Plaid's Leadership Election comes to Aberystwyth

Plaid Cymru's Leadership Election comes to Aberystwyth on February 15th with a hustings at the Morlan at 7pm. Pictured are the four candidates, L to R: Simon Thomas, Elin Jones, Leanne Wood and Dafydd Elis Thomas

The Morlan hustings is one of eight to be held around Wales and is open to all Plaid members, 1,563 of whom have joined the party in the last four months. After the hustings have taken place, all members will be sent a postal vote and asked to rank the  candidates from 1 to 4. The votes of the last candidate are then redistributed according to their second preference and so on until one candidate has over 50%. This ensures the winner has broad support across the party. 

Whichever party you support, the leadership of Plaid Cymru is a key position in Welsh politics. My feeling is that all four candidates would take Plaid forward. The winner will be announced on March 15th.

Leanne Wood will be holding a campaign meeting in the Cwps in Aberystwyth (corner of Northgate St and Llanbadarn Rd) at 6.30pm on Tuesday 14th Feb.

Update 2 (6/2/12):
Simon Thomas has pulled out of the contest and will support Elin Jones.  If she wins, she will nominate Simon as Deputy Leader.


Mill Street - The Debate

There are many different strands to the debate about the development of Mill Street car park in Aberystwyth. The plans by Ceredigion Council entail building a multi-storey car park alongside Tesco and Marks & Spencer shops. The scheme entails the demolition of Park Avenue Day Centre - to be replaced by a much smaller Day Centre in the Town Hall - plus the Drill Hall and the 13 houses in Glyndwr Road. Below are all arguments I’ve heard from different people, which just happen to fit into ten on either side.

 No to the development

1/  There was no consultation with either the general public or Day Centre users before the decision on Mill Street was made. The Council has no right to make a far reaching decision like this without public consultation.

2/  Tesco rips off farmers and is a Trojan horse that is destroying towns around the country. There are 450 local campaigns against Tesco listed on the Tescopoly website, including 37 in Wales. They should be opposed everywhere.

3/  Aberystwyth doesn’t need any more supermarkets - we’ve got too many already (Co-op, Morrison’s, CK’s, Lidl, Iceland, Spar)

4/  More chain stores will turn Aber into a clone town, the same as everywhere else, and take business from our small traders that give the town its character.

5/  A multi-storey car park will look ugly and will bring more cars to the town when we should be trying to cut traffic and encouraging public transport instead.

6/  The new Day Centre in the Town Hall is much smaller and less inviting than the current one. If they have to pull the old one down they should replace like for like, which they are clearly not. No to moving until they do.

7/  Glyndwr Road and the Drill Hall should not be included in the scheme. They are part of Aberystwyth’s heritage and character which itself has an unacknowledged economic value that helps to attract visitors.

8/  A potential Compulsory Purchase Order on someone’s home (in Glyndwr Road) that they don’t agree to leave is morally wrong. That principle should not be broken. If sticking to it results in the scheme collapsing then that is the Council’s own fault.

9/  Aberystwyth isn’t central to Ceredigion and it’s unfair that the Council concentrates so much development there. More money should be spent in the south of the county [point made by people in the South of the County].

10/  We don’t want Aberystwyth to become bigger. We like it the size it is.

Yes to the development

1/  Rightly or wrongly, Ceredigion Council is now legally committed to the Mill Street development under European Procurement Regulations. Attempting to get out of it, or alter it, would lead to the Council being sued at huge cost which the taxpayer would have to bear.

2/  Those who want Aberystwyth to stay the same are deluding themselves. Nothing stays the same. The town will either grow or shrink. We have to choose which we want.

3/  Aberystwyth cannot keep saying no to development. If it keeps saying no it will get nothing and the town will go into decline. In practical terms, that means fewer jobs and opportunities in the future and less all-round vibrancy.

4/  Aberystwyth Chamber of Commerce, which represents small shops in the town, supports the development because it’s close enough to the town centre to draw more people in and benefit everyone. The anti-supermarket protestors say they care about the small traders. Why don’t they listen to them?

5/  Those people who oppose supermarkets are being elitist. Many people don’t have the luxury of being able to shop in more expensive small shops. They have to buy what they can afford.

6/  Tesco is a higher standard of supermarket than currently exists in Aberystwyth whilst Marks & Spencer will take us into the next league in terms of attracting shoppers. Both will take the town in the right direction.

7/  The right number of supermarkets for a town is decided by market forces, not by imposing some sort of ‘supermarket quota’. When there are too many, the least attractive will go out of business.

8/  Working mothers don’t have the time to wander from shop to shop. They need to get their shopping in one hit and that means a supermarket [point made by some working mothers].

9/  Improving the shopping experience in Aberystwyth could actually save carbon because fewer people from the area will drive to Carmarthen or Shrewsbury for their shopping.

10/  In the summer Aberystwyth’s current car parks regularly become completely full and the town’s streets are crammed with cars, meaning the town is effectively closed to further visitors. We need a multi-storey to cater for this welcome demand.


Borth Reef

I was lucky enough to be shown onto what has been constructed so far of the new Borth Reef this week, a few miles north of Aberystwyth. The £7 million scheme will apparently add fifty to a hundred years onto the life of the village of Borth as well as provide a much better environment for surfers. With the rising sea level, the high street houses backing onto the beach were expected to start sustaining serious damage within ten years. Phase 1 of the reef is expected to be finished by the end of March. More photos can be seen here


Ceredigion goes back to the future

The proposed creation of a new Ceredigion & North Pembrokeshire UK parliamentary constituency (plans for which were published earlier today in a review of all Welsh constituencies) brings back memories of 1992, when Cynog Dafis made a historic breakthrough in first winning that seat - with almost the same boundaries - for Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

Ceredigion & Pembroke North was the name of the constituency for 14 years from 1983. When the boundaries shrunk back to just Ceredigion again for the 1997 election I remember the disappointment of friends in North Pembrokeshire who couldn’t vote for Cynog again.

Incorporating the largely Welsh-speaking North Pembrokeshire will, of course, significantly change the political make-up of the constituency. It will incorporate the northern half of the current Preseli Pembrokeshire Constituency (held by Stephen Crabb for the Conservatives), as per the 1983-97 model, with the addition of the wards of Maenclochog in Pembrokeshire and Cenarth in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr constituency (held by Jonathan Edwards for Plaid). The population of the constituency will rise from the current 56,000 to 74,000.

The proposed expansion of Ceredigion is due to take effect for the next UK election in 2015 (unless the current government collapses before then) and is part of the Westminster government’s plan to cut the number of Welsh constituencies from 40 down to 30.

Although the proposals are clearly not going to help Wales’s representation at Westminster, the idea of a reduction in MPs is probably fair enough given the now enhanced powers of the National Assembly and the consequent lessening in importance of the UK parliament to Wales.

The proposals for the new Welsh constituencies are out for consultation until April 4th. Most commentators think the final version will be pretty close to the draft proposals. Click here for the full details.