08/04/2014

Peak hourly rail service announced for the Cambrian Line

Rail campaigners throughout Central Wales are celebrating after being told the campaign for an hourly train service has succeeded in bringing about substantial improvements on the line. 

A major campaign started in October of distributing and collecting survey forms brought 6,700 responses throughout the region - far more than was envisaged - and has convinced the Transport Minister to provide the funding needed. 

Students, like some of those pictured here with Elin Jones AM and myself after hearing about the announcement, are key users of the service to Aberystwyth.

The Welsh Government's press release reads as follows:

"New peak hourly trains between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury will be among extra services to be funded by the Welsh Government on the Cambrian and Heart of Wales rail lines, Transport Minister Edwina Hart is announcing today (Tuesday, 8 April).

"Four additional return services will operate between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury, Mondays - Saturdays, with hourly services for peak morning and afternoon times. There will also be two new return Sunday services, and an improvement to evening services on the Cambrian Coast between Barmouth and Pwllheli.

"On the Heart of Wales line, there will be extra  journeys between Llandovery and Gowerton/Swansea and between Llandrindod and Shrewsbury/Crewe offering good morning commuting opportunities on Mondays – Fridays. Other return services will become more conveniently timed and the Heart of Wales Line Forum gets funding to explore the possibility of further improvements to the line.

"The new services will create 20 new train crew and depot jobs. The changes, which will be on an initial three-year trial basis, will come into place from May 2015.

"The additional services on both railways are designated for a three year trial under Section 36 of the Railways Act 2005 “experimental services” designation. The services will be reviewed after the first year and annually.

Cambrian Railway
"The trial will provide 4 additional return services, in each direction, between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury Mondays - Saturdays, including hourly peak services for morning and afternoon, plus two new return Sunday services, and an improvement to evening services on the Cambrian Coast between Barmouth and Pwllheli.

Heart of Wales Line
"The trial will provide additional morning journeys Mondays - Fridays between Carmarthen and Llandovery, returning to Swansea for an arrival at 8.16, and from Shrewsbury to Llandrindod returning to Shrewsbury with a 7.58 arrival and continuing to Crewe arriving at 8.50. These services are additional to the current four return journeys along the line and provide improved commuting opportunities, and later services will become more conveniently timed with some journeys being extended to start from/terminate at Crewe.
The lead time for the recruitment and training of staff means that the additional services will commence at the earliest possible timetable change date in May 2015. "

The announcement doesn't give the full hourly service campaigned for but does provide substantial improvements at peak times and will give a solid base from which to campaign for further improvements when the franchise on the line is renewed 2018.

04/04/2014

Pantycelyn to continue

Here's the very welcome letter received today by students campaigning for the retention of Pantycelyn as a Welsh-speaking student hall at Aberystwyth University (scroll down for English version):

Annwyl Fyfyriwr,

Heddiw bu Rebecca Davies, John Grattan a minnau yn cyfarfod â chynrychiolwyr o Undeb Myfyrwyr Cymraeg Aberystwyth UMCA i drafod dyfodol Pantycelyn.

Yn ystod y cyfarfod, cyflwynwyd cynnig gennym a fyddai’n golygu ein bod yn cydweithio gydag UMCA i ddatblygu cynllun busnes ar ddefnydd Neuadd Pantycelyn i’r dyfodol fel Canolfan Gymraeg a Diwylliant. Rwy’n falch iawn gallu dweud fod y cynnig hwn ei dderbyn gan UMCA.

Mae’r cynnig yn cynnwys datblygu opsiynau manwl ar gyfer parhad Pantycelyn fel llety arlwyo ar gyfer myfyrwyr sy’n siaradwyr Cymraeg ac yn ddysgwyr y Gymraeg.

Rydym yn gobeithio y bydd y Ganolfan Gymraeg a Diwylliant yn gweithredu fel canolbwynt i’n cymuned Gymraeg gyfan, gan gynnwys myfyrwyr a staff ynghyd â’r gymuned ehangach a phawb sydd â diddordeb yn y diwylliant Cymraeg a Chymreig yn gyffredinol.

Rydym yn ymrwymedig i ddenu myfyrwyr Cymraeg i Aberystwyth ac i hybu’r modd y maent yn cael mynediad at ddarpariaeth cyfrwng Cymraeg sy’n ehangu ynghyd ag ystod mor eang â phosib o gyfleoedd cymdeithasol a diwylliannol Cymraeg.

Nid yw’r cynnig hwn a gytunwyd heddiw yn effeithio ar ein cynlluniau ar gyfer llety cyfrwng Cymraeg ar Fferm Penglais.

O fis Medi 2014, bydd myfyrwyr sy’n siarad Cymraeg a’r rhai sy’n ei dysgu, yn medru dewis rhwng llety arlwyo ym Mhantycelyn, a llety hunan arlwyo ar Fferm Penglais.

Pob hwyl,

Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan
Dirprwy Is-Ganghellor



Dear Student,

Today, Rebecca Davies, John Grattan and I met with representatives from UMCA, the Aberystwyth Welsh-speaking Students’ Union and representatives of the University’s branch of the Coleg Cymraeg, to discuss the future of Pantycelyn.

During the meeting we tabled a proposal that would see us working with UMCA on the development of a business plan for the future use of Pantycelyn as a Welsh Language and Cultural Centre. I am very pleased to report that this proposal has been accepted by UMCA.

The proposal includes providing detailed options for the continuation of Pantycelyn as catered accommodation for students that are Welsh speakers and Welsh learners.

We hope that a Welsh Language and Cultural Centre at Pantycelyn will act as a hub for our entire Welsh-speaking community, including students, staff as well as the wider community and all those interested in Welsh culture generally.

We are committed as a university to attracting Welsh-speaking students and to promote access to the expanding Welsh medium provision, together with widest possible range of Welsh-medium social and cultural opportunities.

The agreed proposal does not affect the current plans for the new Welsh medium accommodation at Fferm Penglais.

From September 2014, Welsh speaking students and those learning Welsh will be able to choose between catered accommodation in Pantycelyn, and self-catering accommodation on Fferm Penglais.

Regards,

Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan
Pro Vice-Chancellor


The campaign has seen a number of demonstrations, including this one in October, in which university offices were occupied.

29/03/2014

Earth Hour in Ceredigion

Earth Hour is taking place again this year between 8.30 - 9.30pm on Saturday 29th March. The global event is aimed at showing support for action on climate change. Ceredigion Council always takes part and this year is extending its support for the event to embrace the following locations:

•           Canolfan Alun R Edwards (Aberystwyth Town Library)
•           Castle Grounds, Aberystwyth
•           Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth
•           Penmorfa Car Park, Aberaeron
•           Canolfan Rheidol Car Park
•           Theatr Felin-fach Car Park
•           Minaeron, Aberaeron

These places will all have they lights off for the whole weekend which, incidentally, is the weekend all the clocks go forward one hour.


The National Library in Aberystwyth is also taking part. Large organisations have a much bigger effect on carbon usage than individuals alone and so it's particularly important that we show leadership and demonstrate that we take carbon management and climate change seriously. 

21/03/2014

A civilised way to do politics


Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood in an open conversation last night with Mike Parker, Plaid's Westminster candidate for Ceredigion, in front of an audience at MG's cafe in Aberystwyth. A civilised way to do politics.

17/03/2014

Whole lotta digging going on

There’s a lot of digging up of pavements going on in Aberystwyth at the moment:

Dig No 1
Superfast broadband
Most of the narrow trenches being dug in pavements around the town relate to the installation of Superfast Broadband. This is due to come on stream in Aberystwyth by the Summer and most of the rest of Ceredigion by the end of the year. It should significantly enhance the speed of internet downloads. The whole process is explained on this link

Dig No 2
Coed Aber
This is the second phase of the Coed Aber tree planting programme aimed at creating a tree-lined avenue on the main approach road into the town. It's being funded by the Welsh Government after the scheme was put together by the Greener Aberystwyth Group working together with Ceredigion Council and the (then) Forestry Commission. The spade work is being done by Ceredigion Council.



Dig No 3
Llanbadarn-Aberystwyth shared use path
This is is the final phase of footway widening between Llanbadarn Fawr level crossing and Plas Crug bridge which will enable the whole length to become a dual pedestrian/cycle path.


So, a lot of digging going on around the town. And all of it good in my view. And I haven’t even mentioned Alexandra Road...

23/02/2014

St David's Day in Aberystwyth




After the phenomenal success of last year's St David's Day Parade in Aberystwyth, the calendar dictates that this year's event will be on a Saturday, giving a different feel. The parade will leave from the Clock Tower at the top of Great Darkgate Street at 1pm. Should be good.

13/02/2014

Ceredigion's Excellent Estyn report

On Tuesday Ceredigion Council received a superb Estyn report. 

Estyn is the Welsh Government-funded education inspectorate. It’s been very critical recently of the education service run by many councils but the report published this week gave Ceredigion’s schools an official ‘Excellent’ mark in nine out of twelve categories, and a 'Good' in the other three, making it the best education authority in Wales by some distance. Amongst other things, this is a big boost for bilingualism. Our schools scored particularly highly in things like promoting social inclusion and support for vulnerable pupils.

Below are the judgements against each category. Read the report to understand what’s behind them.

Overall judgement: Excellent
Capacity to Improve: Excellent
Standards: Good
Well-being: Excellent
Support for school improvement: Excellent
Support for additional learning needs: Excellent
Promoting social inclusion and well-being: Excellent
Access & school places: Good
Leadership: Excellent
Quality Improvement: Excellent
Partnership working: Excellent
Resource management: Good

31/01/2014

Batten down the hatches

High tides on Saturday, coupled with strong winds, could potentially bring about the kind of problems we saw on the Ceredigion coast during the first weekend in January. People living right on the seafront are being advised to be alert and ready to leave their properties for around an hour either side of high tide if that seems necessary. 

High tides on Saturday will be at 8.41am and 9.02pm in Aberystwyth and about 20 minutes later in Cardigan.     

The specific areas thought to be at risk are:
Aberystwyth Promenade
Cardigan - Strand, St Mary Street & Gloster Row
Aberaeron - Quay Parade
Advisory notices have been distributed in these areas.

Sandbags will be available on request by phoning the emergency numbers at the foot of this piece.

There is currently less concern about Sunday and Monday as, although the tides will still be high, the overall weather looks to be more settled then.

If anyone does need to leave their home and they’ve got nowhere else to go then there will be support available from 7am at Aberystwyth and Cardigan Leisure Centres and at Borth Youth Centre.

Aberystwyth University have taken a precautionary approach and have asked their students (about 600 of them) to leave their seafront properties tonight. They will be put up on campus or given assistance to travel home for the weekend.

Council crews are on patrol tonight and from around 6am in the morning.

High Tides - Aberystwyth
Saturday 8.41am & 9.02pm
Sunday 9.23am & 9.44pm
Monday 10.05am & 10.25pm
20 minutes later in Cardigan

Emergency numbers
North - 01970-625277
South - 01239-851604

03/01/2014

Wales needs a Middle

Local government watchers in the Aberystwyth area are viewing with some trepidation an expected announcement in the next month of major changes to local government boundaries in Wales as a result of the review by the Welsh Government's Commission on Public Service Governance headed by Sir Paul Williams. A planned reduction in county councils from the current 22 to a drastically smaller number, leading to the loss of Ceredigion as an authority in the longer term, is widely expected. 

The period between 1974 and 1996, when there were only eight county councils in Wales, and Ceredigion was a part of Dyfed, now seems to be viewed as a more efficient model by central government. However it should be remembered that during this period there was also a layer of 37 District Councils beneath the counties, ensuring a local feel to government. 

That was prior to the creation of the National Assembly and no-one would want to go back to two layers of councils now. But, because we’ve been there in the past, there’s an assumption amongst many people that Dyfed is where we’re going to end up again.

Whilst the idea of re-creating the pre ’96 county with its HQ in Carmarthen probably wouldn’t bother the people of, say, Cardigan in South Ceredigion too much, the idea appals people in Aberystwyth who would be relegated once again to the outer northern periphery of the new county and would have to travel 50 miles to the county’s capital. 

Resources of any government structure inevitably shift towards the centre and, in a Dyfed scenario, it would seem unavoidable that Aberystwyth would diminish in importance both culturally and economically.

The difference between then and now is that Aberystwyth, and transport links to it, has developed considerably in the past twenty years, partly with the assistance of Welsh Government money, and it is now without question the most vibrant and economically healthy town in Mid Wales.

Going back to the old Dyfed isn’t the only idea that’s been mentioned during the course of the review. I’ve no idea how seriously the others are taken - some of them have probably been laughed at - but these are a few ideas I’ve seen or heard being promoted involving Ceredigion and at least they get us thinking outside the Dyfed box:
  • A huge Dyfed-Powys authority - this would leave Aberystwyth still reasonably central. 
  • Splitting Powys and Gwynedd up to create a new Ceredigion/Montgomeryshire/Meirionydd authority. 
  • Ceredigion to merge with Powys to form a central Wales authority - this would fit in with various collaborations Ceredigion Council have already developed with Powys in response to urgings from the Welsh Government for local authorities to make savings through co-operation.
  • Ceredigion to merge with Pembrokeshire to create a South-west coastal authority
  • A huge West Wales coastal authority covering everything from Ynys Mon down to Pembroke.
Whatever emerges from the Review, the point is that what happens to Aberystwyth is not just a concern for Aberystwyth – the prospect should be a concern for everyone in Wales. Mid Wales – I’m going to call it Central Wales from now on – is not just the green desert between the populous belts of north and south Wales. Nations need a middle. If we have a governmental structure that essentially pulls everything south of the Dyfi to Carmarthen and everything north of the Dyfi to Caernarfon/Bangor, that effectively drags the nation apart and concentrates power and resources at each end, leaving the geographic centre - which is crucial to any nation’s cohesion - ignored. You don’t have to be a Welsh nationalist to see this as a problem. Anyone who supports a Wales level of government should be able to see that we need a strong middle that can pull the whole thing together. 

At the demonstration in 2012 outside the National Assembly in support of Aberystwyth’s Bronglais Hospital, the most powerful image (above) was on a banner showing a map of major hospitals in Wales, with Bronglais being the only one between Carmarthen and Bangor. It brought home the geographic importance of the place. The last thing Wales needs is to diminish Aberystwyth.

It was therefore very encouraging to see the recent report from a Welsh Government Task & Finish group into the future of the Welsh language which has recommended the setting up of ‘city regions’ based around Aberystwyth, Bangor and Carmarthen.

If Wales is to develop in a balanced way into the future we need to be thinking outside of the old traditional boundaries, useful though they may have been once. Although the Task & Finish group may not have had overall national cohesion in mind, not for the first time it could be that the needs of the Welsh language are pointing us towards the most progressive future for everyone in Wales.

24/12/2013

Nadolig Llawen

A packed Owain Glyndwr Square for the switching on of Aberystwyth's Christmas lights.

Nadolig Llawen i bawb
A Merry Christmas to all

15/12/2013

Aberystwyth honours Mandela



The flags of South Africa and Wales have been flying at half-mast over Aberystwyth Town Hall this weekend to mark the passing of Nelson Mandela.

The flag was raised during a ceremony attended by, amongst others, Ceredigion Council Leader Ellen ap Gwynn and Alec Dauncey, the last secretary of the town's anti-apartheid group. 

Aberystwyth had an active anti-apartheid campaign throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. In 1989 they organised two demonstrations in the town against sportsmen breaking the widely accepted boycott of South Africa. The first was against a 'rebel' Welsh rugby team training in the town and the second against a boycott-breaking cricketer.

The day Mandela was released, in February 1990, dozens of people gathered on the steps above and sang 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica', the anthem of the African National Congress which uses the tune 'Aberystwyth' by Joseph Parry and which has, since 1997, become part of the new South African national anthem.

Meanwhile, to complete the Aberystwyth anti-apartheid links, at the other end of town, on the wall of the old Unitarian Chapel in New Street,  is the plaque below:


Although David Ivon Jones died only six years after Mandela was born, he was an important figure in the gestation of the African National Congress, Mandela's party which ultimately triumphed in South Africa's 1994 General Election.

30/11/2013

Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire bus services restored with local operators


Cyngor Sir
NEWYDDION 
NEWS
CEREDIGION
County Council
SICRHAU GWASANAETHAU BWS CEREDIGION A SIR GÂR
CEREDIGION AND CARMARTHENSHIRE BUS SERVICES RESTORED
Datganiad ar y cyd gan Gyngor Sir Ceredigion a Chyngor Sir Gâr.

Mae Cyngor Sir Ceredigion a Chyngor Sir Gâr yn falch o gyhoeddi, yn sgil penderfyniad Arriva i ddileu’r gwasanaeth 20 rhwng Aberystwyth a Chaerdydd, y gwasanaethau 40 a 40C rhwng Aberystwyth a Chaerfyrddin a’r gwasanaeth 50 rhwng Aberystwyth, Ceinewydd a Synod Inn, ein bod wedi dyfarnu contractau i Lewis Coaches o Lanrhystud, First Cymru a’r Brodyr Richards i ddarparu gwasanaethau yn eu lle hyd at ddiwedd Mehefin 2014. Mae’r ddau Gyngor yn ddiolchgar i Lywodraeth Cymru a’r Gweinidog Trafnidiaeth am gyfrannu’r arian sydd wedi ein galluogi i roi’r trefniadau hyn ar waith. Byddant yn awr yn edrych ymlaen at gydweithio â Llywodraeth Cymru wrth ddatblygu gwasanaeth Traws Cymru a fydd yn cadw’r bysus ar y ffyrdd ac efallai’n cyflwyno rhagor ohonynt ar ôl mis Mehefin nesaf.

Meddai’r Cynghorydd Alun Williams, Aelod Cabinet Cyngor Sir Ceredigion dros Drafnidiaeth:

“Mae wedi bod yn gyfnod anodd i ddefnyddwyr y gwasanaethau bws yng Ngheredigion a Sir Gâr, ar ôl i Arriva gyhoeddi eu bod yn tynnu allan o’r ddwy sir. Ar ôl trafodaethau dwys, rwy’n eithriadol o falch o fedru cyhoeddi y gallwn ddal i ddarparu’r gwasanaethau 40, 40C a 50. Bydd y gwasanaeth 40/40C rhwng Aberystwyth a Chaerfyrddin yn debyg iawn i’r hyn sydd eisoes ar gael, ond mae’n rhoi pleser arbennig i ni fedru cyhoeddi y bydd y gwasanaeth 50 rhwng Aberystwyth ac Aberteifi yn un llawer gwell, ac ni fydd angen mwyach i bobl gyfnewid bysus yn Synod Inn. Rydym hefyd wedi sicrhau y bydd modd defnyddio tocynnau’r gwahanol gwmnïau ar bob bws 40, 40C a 50.

“Fe wnaethom ddewis gweithio mewn cydweithrediad â’r gwasanaeth 701 i Gaerdydd, yn hytrach na chystadlu ag ef, a dylai pob gwasanaeth elwa ar hynny.

“Mae pobl oedd yn arfer mynd ar y bws 20 i Gaerdydd yn awr yn medru defnyddio’r 701, neu fynd ar y 40 neu’r 40C i ddal y trên yng Nghaerfyrddin. Bydd y gwasanaeth 701 hefyd yn cludo teithwyr ar ddydd Sul.

“Rwy’n arbennig o ddiolchgar i’r holl gwmnïau lleol a gyflwynodd dendrau ar gyfer y gwasanaethau hyn, i swyddogion y ddau Gyngor sydd wedi bod wrthi mor ddiwyd yn y cefndir, ac i Lywodraeth Cymru am y cymorth ariannol.”

Diweddariad: amserlenni bws newydd ar gael yma
Joint statement by Ceredigion County Council and Carmarthenshire County Council.

Ceredigion County Council and Carmarthenshire County Council are very pleased to announce that, following Arriva's decision to terminate the 20 service between Aberystwyth and Cardiff, the 40 and 40C services between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen and the 50 service between Aberystwyth and Synod Inn, via New Quay, that contracts have been awarded to Lewis Coaches (Llanrhystud), First Cymru and Richards Brothers to provide replacement services until the end of June 2014. Both authorities are grateful to the Welsh Government and the Minister for Transport for their financial contribution to enable these arrangements to be put in place. We hope to be working with the Welsh Government to develop a Traws Cymru service which will further develop and solidify these routes beyond June.

Councillor Alun Williams, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Transport, said:

“This has been a difficult time for the bus service users in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire following the announcement of the Arriva pull-out. After a period of intense negotiation, I am delighted that we can announce replacement services on the 40, 40C and 50 routes. Whilst the 40/40C service between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen will be very similar to the current service, I am particularly pleased to announce that the 50 route between Aberystwyth and Cardigan will now be a greatly enhanced through-service that will avoid the need to change in Synod Inn. We have also negotiated through-ticketing between the different companies operating the 40, 40C and 50 services.

“We have taken the opportunity to work in co-operation with the existing 701 service to Cardiff rather than in competition and all services should benefit as a result.

“The 20 service is currently being covered by the 701 service or by using the 40 and 40C services and connecting to the rail service at Carmarthen. Sunday services will be provided by the 701. 

“I am very grateful to all the local companies who tendered for the routes, to the Council officers who have been working very hard behind the scenes and to the Welsh Government for its financial assistance.”


Update: New bus timetables 

available here

11/11/2013

Funding agreed for Ceredigion bus routes

The Welsh Government  has agreed to fund alternative contracts for the Ceredigion bus services due to be lost when Arriva pulls out on 21st December.

The routes involved are:
  • The 40 service from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen  via Lampeter
  • The 50 service from Aberystwyth to Synod Inn
The announcement that £162,000 revenue funding will be made available to the end of June comes after several weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations during which Ceredigion Council made a very strong case for the vital economic role the services play in Ceredigion.

The 40 and 50 services run on previously unsubsidised commercial routes and it was very difficult to see how the Council could be expected to take on their funding at a time when it is being asked to make huge savings in the next financial year due to grant money being lost from central government.

The news will be a great relief to the many people entirely dependent on these bus services to get to and from work who had been viewing the planned pull-out with trepidation. Transport Minister Edwina Hart has also pleased campaigners by saying that in future the routes will be regarded as nationally strategic.

Ceredigion Council will now proceed with the tendering arrangements for the routes. 

The 585 service from Aberystwyth to Lampeter via Tregaron, which Arriva has announced it will pull out of on February 15th, is already subsidised by the council and new tenders for this will also be sought.

08/11/2013

By-election to Aberystwyth Town Council - The Result

Bronglais Ward
Lucy Huws (Plaid Cymru)  204 (58%)
Bryony Davies (Lib Dem)  128 (36%)
Huw Fox (Independent)  17 (4%)

Turnout 35%


The story of this election is how Plaid Cymru emerged unscathed after their main opponents poured astonishing resources into this Town Council by-election caused by the forced retirement through illness of a sitting councillor.

The Lib Dems who, like Plaid, had selected a likeable, committed candidate, saturated the area with no fewer than eleven different General Election-style leaflets during the four weeks of the campaign compared to the three produced by Plaid. To place this in perspective, even for the nationally crucial Assembly By-election in Ynys Mon this summer, Plaid produced a total of seven leaflets. 

During what remained a good-natured election at the personal level despite the ferocity of the leafletting, residents in many streets became used to receiving nightly repeat visits by senior Lib Dem politicians whilst the more modest Plaid campaign simply concentrated on the candidate talking to each household once. 

The result is given all the more credibility by the relatively high turnout for an election at this level where no polling cards were published by the Town Council in order to save money. 

The outcome is a tribute to the quality of Lucy Huws (below) as a candidate and to the resilience of the Plaid support in the ward.

03/11/2013

Bronglais ward by-election to Aberystwyth Town Council

There’s a by-election taking place this week in the Bronglais ward of Aberystwyth Town Council. The election has been caused by the stepping down of Cllr Chris Griffiths due to illness.

Plaid’s candidate - one of three contesting the election - is Lucy Huws, pictured above in the Buarth area of the ward where she lives. Lucy was brought up in the area and is a gifted language teacher, being fluent in Welsh, Mandarin, German, French and English

Already a community activist, this year she has been spearheading the campaign to save St Winefrides Church in Queens Road and has spoken out against Royal Mail privatisation. More recently, as part of her election campaign, she has distributed survey forms to every house in the ward in support of an hourly rail service to Aberystwyth. The returned forms have contributed to the record 6,500 that have been completed across the central Wales region.

Town and Community Councils are the lowest level of government in Wales and, in contrast to similar sized communities in much of Europe, have very little power. Nevertheless they do have a voice. In recent years Aberystwyth Town Council has campaigned successfully for tighter regulations on HMOs in order to help both their tenants and neighbouring residents. It was the first organisation to install recycling banks around Aberystwyth and was successful in registering Aberystwyth as a Fair Trade town, eventually leading to Ceredigion becoming a Fair Trade county. The campaign for the Rheidol and Ystwyth cycle paths we're now used to also started in the Town Council. All these campaigns were led by Plaid Cymru councillors.

Aberystwyth Town Council makes scores of donations each year to local community groups, many of which would be greatly restricted or not survive at all without this help. It’s also been a starting point for local activists who have gone higher in the political process, most notably our Assembly member, Elin Jones.

Lucy Huws says:
“As someone who lives in Bronglais ward, I know many of the issues that concern us locally such as parking, hospital services, improving student housing, protecting our green spaces and maintaining the unique character of the area. This election campaign has allowed me to knock on every door in the ward, talking to people and sharing ideas about how to improve our fantastic community.”

The Town Council By-election in Bronglais ward takes place on Thursday November 7th in the Buarth Hall, Stanley Road 7am-10pm. Voting cards have not been distributed by the Council as a cost-saving measure but anyone on the electoral roll can turn up and vote.

13/10/2013

Aberystwyth's new bandstand



These artist's impressions have been submitted with the planning application for the new bandstand on Aberystwyth Prom. 

The plans are described in the application as, "a new two-storey public performance space and restaurant building". They include, on the top floor, a 72-seat cafe/restaurant with an outside balcony containing a further 29 seats. The ground floor is a 150-seat public performance space, with room to also walk around the outside and a public toilet. The development will be funded by the Welsh Government as part of Aberystwyth's Regeneration Area status.

The current, somewhat more modest, bandstand is below.


Update 15/10/13
Just received - a manufacturer’s photo of the material.  I'm told this, "Illustrates its suitability for this water’s edge location where the building will reflect the subtly changing tones of light from both the sky and the sea.


"Rockpanel Chameleon is finished with a unique crystal layer which means that the surface of the material appears to change colour depending on the angle it is viewed from and the changing effects of light.


"It has unique sustainability properties being manufactured from a minimum 30% recycled material, and is 100% re-cyclable with no downgrading of the product in the re-usage recycling phase. It is also highly efficient in the use of natural materials for its manufacture and the product has been developed in parallel with the passive housing concept. Rockpanel has also been developed to resist all weather conditions and to limit maintenance requirements to a minimum. The boards do not rot or delaminate and have a 10 year warranty and an expected  minimum durability of 40 years."

By the way, since this is the subject of a planning application, I'm not expressing a view, just providing information.

04/10/2013

Rail survey for central Wales launched


A new survey has been launched aimed at demonstrating the demand for an improved rail service to Aberystwyth.

Following the backtracking on the previously agreed introduction of an hourly train service on the Cambrian Line, the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Liaison Committee has been funded by the Welsh Government to conduct an exercise amongst the public of central Wales to gauge demand.

It’s very important that anyone who cares even slightly about rail services in the region fills in the survey either on-line or on a hard copy which will be available at various places. It's very clear to me that there are a wide range of people - commuters, students, shoppers, business travellers, tourists - who would use a more regular service and that this could significantly benefit the local economy, not to mention the environment. We need a big response to this as the outcome could shape our rail services for many years to come. 

The survey is here  (click on the linguistic choice in the left hand column) and is open till October 20th. Hard copies can be filled in at Aberystwyth Tourist information centre and many other places.

01/10/2013

Arriva to pull out of Ceredigion


Arriva have announced the ending of their bus services in Ceredigion and the closure of depots in Aberystwyth, New Quay, Lampeter and Dolgellau. 

The company’s commercial services though the county will stop on 21st December and the 585 subsidised route, which Ceredigion County Council helps to fund, will finish on 15th February next year. 46 staff have received redundancy notices. 

The closures look like this:

From 21st December:
20  Aberystwyth - Cardiff
40  Aberystwyth - Carmarthen 
40C  Lampeter - Carmarthen
50  Aberystwyth - New Quay
x94  Wrecsam - Dolgellau - Barmouth

From 15th Feb 2014:
585  Aberystwyth – Tregaron - Lampeter

Details of all bus services running in Ceredigion are here

Whilst Arriva have fulfilled their statutory duties in terms of giving notice of the cuts, it’s very disappointing that more warning couldn’t have been given to allow other companies and agencies time to see what could be done to maintain these key routes through the county. In fact, at the time of writing, Ceredigion County Council had still not received formal notification of the plans.

As I've blogged about before, the Welsh Government have cut bus funding  by 25% this year and the effects of this had already started to be noticed with Arriva pulling out of some more minor services at the end of July. 

In a sane transport environment, everyone would be given plenty of notice and enabled to plan ahead for these kinds of changes. However the 1985 Transport Act, in which bus services were de-regulatedenables commercial companies to make decisions like this at very short notice and without consultation.

Arriva’s abrupt announcement actually makes a very strong case for the re-regulation of bus services and full devolvement of transport to Wales. Although transport is a devolved matter, the laws that govern it unfortunately aren't and this ties our hands in developing the kind of coherent bus system most of us in Wales would support.

Although, as a fairly regular bus user, I don't normally have problems using Arriva, there's no denying that the company are very unpopular with local bus campaigners who have accused them for years of running a poor service. 

The best case scenario now is that local bus companies, of which there are several and who Ceredigion Council has a very good relationship with, could pick up the routes that are being lost and bus users could actually end up with a better service than Arriva has been providing. The County Council will certainly be doing anything it can to help facilitate this.

Update 5/10/13: Constructive talks held with Welsh Government yesterday. Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Carmarthenshire Councils are actively pursuing solutions together for maintaining these routes