share further detailed information about their work plans for this week and during November but VCC have refused. We call on VCC to improve their engagement and to release this detail immediately. We will take the issue of engagement up with VCC directly. 

"With regards the legality of the work we have met with senior council officers and can confirm: 

"1. We are re-assured by council officers the nature of the work does not fall under planning laws: 

"2. A notice was published in September 2021, the result of which for 6 months from that date, allows the Public Right of Way along the disused railway line to be closed and diverted any number of times. 

"We were not aware that notice (2. above) had been publisehd and have expressesd our serious concern over this. 

The National Wales: Placards belonging to the Save the Northern Meadows campaignPlacards belonging to the Save the Northern Meadows campaign

"We have also notified council officers that we do not consider the diversion of the PROW to be a safe one;  the new route is too precarious  for many users and we have asked that this is urgently looked at. It has been badly planned by VCC. 

"We will be working with the community and council on this matter."

The Cardiff Civic Society argue on their Twitter page that the work contravenes Cardiff County Counci's own planning decision notice.

So far, there are are more than 100 individual objections and 367 signatories opposing the most recent planning application at the site.

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