This article is by Fenella Bowden, Independent Councillor for Heath and Birchgrove.
It’s always a mix of elation and exhaustion following an election; and 2017 was no different! Thankfully, I was able to resume my daily routine of answering residents’ queries, & holding surgeries, alongside dealing with the usual local issues – such as potholes, waste collections, planning applications and parking issues – quickly.
I think it’s fair to say that the past year has been dominated by several key issues for residents in Heath Ward:
The planned closure of Wedal Road HWRC;
- the development of the Aldi store on Caerphilly Road;
- the development of the Highfields site in Allensbank Road; and
- the lack of a Park & Ride facility in Cardiff North.
The continuing lack of infrastructure and an integrated transport system in Cardiff is keenly felt in Heath & Birchgrove. Congestion which affects air quality; parking pressures from UHW; and managing traffic at the school gates all remain challenging. But it was good to see a 20mph scheme introduced in Birchgrove Road, after much campaigning, albeit that it is not of the standard we’d have liked.
Planning applications continued to be controversial, as was seen by both the Aldi development on Caerphilly Road, and at the former Highfields site. However, it has been good to see the Council investing in affordable housing across the city, and I welcome the inclusion of Council owned units at Highfields.
This year I have been concentrating on several wider concerns:
- The role of councillors as corporate parents;
- Food poverty in Cardiff;
- The health risks around rubber crumb pitches; and
- How to overcome the barriers that are preventing more diversity within Council chambers.
Councillors are corporate parents for those young people who are in care. Making the decision to exempt those young people who are leaving care from Council Tax until the age of 25 was unanimous in 2017. But there is still a great deal to do to ensure that these young people get the support that they need whilst in care; and when they leave. I shall continue to campaign for young people in LA residential care to be given the same choice as those in foster care: to be able to stay beyond 18 years old.
The Council’s partnership with UNICEF highlighted to me the obligations that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child place on councillors. I have been asking questions about how we ensure that children’s rights are placed at the heart of Council policy. I believe that we must encourage more consultation with young people, including those under 16, and listen to their experiences and aspirations before making significant policy and spending decisions that affect their future.
Food poverty during school holidays hit the headlines last year both nationally and locally. While looking for ways in which our local communities could come together to help to alleviate the problems, I visited projects like the Pentrebane Zone to find out more about communities providing for themselves.
This is just a snapshot of my year. Happy to answer any questions!
By Fenella Bowden (Councillor for Heath and Birchgrove)