South East Wales

Four Cardiff parklands given Diamond Jubilee protection

Pope John Paul II mass in Pontcanna Fields, June 1982
Image caption Around 150,000 people attended the mass given in Pontcanna Fields by Pope John Paul II in June 1982

A public park which hosted the Pope's 1982 visit to Wales is one of four Cardiff sites nominated for protection to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

About 150,000 people attended the mass carried out by Pope John Paul II in Pontcanna Fields.

It and three recreation grounds - in Rumney, Roath and Ely - have been named in the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge run by Fields in Trust (Fit).

The charity aims to safeguard parks by placing covenants on the land.

However, some critics claim the protection may not be enough to ensure the sites remain as open spaces.

The initiative aims to encourage local authorities to dedicate playing fields, parks, children's play areas and woodland to ensure long-term protection and to provide a legacy for the jubilee.

Cardiff council intends to enter into a deed of dedication with Fit which would hold the four sites in trust status for at least 100 years.

Bought by the city from the Marquess of Bute in 1947, Pontcanna Fields is the largest of the four sites, forming what the council describes as a "green lung" on either side of the River Taff, linking with other parklands such as Sophia Gardens and Llandaff Fields.

It takes its name from the Welsh for "Saint Canna's bridge" in the northern part of the then hamlet of Canton.

It reads: "The bridge from which it takes its name was probably the little rude stone bridge which crossed the Whitehouse Brook. Both bridge and brook disappeared in 1896 when the northern part of Cathedral Road was completed."

In 2008, the area was the site of the Welsh-language cultural festival the National Eisteddfod, attracting around 160,000 visitors.

It is a popular location for a range of outdoor sports including football, rugby, cricket and running.

Jeff Webb, 48, has run outdoor fitness classes in the park for the past three years and says the space draws people from miles around.

He said: "It is a fantastic asset for Cardiff. It's a big park and part of the route for the Taff Trail.

"I daresay people within 10 miles come to it to walk their dogs and bring their children there.

"There's enough room for me as an outdoor fitness provider to be there at the same time as other groups without us getting in each other's faces."

The nomination is a turnaround for Rumney Recreation Ground, which until September last year the council had lined up as the site of a planned new 1,500-pupil school for 11-16-year-olds.

An 8,000-name petition was raised against the £22m plan dropped in favour of a scheme on an existing school site.

The other sites put forward for the Fit scheme are Roath Recreation Ground, part of Roath Park, and Wilson Road Recreation Ground in Ely.

The four parks' nominations have been welcomed but some claim more needs to be done to ensure the sites are not encroached upon, even for recreational facilities.

Legal contract

Poet and writer Peter Finch, author of the Real Cardiff books series, said he and a friend once tried to locate the origin of the Canna and traced its path to modern-day Brook Street in Riverside.

He said: "I welcome this status, it will be an another step forward, but there are still weaknesses in it.

Image caption Campaigners raised an 8,000-signature petition to stop Rumney Recreation Ground from development

"All you have to do is look at Bute Park, which has small buildings, a toilet block, a play area, a cafe being added on to it all the time.

"There is a lack of clarity about what is meant by leisure purposes. Could an open-air roller skating rink be for leisure purposes, for example?"

Last year, the Duke of Cambridge, who is the patron of the Queen Elizabeth II fields challenge, warned that many of Britain's green spaces were under threat and could be lost to developers.

Cardiff council said it would have to enter into a legal contract with Fit to stipulate the permitted uses of the site.

It said: "If a development or a change of use were to be proposed to a QEII field, then, in addition to having to seek planning permission and pursue the disposal of open space procedure, the council would also have to seek the approval of Fit.

"However, depending on the site's current and possible future use, the user clause would need to take account of a facility, such as a community hall, located within the open space.

"Any buildings or structures which markedly deviate from the permitted uses would require the approval of Fit, however, any buildings that are ancillary to the site's use are likely to be supported by Fit."

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