Cardiff business district review warning

Artist's impression of Central Business District
Image caption The proposed Central Business District aims to attract firms in the financial services industry such as insurance, banking and accountancy

The former leader of Cardiff council is warning that the authority's decision to review plans for a business district could damage confidence in the city.

Rodney Berman, who lost power in May's election, said it may be harder to attract financial firms to the capital.

He added that almost £40m was available from the council and Welsh government for the £160m development.

The council said the new administration was reviewing all projects to ensure they were achievable.

Mr Berman told BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme that the council's decision could set attempts to attract financial services companies back "a number of years if indeed it ever gets off the ground".

"The last thing you want to do is cause a lack of confidence among investors," he said.

"Nobody expects these sorts of projects to be delivered overnight. We always envisaged it as something like a 10 to 15-year project.

"But if the message starts going out that this project isn't moving forward then it's certainly not going to get off the ground."

But Labour's Russell Goodway, whose responsibilities include the local economy, claims the plans outlined last year by the outgoing Lib Dems-Plaid administration were not "founded in substance".

Mr Goodway, who led the local authority for 12 years until 2004, has returned to the council's cabinet after Labour won control in May's local elections.

It means he picks up the plans put forward by the previous administration for a major business park in the centre of the city.

He said he was taking the project "back to the drawing board" and any plans he came up with would be "grounded in reality".

Revamped bus station

Announcing the scheme in March last year, the council said it hoped to attract "blue chip" companies to a central business district (CBD) in the capital and create thousands of jobs, making the area "a powerhouse" for Wales' economy.

Stretching from south from the train station past Callaghan Square and into Cardiff Bay, the proposals for the site include a convention centre and four-million sq ft of office space.

A revamped bus station nearby would complement Cardiff Central train station to become an "integrated transport hub".

The council had said it might contribute up to £39m to the project, with the Welsh government adding £21m as part of a wider plan for an enterprise zone focused on financial services.

Following Mr Berman's comments, Cardiff council said that "the new administration is business savvy and it will be reviewing all the council's projects to ensure that they are fit for purpose and have a real prospect of being achieved".

A spokesman added: "The new administration at County Hall is committed to making the attraction of inward investment to the city a priority once again.

"This will require the council to reconnect with businesses and to work with them to stimulate private sector investment. A clear signal has gone out that Cardiff is, once again, open for business."

The Welsh government has designated the business area in central Cardiff as an enterprise zone for financial services and that remains in place.

Dr. Andrew Crawley from Cardiff University said any plans - regardless of whether they are under the banner of the Welsh government or Cardiff council - will fail unless the private sector is given the leading role in the development of the site.

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