MAJOR concerns have been raised over plans to open a splash pad at Ebbw Vale’s Festival Park shopping outlet instead of a public park.

Senior figures at Blaenau Gwent council have been criticised for leaving councillors “in the dark” regarding the long-delayed project, which was first supposed to be ready last summer.

One frustrated councillor said he was “disgusted” by the lack of oversight afforded to council scrutiny committees, with members waiting months for updates.

In early 2018, the council secured £144,000 from Welsh Government and entrusted Aneurin Leisure Trust (ALT) to develop a splash park at Parc Bryn Bach in Tredegar.

Technical challenges and concerns over the cost of a new water system saw ALT hand the money back in June 2018, with Festival Park’s owners taking over from early 2019.

Some councillors thought the splash park was still set for Parc Bryn Bach until hearing of the handover in February, which prompted members to call for an urgent meeting.


But councillors had to wait until May 15 - more than three months after the issue was first raised - to get a further update on the situation.

A “shocked” Independent councillor Mandy Moore said: “The first time most members found out about this was in the local press. There didn’t seem to be any urgency to explain.

“The people of Tredegar were expecting this splash park, and now we’ve got to go out there and tell them it’s not happening.”

Richard Crook, corporate director for regeneration and community services, said Festival Park was committed to covering revenue costs attached to the project, such as the new water system.

But councillors were uncomfortable with grants being used to support a development on private land, where subsidiary income from splash park visitors would be raised and kept within the outlet’s shops.

Labour councillor Haydn Trollope said: “We’re giving public money to a private investor against our own business, without consultation of any scrutiny committee.”

And while they were praised for obtaining Welsh Government funding in the first place, council officers were grilled over their decision-making.

Councillors were also unhappy that an ALT representative was not invited to answer to the council’s report, which expressed concerns about how the trust was managing the project.

Independent councillor Phil Edwards said: “I don’t think due diligence was carried out and the fact that scrutiny committees have been left in the dark is disgusting.

“There’s been ample time to raise this at meetings, and we’ve condemned ALT in this report for the way they’ve handled things and they haven’t been given an opportunity to come back on that.”

Social services corporate director Damien McCann admitted that he could have invited an ALT representative and apologised.

Instead of accepting the Festival Park plans, councillors voted for the council to reengage with Welsh Government to see if extra funding was available to revisit Parc Bryn Bach as a potential destination for the splash pad.

The Welsh Government had designated the park as a Discovery Gateway within its Valleys Regional Park scheme.

The motion also invited ALT to put their views forward at a future meeting.

ALT say no such concerns about its management of the project were raised during discussions with the council and water system supplier.

A statement issued after the meeting said: “Although we were not invited to attend, ALT are extremely pleased that the decision has been made to allow Parc Bryn Bach to be reconsidered for the project as it is a beautiful country park that Blaenau Gwent can be proud of.”