The WNS would like to keep a current affairs of where we are on the future of the Norwegian church and is as follows.
Our letter to the editor of Wales Online;
Norwegian society wary of city council
Following up the article of May 22 regarding Cardiff council’s plans for commercial use of the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay, the Welsh Norwegian Society would like to explain why we are wary of Cardiff council’s fine words about preserving the integrity of the building.
Cardiff council became the sole trustee of the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust in 2006. Its management of the charity has been woeful since then, as the publicly available information on the Charity Commission’s website shows:
Accounts to 2016, 2017, 2018 were submitted 504 days late, 167 days late and 95 days late respectively.
The 2017 accounts have an Independent Examiner’s report which qualifies the accounts – in other words indicates that there are particular areas of concern – to quote:
* The Annual Report and Financial Return related to financial period 2016/17 has not been completed in accordance with the Charity Commission legal statutory and public accountability requirements.
* Governance procedures were not transparent and there appeared to be evidence of a lack of good governance, risk management and internal control as specified by the Charity Commission.
The latest set of accounts for 2018, which were submitted 95 days late on 7th May 2019 include a comment from the Independent Examiner – to quote:
* Formal Trustee had not been held during the year as specified by the Charity Commission.
* Inventory Records detailing Norwegian Church assets are not maintained.
The last point is particularly worrying as there are a number of important historical artefacts held in the church.
Based on this information, and its public statements, we are concerned that Cardiff council does not understand its responsibilities under charity law and may be mismanaging the charity. The church is not a building owned by Cardiff council. It is held in charity on behalf of the public with Cardiff council as a trustee tasked with ensuring its protection for future generations. It is not just a commercial opportunity.
Chair Welsh Norwegian Society
Church not part of council’s portfolio
Your article of May 22 “Concerns over future of church” misses an important moral and legal point about the Norwegian Church.
Significant charitable donations and grants have been given from Norway and Wales over the years to rebuild, and later refurbish, the Norwegian Church. In the 1980s a huge donation of 1 million kroner (about £90,000) raised in Norway helped to lever further donations from many Welsh organisations and the public of Wales.
The Norwegian Church is still owned by the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust, which is a charity; it is not just another part of the council’s property portfolio. Cardiff council may be the only trustee of the charity, but the council cannot simply convert this public asset to a purely commercial venture.
The Welsh Norwegian Society, of which I have been a member for over 20 years, is also calling for public consultation so the public can have their say about the future of this iconic visitor attraction, which is such a powerful symbol of Cardiff’s maritime heritage and the multicultural history of Cardiff. I am half-Norwegian, and having visited the Norwegian Church regularly over the years, I know it is much loved by locals and visitors alike.
The coffee shop, art exhibitions, and events in the church are open to everyone. It is a focal point of Cardiff Bay, and has been developed as a public space dedicated to the communities of Cardiff and beyond.
If members of the public share our concerns, they can contact the Welsh Norwegian Society on firstname.lastname@example.org
BELOW IS PRINTED IN AFTENPOSTEN, NORWAYS HIGHEST PROFILE NEWSPAPER - This is how important the church is, not just to Wales or Norwegians in Wales, but Norway itself, still to this day.
Frykter ny leietager i norsk kirke i Wales
Nordmenn i Wales er bekymret for frem- tiden til en av de eldste norske kirkene i utlandet. Lokale myndigheter ønsker å utnytte det «kommersielle potensialet».
Det verste scenarioet er at det vil komme en McDonald’s eller Starbucks-kafé i kirken, sier Tyra Oseng-Rees, styreleder i foreningen Welsh Norwegian Society - en av de flittigste brukerne av kirken.
Utspillet er satt på spissen, men bakgrunnen for usikkerheten om kirkens fremtid er et vedtak byrådet i Cardiff gjorde i november i fjor. Da besluttet politikerne i regionen at kirkebygget skulle leies ut.
- Men over et halvt år etter vet vi fortsatt ingenting om hvilke planer kommunen har, forteller Oseng-Rees.
Kirken til Roald Dahls foreldre
Det er ikke første gang fremtiden til den historiske trekirken fra 1869 har vært uviss. På 1970 og -80-tallet sto den til forfall, og kirken måtte rives for å gi plass til et nytt veiprosjekt over dokkene i Cardiff.
Men takket være betydelige innsamlede midler - blant annet fra Norge - ble kirken bygget opp igjen på en tomt ikke langt unna. Den gjenoppbygde og nyrestaurerte kirken ble åpnet av prinsesse Märtha Louise i 1992. Siden den gang har den fungert som et norsk-walisisk kultursenter.
Kirken er kanskje mest kjent for å være Roald Dahls kirke. Dahls norske far arbeidet i Cardiff, og den senere verdenskjente forfatteren ble døpt i kirken i 1916. Han tilbrakte sine barneår i byen, før han ble sendt på kostskole i England.
Dahl var på slutten av 1980-tallet aktiv i arbeidet med å få gjenreist kirken. Han døde imidlertid to år før den «nye» kirken sto ferdig.
I 2002 ble plassen utenfor kirken gitt navnet Roald Dahls Plass. For å understreke hans norske herkomst, ble ordet plass valgt - ikke place eller square.
Det kommersielle potensialet
Siden kirken ble gjenreist, har det skjedd en enorm utvikling i områdene som omkranser Cardiff-bukten. Nye hoteller, kontorbygg og butikker er bygd.
Det er ikke kjent om noen eiendomsaktør har vist interesse for tomten der kirken ligger.
Bakgrunnen for at denne saken er kommet opp, er at kommunen må kutte ca. 2,6 milliarder kroner de neste ti årene. Kommunen ser derfor på mulighetene for redusere utgiftene til en rekke bygg, inkludert den norske kirken.
- Kirkens integritet skal tas vare på. Når det er sagt, ønsker vi å realisere det kommersielle potensialet som utvilsomt ligger der. Det er behov for en betydelig oppgradering av kirkebygget, men vi trenger nye samarbeidspartnere for å få det til, opplyser en talsperson for kommunen til Aftenposten.
Hvilke mulige leietagere myndighetene i Cardiff kan tenke seg i kirkebygget, ønsker ikke kommunen å kommentere.
- Men ingen beslutning om kirkens fremtid er foreløpig tatt, understrekes det.
Mat for jurister
Det er ikke gitt at Cardiff kommune kan gjøre som de vil med kirkebygget. Kirken eies av en såkalt «trust» - The Norwegian Church Preservation Trust.
I denne veldedige «trusten» - en organisasjonsform som har likhetstrekk med en stiftelse - utgjør Cardiff kommune i dag den eneste «trustee’en» - eller styremedlemmet. De er forpliktet til å følge «trustens» formål: Permanent bevaring og vedlikehold av kirken som et museum og kultursenter.
- Kommunen kan ikke bare konvertere denne offentlige formuen til en ren kommersiell virksomhet, skriver Christine Glossop, medlem i Welsh Norwegian Society, i et leserinnlegg i avisen Western Mail.
Drar til Cardiff
Synspunktet til den norsk-walisiske foreningen får støtte fra rådgiver Terje Inderhaug i Hordaland fylkeskommune.
Inderhaug spilte en nøkkelrolle da kommuner og fylkeskommuner på Vestlandet ga én million kroner til gjenreising av kirken i 1992.
Han arbeider nå med forberedelsene til kirkens 150-års jubileum i desember, men er også blitt involvert i denne saken. Han tror ikke politikere på Vestlandet vil sitte stille og se på at Cardiff gjør store endringer med kirken. I slutten av juli drar han til Wales for å diskutere saken med representanter for kommunen.
- Kirken betyr også veldig mye for Cardiff. Derfor håper jeg at denne saken løser seg. Når det blir sagt at man frykter at McDonald’s skal flytte inn, så er nok det satt litt på spissen, sier han.
Den norske kirke i Cardiff ble reist for 150 år siden. Fremtiden er imidlertid uviss, etter at Cardiff kommune har antydet at den ønsker at kirken skal få en sterkere kommersiell profil. Foto: Carlos Neto, Shutterstock, NTB scanpix
Translation of above;
Fears new tenant in the Norwegian church in Wales
Norwegians in Wales are concerned about the future of one of the oldest Norwegian churches abroad. Local authorities want to exploit the "commercial potential".
“The worst scenario is that there will be a McDonald's or Starbucks café in the church”, says Tyra Oseng-Rees, chairman of the Welsh Norwegian Society - one of the most diligent users of the church.
This is an exaggerated statement to make a point , but the background for the uncertainty about the future of the church is a decision the city council in Cardiff made last November when politicians in the region decided that the church building would be rented.
“But over half a year after, we still know nothing about what plans the municipality has”, says Oseng-Rees.
The church of Roald Dahl’s parents
It is not the first time the future of the historic wooden church from 1869 has been uncertain. In the 1970s and 80s the church was in ruins, and it had to be demolished to make room for a new road project to the docks in Cardiff.
However, thanks to substantial fundraising, including from Norway, the church was rebuilt on an plot not far away. The rebuilt and newly restored church was opened by Princess Märtha Louise in 1992. Since then it has functioned as a Norwegian-Welsh cultural centre.
The church is perhaps best known for being Roald Dahl's church. Dahl's Norwegian father worked in Cardiff, and the world-renowned author was baptized in the church in 1916. He spent his childhood years in the city, before he was sent to boarding school in England.
Dahl, at the end of the 1980s, was active in the effort to rebuild the church. However, he died two years before the "new" church was completed.
In 2002, the space outside the church was named Roald Dahls Plass. To emphasize his Norwegian ancestry, the word ‘plass’ was chosen - not place or square.
The commercial potential
Since the church was rebuilt, there has been a tremendous development in the areas surrounding Cardiff Bay. New hotels, office buildings and shops are built.
It is not known whether any property operator has shown interest in the plot where the church is located.
The reason the church is now on the agenda is that the council must cut approximately 2.6 billion kroner over the next ten years. The city council is therefore looking at the possibilities for reducing the expenditure of a number of buildings, including the Norwegian church.
“The integrity of the church will be taken care of. That said, we want to realise the commercial potential that is undoubtedly located there. There is a need for a substantial upgrade of the church building, but we need new partners to achieve it,” a Cardiff Council spokesperson told Aftenposten.
The council did not want to comment on what possible tenants they can imagine in the church building.
“But no decision on the future of the church has currently been made,” highlighted the spokesperson.
A case for the experts
It is not a given that Cardiff Council can do what they want with the church building. The church is owned by a so-called ‘trust’ - The Norwegian Church Preservation Trust.
In this charitable trust – an organisational form that has similarities to a foundation – Cardiff Council is currently the only ‘trustee’ or board member. They are obliged to follow the trust’s purpose: Permanent preservation and maintenance of the Church as a museum and cultural centre.
“The council cannot just convert this public fortune into a purely commercial business,” writes Christine Glossop, a member of the Welsh Norwegian Society, in a letter in the Western Mail newspaper.
Going to Cardiff
The viewpoint of the Welsh Norwegian Society is supported by adviser Terje Inderhaug in Hordaland County Council.
Inderhaug played a key role when municipalities and county councils in western Norway gave one million kroner to rebuild the church in 1992.
He is now working on preparations for the Church's 150 anniversary in December, but has also become involved in this issue. He does not believe politicians in western Norway will sit and watch Cardiff make major changes to the church. In late July he travels to Wales to discuss the case with representatives of Cardiff Council.
“The church also means a lot to Cardiff. That's why I hope this case resolves itself. When it is said that one fears that McDonald's is going to move in, it’s probably taken to the extreme,” he said.
Written by Arnfinn Mauren, Aftenposten.
Translated from Norwegian by WNS member Mari Ropstad