A new bus station in west Cardiff has so far cost taxpayers more than £680,000 – despite building work not even starting yet.
The Western Transport Interchange is planned on the site of a former tip at Waungron Road, next to the A48 Western Avenue and Waun-gron Park train station. The plans also include a seven-storey block of 50 council flats.
The recycling centre closed at Waungron Road in 2014. The bus station, first announced in 2015, was supposed to be finished in April 2017.
But four years and more than half a million pounds later, the site is just an empty plot of concrete, overgrown with weeds.
A recent freedom of information request revealed Cardiff council has so far spent £681,589 on the project. This includes £42,503 for “initial site clearance”, and £351,470 for “further site clearance and remediation of the site”.
Council bosses said in January the bus station might not open now until 2023, blaming delays on complex issues with land contamination and the adjacent railway embankment. They said a housing association was initially leading the project but then dropped out.
After the housing association dropped out, the council’s housing team took over, redesigning the scheme. Planning agents are currently consulting the community about the proposals, before soon applying for planning permission.
Councillor Sean Driscoll, representing Llandaff and also the Conservative Senedd candidate for Cardiff West, started a petition opposing the plans, which has so far been signed by more than 1,150 people.
The petition, opposed to the development at the site, calls on the local community to be given a choice of options.
Cllr Driscoll said: “Residents were angry when the council spent well over a million pounds upgrading the recycling centre before closing it very soon after.
“To find out now that the council has spent £680,000 clearing the site is shocking. The site is still an overgrown wasteland that clearly needs more spent clearing the site for redevelopment.
“Over 1,150 local people have signed my petition against the proposals as they stand. People feel strongly the proposals need to be put on hold until there’s wider consultation and other options for the site are put forward.
“Local residents feel the residential aspect is too big and the bus interchange layout will undoubtedly impact on the already congested road network. The taxpayers of Cardiff will be asking what this is costing and how much more needs to be spent before a brick has been laid.”
Cllr Neil McEvoy, representing Fairwater and the Propel Senedd candidate for Cardiff West, called for the recycling centre to be reopened, claiming it would have cost less to keep it open than the £681,589 that has so far been spent.
He said: “The closure of Waungron Road is a running sore for the local community. Our new party Propel wants the recycling centre reopened. It should never have been closed.
“To find out that the closure has cost a lot of money does not surprise me. It would have been cheaper for staff to have been employed full time to run the centre and have kept it open.
“I also know a businessman offered to reopen the site at no cost to the council, but the council wasn’t interested. The result for us locally has been increased fly tipping and more a bigger carbon footprint by having to drive to Bessemer Road. The Labour politicians responsible for this should hang their heads in shame.”
People responding to the petition raised a range of concerns from increased congestion to a lack of adequate public consultation on the plans.
Sylvia Watkins said: “I oppose the plans on the basis that congestion will increase drastically in the area which is not good for the environment and residents. A better use of the site would be to reopen the recycling centre.”
Steve Crispin said: “I was only made aware of this proposal by the off-chance of buying the Echo, yet I am only 250 yards away from it. It’s a totally inappropriate plan, riddled with problems, and consequences for those living close to it. Let’s see if democracy actually exists.”
Cardiff council said the site needed “significant remedial works”, including removing existing offices and ramps, and surveying the soil. The analysis found some of the soil was contaminated with oil, which had to be excavated and disposed of at a specialist facility.
A council spokesman said: “This is a heavily contaminated brownfield site, which will be transformed into a new transport interchange, connecting the metro, bus and active travel, and allowing people to travel cross city, without having to go via the city centre.
“The new interchange will significantly improve public transport for residents, as well as providing a better service for commuters.
“This site gives a unique opportunity for the council to provide a new council housing scheme linking directly to the new public transport hub, delivering a mixed use, low-carbon development with high quality new homes.
“By making public transport and active travel a more attractive and viable option for travel, more people will start to leave their cars at home, which in turn will reduce congestion and improve the air quality that we all breathe.
“As the council does all that we can to carry out our work in-house, nearly £160,000 of the published cost is for internal costs carried out by our staff to design the scheme, and all the other costs that are required to deliver this project.
“To improve public transport, a significant investment is required in the entire network. The building of the interchange at Waungron Road is only part of a far wider requirement to build the transport infrastructure that Cardiff needs, and the council is working with the Welsh Government to make that happen.”
Residents wishing to respond to the pre-application consultation can email [email protected] by Friday, February 26. Developers will then apply on behalf of the council for planning permission for the flats and bus station, when the public will have another chance to comment on the plans.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk