Council didn't give permission for full Tabernacle demolition

The decision to demolish all four walls of the Tabernacle Chapel in Aberystwyth was taken unilaterally by the owner and was not authorised by the Council, this blog has been informed. The decision, following the recent fire which destroyed the inside of the building (see below), has been greeted with widespread dismay in the town as it was believed the historic front wall on Powell Street was still capable of being preserved.

Following the fire, the building was issued with a Dangerous Structures Notice by the County Council's Department of Highways Property & Works on 7th July. This required the owner to make the building safe within two weeks. However, as a listed building, the owner still has a responsibility to maintain anything capable of being preserved. Demolition is to be used only as a last resort. The Dangerous Structures Notice does not obviate an owner from their responsibilities under this legislation.

A structural survey indicated that, although three walls were structurally unsound and required demolition, the Powell Street wall may have been capable of being preserved and less drastic measures, such as propping, could have been used to make the wall safe.

The County Council's Planning Department are understood to be unhappy at the pre-emptive action and are considering their options.


Town Council gives grants to local groups

Aberystwyth Town Council have donated money to sixteen different local organisations in its latest round of grant awards. This is a little-publicised aspect of the Town Council's work. Organisations applying for grants have to demonstrate that their work would benefit the people of Aberystwyth, that they are non-commercial and that the organisation is well-run. Town Council grants are a lifeline to many voluntary and independent groups locally. The list below shows the vitality of Aberystwyth as a town.

Those receiving money this time are:
Aberystwyth Ladies Choir
Aberystwyth Silver Band
Aberystwyth Surf Lifesaving Club
Cantorion Aberystwyth
Celtic Challenge
British Heart Foundation (Aberystwyth Branch)
Citizens Advice Bureau
Cruse Ceredigion Bereavement care
Do-Re-Mi (Castell Rock)
Grwp Aberystwyth Gwyddach / Greener Aberystwyth Group
Music Fest Aberystwyth
Penparcau Senior Citizens Club
Progressive Action Group
St John Ambulance (Aberystwyth Branch)
Y Gyngres Geltaidd Cangen Cymru
Yr Angor

Thanks to Jim Griffiths for the photo at the cheque-giving ceremony in the new Arad Goch building


By-election victory marks a sea-change in Aberystwyth politics

A historic sea-change has been taking place in Aberystwyth politics. And Aled Davies’s stunning by-election win for Plaid Cymru on Thursday (see below) has confirmed it.

At the County Council elections in May, Plaid won more votes in Aberystwyth than any other party. This was the first time that had happened. But that statistic was skewed by the fact that the party performed exceptionally well in Penparcau, the town’s most outlying ward, where electors had two votes and where the Lib Dems only put up one candidate. In the town’s other four wards, those immediately around the town centre, the perennially dominant Lib Dems still remained on top, albeit narrowly.

Thursday’s by-election victory in Rheidol ward has changed that. Looking at the most recent election in each of the four town centre wards (i.e. last Thursday in Rheidol and May 1st in the others), Plaid now hold 47.5% of the vote with the Lib Dems on 41%.

In electoral terms, Aberystwyth has, for the first time ever, become a Plaid Cymru town.


Shock Plaid Victory in Rheidol By-Election

Aled Davies has won the Rheidol Ward County Council By-election for Plaid Cymru. The shock victory by 19 votes over the Lib Dems in what was previously their third safest seat in Ceredigion will stun the Council's ruling Lib Dem/Independent Coalition who now only hold the Council by a narrow 22-20 margin. The full result is as follows:

Aled Davies (Plaid Cymru) 271
Alec Dauncey (Dem Rhyd/Lib Dem) 252
Carol Kolczac (Ann/Ind) 98
Richard Boudier (Llafur/Labour) 36
Luke Evetts (Ceid/Con) 17

The by-election was called after the forced resignation of the former Lib Dem councillor Eric Griffiths. The favourite to win the seat for the Lib Dems, town mayor Lorrae Jones-Southgate, then resigned both as mayor and town councillor after failing to win the nomination as Lib Dem candidate. Eric Griffiths had won the seat by a majority of 293 over Plaid at the County Council elections in May. Plaid Cymru now hold three of the six County Council seats in Aberystwyth with the Lib Dems holding two and the Independents one.

Aled is a Town Councillor and former town mayor who has twice narrowly failed to win a county council seat in North ward. He has a reputation as a hard and conscientious worker and will undoubtedly give a good service to the people of Rheidol ward.


Harpists demonstrate against Council cut

Over 30 young harpists and their parents demonstated this morning outside Ceredigion Council's headquarters in Aberaeron against the decision of the Council's Lib Dem Cabinet Member for Education to scrap peripatetic harp teaching throughout the County. If carried through, the decision has long-term implications for the tradition of the harp in Ceredigion, the county that produced Catrin Finch.

What is particularly concerning is that the decision seems to have been made entirely opportunistically. When it was discovered that the current harp teacher was having to leave a decision was simply taken not to replace her. The scrapping of the service had not been planned at all and there has been no consultation with the schools or parents affected. There has been no guidance for children currently using the service, nor for the schools who have bought harps at considerable expense. This is surely not a proper way to run an education service.

Many schools will be writing to the Council to protest, as will Ceredigion's Assembly Member Elin Jones.


Tabernacle severely damaged by fire

The Tabernacle Chapel in Mill Street was severely damaged by fire on Friday night. People living close by had to be evacuated whilst the fire was being fought. The picture shows fire fighters still pumping water into the building on Saturday afternoon.

The chapel, built in 1879 and at one time able to hold 1,500 people, has been disused since 2002 after its congregation dwindled. In 2003 the Mimosa Project was launched, aimed at turning the building into an exhibition centre about migration from and to Wales, but the project never got beyond the planning stage. However, last year, planning permission was granted to Merlin Homes to turn the building into flats, albeit with strict condition to preserve the historic features.

Fire Officers will be assessing the damage in the next few days.