Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Consultation (The Non-Dogbert Version)

After last night's events, I guess it's about time to talk about Insole Court.

For fear of stealing the line from just about everyone, Insole Court is one of Cardiff''s hidden architectural gems. Built as a coal baron's mansion, the house and its estate were compulsorily purchased in 1932 to make way for Western Avenue. Over the years the house and its gardens became an important community facility, albeit one not much loved by the various councils that ran it; at one stage Cardiff City Council sold it to South Glamorgan County Council for £1, the citizen's hall was lost to arson and the house itself fell into some disrepair. Matters came to a head in 2006, when an asbestos find led to the house being closed.

Vigorous campaigning by the Friends Of Insole Court, the Insole Estate Residents Association and the Llandaff Society, together with unanimous support from all the ward candidates in last year's local elections, soon saw the council investing £600k in reopening the ground floor of the house in September of last year. Much work remains, however, with the upper floors of the house still needing over £2m of renovation.

Last night saw the first steps being taken towards that renovation as the council held a consultation event on the original plans for funding of the remaining work. Consultation has come in for plenty of stick in recent years (not least from me) but much of that criticism is a result of flagrant misuse of the term by a spineless government that can't get out of bed unless it can demonstrate public support for the idea.

What last night's event showed was what you can achieve when you get it right. The hundred-plus attendees (eat your heart out, Emyr Jones Parry) were presented with the facts, heard the case on both sides in a non-confrontational manner and discussed the issues in an informed and thoughtful manner. The result was a wealth of ideas for the site, which we as councillors are committed to ensuring are an integral part of the ongoing discussions as to the best future path for Insole Court.

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