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Welsh Office dooms Cardiff sports village

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The Welsh Office has called in the planning application for Cardiff's proposed £240 million sports village (aj 3.12.98), amid increasing concern at the spoiling tactics of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation.

After several months of indecision, junior Welsh minister Peter Hain has dealt what may be the death-blow to ambitious plans by the Burgess Partnership and FaulknerBrowns to develop world-class waterside sport and recreation facilities on a 30ha site at Ferry Road in the city's dockside regeneration area.

Hain said that he had acted with reluctance, which was no comfort to the project's backers. He was careful to draw attention to alternative proposals put forward by the development corporation, which is anxious to develop the Ferry Road site as a commercial, office and housing complex.

Calling in the proposal is likely to set the project back by months, with no assurance of a favourable outcome. The promoters of the project, led by Philips, have said that any further delay could cause them to abandon their plans for Cardiff and look elsewhere, probably at a comparable site in Bristol. Cardiff council leader Russell Goodway, a long-standing supporter of the consortium's plans with which the council is closely involved, said that the decision on the Ferry Road site would now be put back by at least 12 months.

This latest hold-up comes as the lottery funding body Sportlot re-opened bidding for a £9 million grant toward the cost of constructing a replacement for Cardiff's demolished Empire Pool. With applications due in by 15 March, Cardiff council would have to re-apply - if a suitable site is identified - and would face strong competition from Swansea and Newport. The only revealed alternative in the Cardiff area is cbdc's proposed gift of a site at Dumballs Road, near the city centre, although the economic viability of that suggestion has been questioned by the council and Welsh sporting interests.

Both Ferry Road landowner Grosvenor Waterside and the cbdc are resolutely opposed to the sports village proposal, so there is no possibility of agreement being reached on that site by the closing date. This means that the sports village proposal will not be considered by the Sportlot panel. Since both the pool and the £9 million grant are integral to the consortium's plans, their loss is expected to result in abandonment of the project.

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