PILL community centre volunteers say Nato protesters booked a venue initially claiming it was for a “family fun day” – with no mention of a camp potentially accommodating thousands of of people.
No decision has yet been made on who will pay for toilet facilities and water at the camp, so taxpayers could end up footing some or all of the bill.
Meanwhile, Newport West’s conservative candidate for next year’s general election Nick Webb has written an open letter to Newport City Council asking why protesters would be camping out in Pill - protesters say they will be there between August 29 and September 6.
Volunteers said Wales Green Party leader Pippa Bartolotti booked the Pill Millennium Centre for four days, originally for a family fun day.
Staff said the original booking was extended from one to two to three to four days for a conference on the understanding the centre was booked for a Green Party event, with restrictions of up to 50 people due to the safety capacity of the room they had booked.
It has now emerged that protesters plan to camp on Pill Park next to the centre, with numbers still unclear.
Tracey Holyoake, a trustee of the centre, said: “[Pippa] was emailed on August 7 and told we believed she had mislead the Pill Mill and the community as she had booked a room for a conference and family fun day. At no point was there any mention of a camp on our fields or the vast scale of this. She has played a very clever part here, so much so not even our local councillors were aware. It’s very shocking.”
A final decision on whether the ‘alternative summit’ could take place at the centre will be taken at a public meeting at 8pm at the Pill Mill tonight (TUES), she said.
“No money has changed hands and she has not completed our terms and conditions form, neither has she signed our booking form,” Ms Holyoake said.
The centre may close entirely if protesters camp outside due to safety concerns.
Ms Holyoake said: “We have got many local football and rugby teams that use the playing fields. It’s the only area for children to play. Our kids are going to be at risk.”
Pillgwenlly councillor Ibrahim Hayat said he had not been consulted about the peace camp: “There might be rubbish left behind – it’s a huge operation. We just can’t afford to have it in our area. We weren’t approached by anybody. We only found out on Thursday and we arranged an emergency meeting.”
In his open letter to Newport council leader Cllr Bob Bright, Mr Webb asks the council to explain who was consulted, what engagement there had been with residents, whether people will be compensated for the loss of public space during the peace camp period, what requirements there will be regarding noise pollution and clearing the site after use, what penalties there will be for non-compliance, how much it will cost and whether protesters were being encouraged to shop locally.
He said he had not yet received a response.
But anti-Nato campaigners insisted the camp would cause a minimum of disruption and said they had tried to consult local people.
Merel Prescott, from No NATO Newport, said: “We wanted to ensure that the peace campaigners spent time in Newport, that Newport could for once be in the spotlight, that local businesses benefited and that the community had events that they could attend, rather than Newport being sold down the river again and everything happening in Cardiff.”
She added a central location meant the least impact on traffic.
But she said: “I think in hindsight that we should definitely have called a public meeting in Pill before agreeing with anything with the Council or the Police. We were wrong in that, but forgive us, we have never organised anything on this scale before.
“I assure you that we did not intend to upset or offend anyone and that if, at the end of the day, the residents of Pill do not want us there, then I will strongly recommend to No Nato Newport that we change location and hold the camp elsewhere, probably in a less populated area.”
The camp would be a drug and alcohol free zone and protesters would hold a clean-up session every morning, she said.
Pippa Bartolotti said she was currently on holiday in Germany so was not aware of concerns raised.
“We have been in dialogue with Pill Mill for a long time. The support was 100 per cent so I don’t know what’s happened. We are not expecting to use the actual sports fields - that’s an overflow.
She added: “We were holding things at Pill Mill anyway so it was a logical decision.
“What I don’t want is our city being overrun by people with nowhere to stay. I want our visitors to be welcomed where they can spend money, which nobody up at the Celtic Manor will.”
The only other location considered was Tredegar House which was rejected because it was too far out of town, she said.
“We discussed with the council what would be best managed by them. They had the chance to say no. To be fair to the council, they would rather nothing was happening at all. They washed their hands of the whole thing.”
Ms Bartolotti said she had booked a room for up to 200 people at the Pill Mill but was not aware of how many protesters would turn up at the camp as a whole, adding past sites had ranged from a dozen to 800.
Volunteers at the Pill Mill would have been aware of the Nato connection as it said so on the agenda, she said.
“To put my hand on my heart, I would have mentioned it but I really can’t remember the conversation right now. I would have said we are having quite a few people come to the peace camp.
“There isn’t going to be anymore disruption than NATO itself is going to cause.”
The fields were not owned by the Pill Mill, she said, adding the council had refused other venues such as the Newport Centre and the Riverfront.
A spokeswoman for the council said: “Newport City Council would like to make it clear that anti-Nato campaigners have not asked for permission to use the playing fields for a peace camp.
“While we recognise that people have a legitimate right to protest, we understand the concerns of residents about the playing fields which are widely used by the community so the council is working with partner agencies and taking steps to mitigate the potential impact.
“We met with community representatives to discuss the situation but must emphasise it is being created by the protestors, not the council, so it was not a consultation. The council has certainly not given a “commitment” to hold a peace camp in Pill.”
A spokeswoman for 10 Downing Street said decisions regarding a protest camp “have been made locally.”