Yes for Wales campaign kicks off in Aberystwyth

Ceredigion’s Yes for Wales referendum campaign kicks off in Aberystwyth at 7.30pm on Wednesday 5th January at the Morlan in Queens Road.

That’s when representatives of all (and that means all) the main local parties will hold a public meeting to set out their vision for law-making powers for Wales and their plans for the campaign which will culminate just eight weeks later with the vote on March 3rd.

The meeting will be chaired by former Labour MP Lord Elystan Morgan, with contributions from Richard Griffiths of the Richmond Hotel, Assembly Member Elin Jones and MP Mark Williams. With former Conservative Assembly Member Lisa Francis chairing the local campaign and the Green Party also in support, the whole thing has a refreshingly co-operative feel and shows how far the Assembly has come in the thirteen years since the historic vote to set it up.

Simultaneous events will be held in Aberdare, Bangor, Newport and Wrexham, with Swansea launching the following week.

In the 1997 referendum Ceredigion played an important role as the fourth largest Yes vote of the 22 Welsh counties.


Nadolig Llawen Aberystwyth

Parc Natur Penglais, with Aberystwyth behind, taken yesterday

Nadolig Llawen to everyone who's read this blog in 2010


LDP plans another 2,400 housing units for Aberystwyth

Ceredigion’s Local Development Plan (LDP), launched for public consultation today, is set to open the way for extensive housing development around the outskirts of Aberystwyth.

Areas around Aberystwyth proposed for housing development in the Plan include:

* Three blocks of land for an estimated total of 325 housing units at the Southgate end of Penparcau. A developer has already applied for planning permission for the Piercefield Lane section.

* A further four blocks of land for a total of over 1100 units in the  Waun Fawr/Llanbadarn area.

* Land for 1,000 student units at Penglais Farm on Clarach Road to the north of the town.

The plans are likely to receive opposition from people concerned about the further erosion of the countryside around the town. However it is actually environmental arguments, and the need to reduce car travel, that have led to such a large proportion of the development planned for the county being in the town areas.

The total number of housing units believed to be needed for Ceredigion is based on population trends. But where those houses actually go is increasingly being guided from Cardiff by a desire to site new development close to services or on public transport routes so that car use can be minimised. At the macro level this makes absolute sense but doesn't feel so good if you like the countryside around your town.

The LDP will provide a development framework for the area for the next 15 years. The public consultation period will last until 17th February. Full details are here. Before anyone mentions it, the consultation period has been extended for an extra two weeks to take account of the Christmas period. 


Aldi to receive go-ahead for new supermarket in Aberystwyth

Aldi will receive the go-ahead to build a new supermarket in Park Avenue, Aberystwyth following a meeting of Ceredigion’s Development Control Committee this week (artist's impression right).

The plans involve the demolition of the derelict former Kwik-Save building and car showroom and the building of an Aldi store facing the police station with two storeys of hotel on top and a car park on the town side of the development. A previous application which didn't include the hotel element was rejected last year (previous posts here and here).

This is a key site on the eastern approach to Aberystwyth. In a presentation to the Town Council last year Aldi themselves acknowledged that their presence wouldn't add to the retail provision in Aberystwyth but would just challenge existing supermarkets. The planning report describes them as catering for the 'deep discount market’. There’s certainly a demand for that from the many low-waged in the area, and one member of the committee spoke strongly in favour of the application on that basis. However many people feel it’s a demand well catered for in the town already. And the decision won't please those hoping to raise the standard of Aberystwyth or those opposed in principle to more supermarkets.

On the positive side, the site has been an eyesore for some years now and it could be said that almost anything would be an improvement visually. The regret is that Aberystwyth is still not capable of attracting anything better.

The meeting gave planning officers the go-ahead to approve the scheme once conditions, such as creating a pedestrian refuge in Park Avenue, are agreed.


Minister shelves Local Government Boundary Review

In a surprise announcement, Carl Sargeant, Assembly Minister for Social Justice and Local Government (pictured), has shelved the Local Government Boundary Reviews, which were due to come into force before the next local elections in 2012.

In Ceredigion’s case, the Review had recommended a reduction of five County Councillors in order to create more equal representation across the County. As well as saving the Council a significant amount of money, this would have corrected the current situation whereby rural areas in the south of the county are ‘over-represented’ at the expense of Aberystwyth.

The 2012 elections will now go ahead using the current council ward boundaries. The statement talks about implementing the Review's recommendations in time for the 2016  elections. However I suspect a much more far-reaching review may be on the cards by then.

The Minister’s full statement, with reasons for the decision, is below.

"Under directions issued by my predecessor, the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales is conducting a review of the electoral arrangements in each County and County Borough Council. They have a duty to conduct such reviews at intervals of not less than 10 and not more than 15 years and to consider making proposals to Welsh Ministers for a change to those electoral arrangements.

"To date the Commission has completed the electoral reviews of seven local authorities and has published the final reports for these areas. I will be considering the proposals for each area in due course.

"The directions included a requirement for the Commission to complete all the reviews by June 2011, with the intention that this would allow for orders to be made in good time for candidates to be selected and for local authority registration officers to make necessary adjustments to the electoral register in good time for the local elections of 2012.

"Despite allocating adequate resources to complete the reviews within the timescales specified in the directions the Commission has fallen considerably behind schedule. I have over the past year re-iterated to the commission the importance of delivering to these timescales. However, it has now become clear that the Commission will be unable to meet this date in respect of a number of counties.

"In considering the reports I do have before me I also have concerns about their consistency of the reports which have been issued and it is clear that in a number of cases considerable amendments would be needed in order to protect the link between councillors and the communities they represent, which I consider to be extremely important. Concern has also been expressed about administrative errors which have occurred in the process of carrying out these reviews.

"In light of these issues, in particular the delays in producing reports for a number of counties I have concluded that I will not make any orders in respect of the boundary reviews for any local authorities in Wales take effect for the 2012 elections. I do not wish to create a situation where some local authorities will conduct elections in 2012 under new arrangements and others under existing arrangements because of the imbalance inherent in such a situation. I am making this announcement now to provide certainty to local government and others concerned with the electoral process.

"Cleary the fact that the Boundary Commission has failed to deliver this programme of reviews consistently and within the agreed timescales gives me cause for concern. I have therefore instructed my officials to establish an independent review to identify why these failures have occurred and indentify actions that can be taken to ensure that the programme can be delivered efficiently and to a high standard in time for the 2016 elections."
Carl Sargeant, Minister for Social Justice and Local Government


Plaid win Ciliau Aeron by-election

John Lumley last night won the Ceredigion Council by-election in Ciliau Aeron for Plaid Cymru with a majority of 120.

Plaid Cymru  367 (55%)
Lib Dems 247 (37.5%)
Conservatives 43 (6.5%)

The result takes Plaid back up to 20 councillors in Ceredigion, with the ruling independent/Lib Dem group on 22.