Newport council chief 'sorry' over mural
9:20am Wednesday 9th October 2013 in News
NEWPORT council’s chief executive has apologised to councillors for failing to tell them in advance of the demolition of the Chartist mural.
A letter to elected members from Will Godfrey reveals he and Labour council leader Bob Bright knew that the demolition of the mural was imminent the day before it took place.
However, Mr Godfrey says they did not know the date or time when it would happen – and it is still unclear who had decided to go ahead with destroying the mural on Thursday.
Mr Godfrey told councillors: “As an officer group we should have informed all councillors that the demolition of the mural was imminent.
“I apologise for this shortcoming but our focus was upon ensuring that the demolition could proceed with as little danger as possible to the public.”
He said: “On Wednesday, October 2, the leader of the council and I were informed that the demolition of the Chartist mural was imminent... although no precise date or time was indicated.”
Pulling down the mural prior to the John Frost Square demolition was necessary because it wasn’t included in the tender for the work with the decision from Cadw about listing pending, the letter said.
It also had to happen because it was directly attached to the car park structure, and therefore had to go to ensure no delays took place, the letter states.
Mr Godfrey adds that any “large-scale presence in John Frost Square” could also present a real danger to the public.
“Any delays to the demolition could have significant implications for the redevelopment project,” he wrote.
The decision itself was not informed by any planned demonstration on October 5, Mr Godfrey said, adding that although the date was in the public domain “the council was not formally notified”.
He said that the process “was not underhand or undemocratic as has been suggested in some parts of the media”.
“I am satisfied that officers have exercised the appropriate judgement in very difficult circumstances,” Mr Godfrey says.
The letter explains the timeline of the lead-up to the demolition – from the decision that the mural should be demolished as part of Friars Walk in March 2012, to the commissioning of Mann Williams to look at relocating the mural and Cadw’s decision not to list it.
Councillors were informed on September 24 that demolition work was due to start on October 28 – and with concerns about public safety around the Capitol car park mounting officers wanted to ensure that the demolition could start as quickly as possible.
“The focus should now be on the future and how a new commemoration of the Chartist movement can be put in place,” wrote Mr Godfrey, saying officers had advised a cabinet member that the consultation on it should begin as soon as possible.
There were angry demonstrations last Thursday after council workers began to destroy the Chartist mural unannounced ahead of the demolition of the Capitol car park.
This will see shops in John Frost Square cleared, as well as the bus station ahead of the redevelopment .
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