Has Cardiff become a great city, or great big mall?
Thousands of houses and apartments have been built in what are now trendy areas of Cardiff, the Bay, the city centre and Roath, but why is there a demand for apartments in Cardiff?
Has the population of Cardiff grown? Are more people naturalising here? According to census figures, no.
And if they were, why would they come? Is Cardiff a cultural mecca? No, we have an opera house, some small theatres, and one exception to that rule, Chapter.
Is Cardiff a foodies paradise? No, we don’t even have one Michelin starred restaurant – it’s mostly chains, with a few good independents thrown in.
Is Cardiff a place where music grows up? Not really, but only because the live music scene isn’t allowed to thrive in Cardiff – I think because its councillors are grumpy old men, banging on the wall shouting “Turn down that racket!” – every time a venue license in granted the venue is put under pressure to soundproof, an expensive process. We almost lost The Globe on Albany Road this year for that reason, and two years ago the The Point in Cardiff Bay had to shut after they spent £10,000 soundproofing, a cost that they would later find they could not recoup.
What does Cardiff have? A hell of a lot of shops and way too many bars, are people really given good reasons to come to live in Cardiff?
Oh sure, a lot of people come here for events at the stadium and the Millennium Centre, and even more come down for the nightlife, for a stag or hen party, but I can’t imagine why anyone would come here to live day-to-day, over somewhere else like Bristol, Bath or Manchester.
Cardiff councils’ local development plan is a shambles, it’s been thrown out more times than a used Kleenex and now I can only imagine that it’s a crumpled up piece of paper with “GET MORE BIG CHAINS TO OPEN SHOPS” scrawled on it.
Cardiff city council seem to have got an idea from somewhere that the sign of a successful city is that brands like Hugo Boss, TGI Fridays, Starbucks and John Lewis want to open stores, and that developers want to build houses and bars, and for this they are given all the support and some.
Where others would have to go through years of consultations and the rigmoral of dealing with the planning department, developers like Land Securities Group (St David’s developers) are given all the assistance they need to get their applications through successfully and above all, quickly.
It took my parents 8 months to successfully apply to have the extension on their house widened by 4 feet; by that standard, to demolish half of the city, rework traffic routes and rebuild, the application for the new St David’s shopping centre should have taken 25+ years to go through.
What is this fascination with big business that makes the heads of Cardiff councillors swell? Is it some kind of foolish playground notion that “if the cool kids talk to me, that makes me cool too”?
Cardiff needs more centres of cultural activity, and by that I don’t mean a firework festival that’s sponsored by McDonalds. We need more Chapter arts centres, more independent restaurants, more street activities, more meetings of minds, more creative opportunities.
There is only so much that individuals or groups of like-minded people can do. Rent and rates in Cardiff city centre are too high for independents to survive, most of the time, this is why we have seen closures of restaurants like Bali; and bigger projects are given too much power to affect the city as a whole, as seen during the St David’s project where most of the city’s arcade shops almost went bust because of the size and impact of the works. Cardiff city council need to sit up, think of its citizens and not the travellers that they could possibly attract. We live here, they don’t.