New Cemetery Conservation Plan

Aberystwyth Cemetery in Llanbadarn Road has a new conservation plan. A report written by the Greener Aberystwyth Group, and now adopted by the County Council, recommends a number of measures to maintain wildlife around the cemetery. These include putting up bird and bat boxes, preserving the arch of trees along the entranceway (above) and steps to encourage the growth of wild flowers.

The cemetery is a substantial space of almost seven acres which can make a significant contribution to the network of green sites around the town if managed in the right way. Its most famous grave is that of Gwenallt, one of the most important literary figures in the Welsh language.


Aberystwyth Passport Office to close

It pales into insignificance compared to the 245 job losses in Newport, where there was a major demonstration today, but four part-time jobs are under threat at the Aberystwyth Passport and Identity Office in Northgate Street (above) which currently opens two days a week.  It's now been announced that the Aberystwyth office, together with local offices in Swansea and Wrecsam, will close in September 2011. The passport service are apparently looking to provide mobile facilities elsewhere in the area, although where or how has not yet been established.


Student fees and Ceredigion

The student fees issue is clearly going to be huge in Ceredigion in the next few years. Ceredigion’s Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Elin Jones has now warned of the dire consequences for both students and universities at Aberystwyth and Lampeter if Vince Cable’s plans to reform their funding are allowed to proceed.

Reacting to this week’s Browne Report on student and university funding and Vince Cable MP’s subsequent response, Elin said today:

“The ConDem Government intends to introduce a wholesale market into the world of Higher Education. They intend to slash the university teaching grant and force universities to make up that gap by charging higher fees to students in a competitive market.

“This will act as a huge distinctive for students from lower-income families to attend universities. Ceredigion has one of the lowest average wage levels in the UK and our young people will be particularly hard-hit by the prospect of fees increasing to £7,000 or even £12,000 per year.

“Both Aberystwyth and Lampeter universities could be severely disadvantaged in a more market-orientated system. Future students will be looking to cut costs to a minimum and may well chose to study closer to home – that could have a damaging impact on recruitment to Aberystwyth and Lampeter.

“While the Assembly Government will take the policy decision on this matter in Wales, our hands here will be tied behind our backs because the public funding cut to universities which is now being proposed for England will automatically cut the funding to Wales.

“It's not surprising that the Tories in the UK coalition favour introducing market forces into the Higher Education sector. However, it's a complete turnaround for market-driven fees to be introduced in the name of the LibDems and Vince Cable – especially since the LibDem posters campaigning to ‘Scrap Tuition Fees’ are still up in some windows in Aberystwyth (example above). These posters tell a sorry tale of betrayal.

“To represent the interests of Ceredigion, we need to oppose the Westminster Government’s savage cuts to university funding as well as opposing introduction of market-driven student fees.”


Vote for faster broadband in Aberystwyth

A councillor from the ruling group on Ceredigion Council sent me the following e-mail today:

"Please forward this e-mail to as many people as you can. Put it on that biased blog of yours if you want."


 Delighted to help


The continuing growth of Aberystwyth

Tonight’s news that the passport interview office in Northgate Street, Aberystwyth is under threat, on the back of the loss of the main passport office in Newport, may be the start of things to come. Certainly we’ve become used to Aberystwyth shopkeepers saying, “the town is dying”. However what is actually remarkable about Aberystwyth right now is the number of major building projects either going on or about to start around the town.

As I write, and off the top of my head, the following developments are happening, or being planned, around the town, many of them with funding from the National Assembly:

 * An extra storey on the Bronglais Hospital car park is currently being built (pictured) and is due to be completed in November

* The building of a new Accident and Emergency block and 14-bed medical assessment unit at the hospital is due to commence next year - the largest capital investment in Hywel Dda Health Board.

* A major extension to Ysgol Plas Crug school is continuing

* A new university and hospital car park has recently been completed in Clarach Road

* Aberystwyth Town Hall is currently being converted into the new town library in a £1 million scheme

* The building of a new medical centre, including GP Surgery, pharmacy and crèche, has recently started on the west side of Penglais Hill

* Work has started on a new building for the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, heated by ground source heat pump

* An application for 28 new homes (a combination of flats and houses) at Llys Ardwyn, just off Llanbadarn Road, is going through the planning process. At the same time the conversion of the old Penweddig school building into flats is continuing on the same site.

* Eight new flats in the old antique showrooms in Maes Iago at the top of Great Darkgate Street have just been approved.

* A major extension to the Llety Parc hotel at Parc y Llyn seems likely to receive planning permission

* A planning application has been submitted for 79 new houses in Penparcau between Piercefield Lane and Maesycrugiau

* Plans are being developed for more student accommodation buildings along Clarach Road

* Firm interest is being shown by developers in the planned multi-storey car park at Mill Street with the possibility of a planning application in the new year

* £1 million will be spent on environmental transport schemes this financial year.

That's quite a list. And there are probably one or two others I've forgotten. Of course, I fully expect the Westminster government's cuts to hit Aberystwyth hard, like everywhere else, at some point, maybe quite soon. I'm also aware that not everyone welcomes all the developments listed above. But right now, relative to others, I'm not sure Aberystwyth has too much to complain about economically. We've got the National Assembly to thank for much of that.


New plans for Post Office site

New plans have been drafted for the controversial Post Office site in Aberystwyth town centre. The plans involve a five-storey development with 2,275 square metres of sales area on the lower two floors and flats on the top three. Crucially, all shops in the surrounding streets are maintained on the draft plans with the exception of the post office in Great Darkgate Street (pictured) which forms an access to the site along with the existing sorting office entrance in Chalybeate Street. Delivery lorries will access the development via an existing rear entrance in Queen Street.

Aberystwyth Chamber of Commerce has issued this press statement following a meeting with the owner of the site:


“At a special meeting of the Aberystwyth and District Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday [22nd Sept] Mr Meirion Ellis Jones addressed members with a summary of events surrounding the proposals for the former Royal Mail Sorting Office site in the town centre.

“Members agreed that the Chamber should support proposals to develop the Sorting Office site into a property for retailing. Chamber members also acknowledged that existing businesses in Great Darkgate Street and Chalybeate Street, where the proprietors wished for their premises to be incorporated into any development, should not be prevented from doing so. It was stressed however, that any properties added to the original site should be on a voluntary basis by the owners and that support should be conditional on this basis.

“Chairman Cyril Baker said, “The Chamber would like to thank Mr Jones for meeting us and explaining the past events and current situation regarding the old Royal Mail Sorting Office site. The Chamber will wholeheartedly support a scheme that is fully consulted upon and does not involve businesses being forced to participate”.

The Chamber's statement is carefully worded and appears to rule out compulsory purchase orders on surrounding small shops for any expanded scheme, the threat of which caused so much controversy last year. However the threat was, of course, a County Council measure apparently required by the National Assembly as an assurance before their quite substantial funding could be released. Although the Assembly pulled out after seeing the weight of opposition in the town, the attitude of many on the County Council Cabinet doesn’t appear to have changed. The statement clearly still sees some kind of expanded scheme as a possibility, although emphasises that this should be voluntary and involve proper consultation.

There are actually a wide spectrum of views within the Chamber of Commerce on the Post Office site, ranging from those wanting a sensitive scheme preserving all the current small shops and architecture to those traders who would support just about anything on the site because their shops are in another part of town and they don’t personally stand to lose anything. The press statement represents an uneasy compromise between those factions.