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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Homes body drops playground plans
Coventry Park, Merthyr Vale
Plans for housing on the park have been under consideration
A housing association has dropped its involvement in controversial plans to develop housing on a playground built as a memorial to victims of the Aberfan disaster.

Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association blamed a lack of public support for the scheme for its decision.

It confirmed that hate emails had been received by staff but denied that it had influenced their withdrawal.

Local campaigners in Merthyr Vale had opposed the proposal.

The announcement came on the 38th anniversary of the disaster which claimed the lives of 144 people.

The playground was built in Merthyr Vale - the neighbouring village to Aberfan - using money raised from the people of Coventry following the 1966 landslip which claimed the lives of 116 children and 28 adults.

Campaign

But after housing was made priority as part of 28m improvements planned for village over the next 10 years, the site was earmarked for potential development.

Parents living near the playground set up an action group to fight the plans and campaigned to safeguard the future of the site as a place for children to play.

Their campaign drew support from across the country.

But it also sparked a sinister element as a series of hate emails were sent to staff at the housing association.

The board of Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association have decided to withdraw from plans to develop the playground which have been under consideration since July.

But they said that the decision had nothing to do with the hate mails that had been received by workers.

If there isn't support for that particular site, we as an organisation will not pursue it
Karen Dusgate, Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association

"If the community are not supportive of the site to be redeveloped it would not be appropriate for us to proceed," said Karen Dusgate, the chief executive of the housing association.

She said that following a campaign of opposition to the plans, the association had decided to withdraw from considering the Coventry playground site as one for development.

"The board made the decision not to take its involvement with the project any further," she said.

"If there isn't support for that particular site, we as an organisation will not pursue it."

She said that the association was still committed to working with Merthyr Council to provide accommodation in the area but not on that particular site.

The council has insisted that the playground has become a target for vandals, and is only being considered as one of a number of options for development.

Naz Malik
Naz Malik distributed an email with details of a petition

Meanwhile, a row has broken out between the director of the Welsh Federation of Housing Associations, Howard John and Naz Malik, the chair of the All-Wales Ethnic Minority Association, AWEMA.

It follows the distribution of an email by Mr Malik encouraging people to sign a petition in opposition to the plans to develop the playground.

Mr John said he was "disappointed" that Mr Malik had sent out the email.

"I am surprised and disappointed that, as someone who works to counter the myths and prejudices that feed race hate programmes, he should lend his name and AWEMA's to promote a campaign against Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association without checking the facts," said Mr John.

"It is misguided and incredibly disappointing."

Mr Malik said that he only sent on the email after reading information provided on the petition but has since received further details about the proposals.

"If the facts were wrong as they were presented on the petition, I would be prepared to withdraw my name," he said.

"But if the playground, paid for with public money, was being demolished to make way for housing - I think that is fundamentally wrong," he added.

Disaster

The Aberfan community, near Merthyr Tydfil, was devastated on 21 October 1966 after a coal waste tip overlooking the area became unstable.

Tonnes of waste slid down the mountainside toward the village destroying a farm in its path and killing the occupants.

Children at Pantglas Junior School had just returned from singing hymns at their morning assembly.

But the slide enveloped the building, killing 116 children and five of their teachers.

The slurry also engulfed 20 houses before coming to a halt.


SEE ALSO:
Rescue fund for Aberfan park
12 Oct 04  |  South East Wales
March to save Aberfan memorial
22 Aug 04  |  South East Wales
Aberfan plans reassure mayor
03 Aug 04  |  South East Wales
Aberfan play area protest
15 Jul 04  |  South East Wales


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