Ceredigion receives increased transport grant

Ceredigion Council will receive an increase of over 4%, or £17,303, to its Local Transport Services Grant (LTSG) for the coming financial year.

The National Assembly’s Transport Minister, Plaid Cymru’s Ieuan Wyn Jones, announced that Ceredigion would be receiving a grant worth £441,946 for the 2010–2011 financial year compared to last year's £424,643.

Over £11m will be shared between county councils in Wales for the LTSG over the coming year, with individual authorities being allowed to choose which local transport services it wants to support based on its own priorities.

Following the Transport Minister’s announcement, Ceredigion's Assembly Member, Elin Jones, said:
“I welcome news that Ceredigion County Council will see an increase in its Local Transport grant for the coming financial year. This grant is intended to assist local authorities to provide bus and community transport services, and I hope that this increased funding will mean that local bus services aren’t threatened by budgetary pressures.

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James added:
“In the Steps to a Greener Economy for Ceredigion policy document which we published earlier this year, Plaid Cymru highlighted the benefits of an integrated public transport system. I hope this increased funding will allow Ceredigion County Council to continue its commitment to the present bus services and help lower local carbon emissions”.


Mill Street Car Park – Ceredigion’s pitch to developers

Ceredigion Council has this week advertised for tenders for the planned Mill Street Car Park development in Aberystwyth. An advert in The Construction Index, an online news site for developers, reads:

"Ceredigion County Council is seeking proposals for the development of its land holding at Mill Street Car Park, Aberystwyth. The site, amounting to some 0.85 hectares, is owned freehold by the Council and currently provides 256 car parking spaces. The Council owns an adjoining Day Centre, with an approximate site area of 0.21 hectares, which could be incorporated within development proposals, providing that similar facilities were provided, either on site, or in a suitably convenient location for access by the Day Centre visitors.

"The Council also owns the former Drill Hall adjoining Mill Street car park, which has been identified as a possible alternative location for the Day Centre. It is also likely that a Scottish Power sub station will need to be relocated. There is a significant underground water mains and other Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water infrastructure crossing part of the site.

"Development proposals for this site must increase the current parking provision to at least 500 spaces. To offset the cost of creating this additional parking provision some form of commercial development, appropriate for a town centre location, of 2-3 storeys, should be considered on the Park Avenue frontage."

The time-limit for completion is stated as, “36 months (from the award of the contract)”.

The advertisement follows the decision by the Council Cabinet on 23rd February to push ahead with the plans.


Aberystwyth Art Units Win Civic Trust Award

The Creative Art Units at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, covered in this blog last May, have won a major award at the annual Civic Trust Awards in Liverpool.

The awards are given to projects that are culturally, socially or economically beneficial, and are judged to make an outstanding contribution to the quality and appearance of the built environment. Fifty projects from the British Isles and Spain were selected from over 330 entries. The Creative Units project was the only Welsh winner.

The units were designed to develop Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s role as a creative hub for arts and craft workers. The project, worth £1.4 million, received funding from Aberystwyth University, the Arts Council of Wales Lottery Fund and the National Assembly. All the units are now fully occupied with a range of new and established creative business, working in fields that include TV, music, digital production, book publishing, and visual artists. With their ‘crinkled steel’ finish their unique look has proved to be a real draw for creative companies looking for a base that fits their image.

The units aren’t liked by everyone and involved the clearing of a small wood to accommodate but they certainly provide much needed studio space for some of the large community of artists in Aberystwyth.


Infirmary Road cliff latest

A few people have asked me for an update on the Infirmary Road Cliff story this blog covered in October, November and December. The cliff, above a half-built block of houses in Aberystwyth, is thought to be in real danger of collapse after cracks appeared when workers dug into it with a JCB in an attempt to gain extra land. Since then the Health and Safety Executive have issued a Prohibition Notice restricting work on the site.

Ceredigion Council engineers met with those of the developer at the beginning of March and they’ve now all gone away to scratch their heads and conduct further geological investigations before deciding what to do because the cliff presents a real engineering problem. Those involved in initial discussions all seemed to accept that it was too big to simply shore up and that a slice of the cliff would have to either come down or be lifted out. How to do that without risking the half-built houses below is the big question. The legal position is complicated by the fact that the land above isn’t owned by the developer but is part of Parc Natur Penglais, a Local Nature Reserve owned by the Council.

The situation is being closely monitored by the local people running the reserve. Presumably it’s also being closely monitored by Nick Bourne, the leader of the Conservative group in the National Assembly who happens to live a few yards away on the other side of the narrow road.

Thanks to local resident David Kirby for the picture


£10.3m for Aberystwyth Regeneration

The National Assembly yesterday announced funding of £10.3 million over three years to help the regeneration of Aberystwyth.

Last October, the Assembly Government announced that Aberystwyth had been designated a Strategic Regeneration Area (SRA), which involves creating a specific regeneration plan for the town and surrounding area.

Yesterday, Plaid Cymru’s Deputy Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Jocelyn Davies (pictured), visited Aberystwyth to announce £10.3 million in capital funding for the project over the next three financial years. Earlier in the day she had helped launch the Tai Ceredigion housing association at an event in Felinfach which was well attended by tenants.

The SRA action plan will encompass five key themes –
* the town,
* seafront and promenade
* housing,
* employment
* travel

A consultation will be held with key stakeholders on the plan.

Ceredigion’s Assembly Member Elin Jones said:
“I’m very pleased that the Minister took time to visit Aberystwyth today to announce this significant funding, which will give a welcome boost to businesses in the town. These regeneration plans will also help establish Aberystwyth as the capital for Mid Wales and I look forward to see the action plan once it’s complete”.

Plaid’s General Election candidate Penri James added:
“Many other areas in Wales have already benefited from being designated as a Strategic Regeneration Area. I hope that the benefits can be replicated once again in the Aberystwyth area and that every effort will be made to take the views of local residents and businesses into account while the plan is being developed”.

This last point is particularly important and people will be watching with interest. In the first instance the funding looks to be a real boost for the planned development at Mill Street car park.


Crown Court for Aberystwyth Call

Penri James, Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary candidate for Ceredigion, is calling for the revival of plans to establish a Crown Court in Aberystwyth.

In November 2009 The Court Service Director for Wales announced that it had been decided not to proceed with plans for a new civil and criminal justice centre in Aberystwyth – which was to include a Crown Court in addition to magistrates and county court operations – on the grounds of cost. County Council officers are understood to be still pursuing the magistrates and county courts on the derelict site that has become something of an embarrassment sitting next to the new Assembly building at Parc y Llyn.

Penri said:
“The decision not to proceed with plans to establish a Crown Court at Aberystwyth means that the Government in London is undermining the important work of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Wales Spatial Plan, which has designated Aberystwyth as a town of national importance; and also comes on top of recent decisions to close local tax and social security offices.

“All this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people in Mid Wales to access important services. In the case of the Crown Court, people currently have to travel to Swansea or Haverfordwest in the south and to Caernarfon in the north. This is not acceptable”.

Penri is now taking the issue up with Elfyn Llwyd MP (pictured with Penri at the site), Plaid Cymru’s Justice spokesperson in Parliament, a barrister himself and a former student at Aberystwyth University.

Elfyn Llwyd commented:
“As the administrative and economic capital of Mid Wales, Aberystwyth plays a hugely important role in providing key services in areas such as health and education, and is home to the National Library of Wales and the National Assembly’s mid Wales offices. It stands to reason therefore that it should also become the centre for legal services in the area, and see the development of a Crown Court to serve the region”.


Transition Bro Ddyfi Launch

On Thursday the 18th of March, Transition Bro Ddyfi welcomes everyone to its official Launch at Y Plas, Machynlleth, between 5.30 and 10.30pm. There will be locally sourced food available from 5:30 for people coming straight from work and the main event, starting at 6:30pm, will be an evening of celebration - of the Transition Movement as a whole and of the amazing projects and groups in the Dyfi Valley that are working towards building and maintaining local resilience to the coming energy and climate-related challenges that we will all face.

The main event will feature a keynote presentation by Rob Hopkins, a highly entertaining and inspiring speaker, who founded the Transition Movement several years ago at Kinsale in the Irish Republic. Rob has been involved with the Movement pretty much full-time ever since, so if you want to find out about it then he's the man to come and listen to. There will be a bar and a variety of live acts as well as opportunity for discussion.

The Bro Ddyfi Transition Initiative, one of many local Transition Initiatives around the world, first began in 2007 as a way of exploring how the area might respond as a community to the twin challenges of forthcoming oil shortages and of the effects of climate change. Transition Initiatives work at a grassroots level towards developing local resilience in the community; in short they focus on three "R's": Recognition - actually understanding the issues we face in the coming years of the 21st Century; Reskilling - regaining the practical life-skills that our grandparents took for granted and Relocalisation - the importance of local economic regeneration, especially with respect to food production.

A complimentary event to follow the 'Big Launch' is taking place at Y Plas on Saturday the 20th of March: the Spring Open Day, starting at 11.00am till late. The day will be in three parts. It starts with a 'Be The Change Symposium', a lively, informative and engaging look at where we are, how we got here and where are we going. This is a real chance as a community to plan for a more sustainable, fairer and fulfilling future. Next, there will be a free showing of the award winning film, 'The Age of Stupid' - a poignant and inspiring wake up call to us all. In the evening there will be a twmpath, with music from local bands. Food and refreshments will be provided and there will be a bar in the evening. Both events are free but donations are welcome.

Article edited from the Transition Bro Ddyfi website


Penparcau is Green

Cliciwch i ehangu / Click to enlarge

Green groups in Aberystwyth are putting on a number of activities in the next ten days. Firstly the above festival is happening next weekend in Penparcau.

Meanwhile Ymlaen Ceredigion are putting on a series of walks to explore the wildlife in Aberystwyth.

Wednesday 17th March - Bird Box Tour in Parc Natur Penglais, accompanied by Moira Convery, who can explain which birds are making use of the boxes and what they get up to.

Monday 22nd March - North Beach Walk looking for the Skate and Ray egg cases that known as Mermaid's Purses. This walk is accompanied by Emily Foot from the Wildlife Trust .

Wednesday 24th March - Tan y Bwlch Walk along the shingle beach to find the wide range of hardy plants coping successfully with the winter, e.g. sea holly, yellow horned poppy, a peculiar form of blackthorn and many tiny annuals. Accompanied by Andy Jones from Countryside Council for Wales

All walks leave the Mind building in Mill Street promptly at 3pm aiming to return to town at around 5pm. Enquirers can email chloeg@ymlaenceredigion.org.uk

This programme is run by a partnership between Ymlaen Ceredigion and Mind Aberystwyth and is funded by the National Assembly, the Tidy Towns Initiative and Cyngor Sir Ceredigion.


General Election kicks off in Ceredigion

The first hustings of the General Election campaign in Ceredigion will be held on March 25th when the Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network host a meeting at the Morlan in Aberystwyth (pictured) featuring all declared candidates.

These are: Penri James (Plaid Cymru), Richard Boudier (Labour), Steve Evetts (Conservative), Leila Kirsch (Greens) and Mark Williams (Lib Dem). The UKIP candidate, Mike Wieteska, mentioned in my previous post introducing the candidates is now listed on the UKIP website as standing in both Ceredigion and Aberconwy so looks like there's some confusion there.

The meeting will begin with a brief address by representatives of Bro Emlyn Peace and Justice Group (Newcastle Emlyn), and Actyma (Aberporth) who are campaigning against the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles which are being tested at Aberporth.

A spokesperson for Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network said:
‘There are many pressing issues relating to peace and justice that affect the people of Ceredigion and we are really pleased that all the candidates have agreed to attend the meeting.
‘The meeting is an ideal opportunity for local people to find out where the candidates stand on everything from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to questions of international poverty and fair trade.’

The date of the General Election is widely assumed to be May 6th and, although it’s not inconceivable that Gordon Brown could spring a surprise, the parties are working on that basis. I was out canvassing in my ward with Plaid Cymru candidate Penri James on Saturday and had an extremely good response.

The hustings will be held at 7.30pm Thursday 25th March in the Morlan Centre, Queens Road / Morfa Mawr, Aberystwyth. The Morlan will be the polling station for both Bronglais and North wards on General Election day


Fairtrade producers denied visas

A Ugandan coffee producer planning to visit Aberystwyth as part of Fairtrade fortnight was not allowed a visa by the UK border agency, one of several denials of visas for the fortnight across the UK.

Jennipher Wataka had been planning to come on a tour of towns over the fortnight, including Aberystwyth, to talk about the benefits Fairtrade has brought to her community. She was apparently denied a visa due to not being able to supply a marriage certificate or a bank statement, neither of which are readily obtainable in rural Uganda.

Fairtrade Aberystwyth managed to replace her with Juan Louis, a cashew nut farmer from El Salvador who gave a very well-received talk in Aberystwyth Art Centre on Tuesday about the multitude of ways Fairtrade had benefitted his area. One of the products of their co-op is 'Harry's Nuts', packets of nuts featuring the smiling face of comedian Harry Hill. I'm not crazy about him as a comedian but was impressed to hear how he's donated his support to this project for nothing. And the nuts were delicious.

Earlier last month, three Palestinian olive oil producers had also been denied visas. Cathi Pawson, director of the company who invited them is reported as saying,
"We find it very strange that a Palestinian olive farmer, participating in a multi- million EC funded food security project, invited by a UK company, accompanied by a leading British NGO, and hosted by groups across the country, cannot get a visa for Fairtrade Fortnight - especially when Gordon Brown announced he was ’delighted’ about the Fairtrade certification of Palestinian olive oil, and Tony Blair was ’inspired’ by his recent visit to a Fairtrade olive processing factory in Jenin."

Fairtrade is an outstandingly successful campaign to give poor producers in the developing world a fair price for the goods they supply to western markets. The aim of these visitors from poor communities overseas coming over in Fairtrade fortnight is to allow people to hear for themselves how the trade is directly benefitting these places. The UK government needs to recognise the value of this and allow them the flexibilty to make these visits. Lets hope they can do better next year.