New Consultation on Hospital Plans

Bronglais Hospital will be holding a public exhibition and consultation into their latest plans for extending the hospital. The exhibition will include details of the proposed new Park & Ride at Penglais Farm, along Clarach Road.

The exhibition will be held at the Belle Vue Hotel, Marine Terrace on Tuesday 7th April between 2pm and 8pm. Members of the development team will be on hand to discuss the plans.

The main hospital scheme - for a £33 million five-storey extension to the current A & E department coupled with an extra layer on the lower car park - has been in the planning system for many months and has been held up over difficulties in negotiating access from Penglais Hill with the Trunk Road Agency. What is new is the Park & Ride element, designed to reduce pressure on Penglais and ease the parking situation around the hospital. This would involve 200 parking places on the current farmland - 100 spaces for hospital staff and 100 for the University. The scheme is a joint collaboration between the hospital, the University and the County Council. A planning application is likely to be submitted for this following the public consultation.


Mayor Greets Python Stars

Sue Jones-Davies, Mayor of Aberystwyth and Bronglais Ward Town Councillor, greeting Michael Palin and Terry Jones at Aberystwyth Art Centre tonight ahead of the charity showing of their 1979 comedy film The Life of Brian.

The extraordinary worldwide media coverage of the event has briefly focussed attention on Aberystwyth.

After entering the Art Centre the trio undertook a series of interviews for various TV stations before a sell-out showing of the film in the Art Centre cinema.


Town Councillor puts alternatives to sorting office plans

Aberystwyth Town Councillor Mark Strong has written to the County Council's Director of Corporate Strategies and Regeneration outlining alternative ideas for developing the town's sorting office site following the roasting County Council officers received at Monday night's Town Council meeting (see blog below) over the County Council's controversial plans.

Mark's edited letter says:

Dear Mr Lewis,

As someone who has been in Aberystwyth for 9 years it should be apparent that I like the place. The buildings do have a lot to do with the character of a town, and often this is something that does not happen overnight. I have seen the town I was born in - Wrexham - lose most of it's vernacular buildings. I believe CADW classes these as buildings of pre 1850 and these are usually given greater protection. Nevertheless a building built in 1900 is now 109 years old, and does often hold a link to the past.

My main problem with the proposed development is that it takes down a whole block of buildings with no regard to how they look or their intrinsic value. We are being asked to agree in principal to demolition with not even the name of an architect in mind or even a sketch plan of how the building would look when completed. Having seen similar developments elsewhere (Wrexham being one), the design of the buildings is certainly does not pay due heed to the local vernacular, or even recognition of surrounding streetscape. These types of buildings often do not last more than 30-40 years before being redeveloped.

Chalybeate street has many shops which are full and successful, only two being empty-one only for the last few weeks. This contrasts with Bridge Street and Great Darkgate Street.

If you would look to towns like Shrewsbury, and Llandudno that have built shopping centres by only taking one or two frontages down, then this entirely undermines the developer's contention that the whole block must come down. Recently I went to Riga in Latvia, and the sort of developments there utilize buildings that had been previously falling down. They have now reused them and slotted modern glass buildings in between to reflect the contrast between new and old. They even used traditional larch timber in the new build as a bow to the older techniques. This is what I would like to see in Aberystwyth. I do not believe in criticism without putting forward an idea myself. I would suggest:

* That where owners of shops are willing to sell then the facades of those shops are kept with the rear developed using modern methods

* That buildings between are refurbished as part of the development, and the owners are involved in the development as stakeholders

* That government funding is sought to make the development cutting edge in terms of being carbon neutral. This would draw attention to Aberystwyth.

* That a competition is held to get the best architect to design the project

* That Frazer Osment from the orginal Masterplan consultants is contacted to also have input into the scheme.

I feel strongly about this matter and am committed to only obtaining the best for the town in which I reside and represent.

With regards,

Mark A. Strong
Cynghorydd Tref Aberystwyth Town Councillor


Pa Mor Wyrdd yw Cyngor Ceredigion? - Cyfarfod Cyhoeddus / How Green is Ceredigion Council? - Public Meeting

Cliciwch i ehangu / Click to enlarge

Transition Town Aberystwyth are holding a public meeting in the Morlan, Queens Road at 7pm on Thursday with the aim of getting environmental campaigners and the County Council talking together.

The meeting will hear from Huw Williams (Assistant Director of Environmental Services) and Garfield Williams (Director of Engineering) and will then be thrown open for questions and discussion. Huw Williams in particular has suggestions for how funding can be accessed by Transition Town and the Council working together.

People often ask why the Council doesn't do more for environmental sustainability and I usually agree with them. At the same time I'm aware of good initiatives the Council is taking that are not well-known. I'd like to see environmentalists and the Council talking and understanding each other better so they can work more closely together in the future.


Elin and Town Council Back Small Shops

The campaign to save small shops in Chalybeate and Great Darkgate Streets in Aberystwyth received two major boosts today when, in separate developments, both Assembly Member Elin Jones and then Aberystwyth Town Council strongly backed them.

Early this morning a letter from Elin Jones AM to the various individuals and groups who had contacted her on the issue was released. The letter reads:

"You, and many others, have written to me regarding the unexpected revision to the Town Centre part of the Aberystwyth Masterplan. I will, therefore, outline for you my position on these new proposals:

1) I knew nothing of the proposed changes to the Masterplan until I read about them in the Cambrian News.

2) They are very significant changes and a public consultation is, in my opinion, completely necessary before such changes can be adopted into the Masterplan.

3) I am not persuaded that town centre architectural character or small independent business should be sacrificed for the needs of one UK-wide retailer. However, if town centre traders and the local community felt this was worth doing, following a widespread public consultation, then I would consider those views at that time.

4) I have been told that Council officials and some councillors are suggesting in meetings held to discuss this Plan that this project is being led by the Assembly Government and that the Council is almost powerless to resist. There is no political Assembly Government decision to support and promote this change. It is probably the case that local Assembly Government officers are working with the County Council to develop proposals. I have now taken the matter up with the Assembly Government’s Minister for Economy, Ieuan Wyn Jones AM. The Assembly Government would not release major funding for projects unless they are advocated by the local County Council – and to suggest otherwise is misleading on the part of any Council official and politically expedient on the part of the councillor.

It is too easy sometimes to say ‘No’ to change, but on this occasion, there is so obviously too little information, confidence and consultation for local businesses and people to say anything but ‘No’ at this time. There is a value to local independent traders and to original town centre architecture. I do not think that should be sacrificed lightly – Aberystwyth should seek to be different and better to other places – not the same, but smaller.

Thank you for drawing your concerns to my attention on this and I’d be happy to meet to discuss further if you wish.

Yours sincerely

Elin Jones, AM"

The next development came this evening when Aberystwyth Town Council received a presentation from County Council and Assembly officials on the new plans. Following the presentation the Town Council debated and then unanimously passed the following motion:

“Aberystwyth Town Council declares its total opposition to any potential development which involves the loss of fundamental parts of our precious streetscape.

Aberystwyth Town Council supports the original Masterplan proposal for the development of the old Royal Mail sorting office site.

However, whilst we understand the need to work with developers, we are profoundly unhappy about the latest proposals which entail the demolition of so many small shops and we cannot give our support to such a scheme, no matter what the supposed economic benefits. We believe the economic benefits of maintaining the character of the town are very substantial also.

We call upon the County Council to develop a scheme which maintains the majority of these small shops and to abandon preparations for Compulsory Purchase Orders.

We also call upon the County Council to conduct a full public consultation, similar to that carried out in November and December, on any new plans before any final decision is taken.

Council resolves to communicate this to:
The Cabinet of Cyngor Sir Ceredigion and all Ceredigion County Councillors
Economic development officials of the National Assembly
Our five Assembly Members
The Deputy Assembly Minister for Regeneration

Council also resolves to engage with the Transition Town Group, Cyngor Sir Ceredigion and the wider community to explore alternative approaches to the economic future of the town centre which does not involve a 'clone town' economic model."


Cadw Calon Aberystwyth

A new group has been formed to campaign against the planned demolition of a large chunk of Aberystwyth town centre (see posts below). Called Cadw Calon Aberystwyth (Save Aberystwyth's Heart), the group hope to change the plans by presenting constructive arguments for better alternatives. They will be meeting for the next couple of Fridays at 6pm in MG's cafe in Chalybeate Street. Below is their opening salvo, sent to a range of decision makers:

We are a concerned group representing businesses in Aberystwyth and members of the public. We support sympathetic re-generation of Aberystwyth town centre and were broadly in agreement with the original Masterplan proposal for the Post Office site. We do not support the revised plan, involving the probable demolition of a large part of Chalybeate Street, Queen Street and Great Darkgate Street. We want a response to the following concerns:

· The support for the original Masterplan proposal (from the public consultation of 3.11.08 – 15.12.08) is being used as support for a new, much enlarged plan that bears little resemblance to the ethos and size of the original proposal. When the new plan was put forward to Chamber on Tuesday 24th February 2009, the Cabinet were recommended to agree to the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders based on the public support received for the original plan. The revised plan has NOT received public support.
· Those directly affected by the threat of CPOs have still not been contacted and informed by representatives of Ceredigion County Council, the Welsh Assembly Government or the developers. Why not?
· If the properties on Chalybeate Street and Great Darkgate Street are purchased with the use or back up of Compulsory Purchase Orders, will they be owned by the Council, and if not by whom? Furthermore, who then stands to gain from the increased value of the properties once the site becomes a prime location?
· We demand a new public consultation process for the revised development proposal.
· Until a public consultation goes ahead there should be no further progress on this development.
· We understand there is a Full Council meeting on April 30th 2009 to decide whether or not CPOs will be implemented. This meeting must be postponed pending genuine public approval of the revised proposal.
· To quote the original Masterplan:
“The majority of the site is hidden from view by the mix of two and three storey Victorian buildings that are typical of Aberystwyth town centre”
“The development of this site shall maximise the space available for the development within the constraints of retained buildings and frontages on the adjacent streets”.
· Have any options been explored which do not involve destroying the traditional buildings, for example the area north of Woolworths which consists of four large shops which have the only 1960’s frontage, thereby saving the valued frontage on Chalybeate Street and working to the original ethos that is emphasised in the Masterplan?

Cadw Calon Aberystwyth
Save Aberystwyth’s Heart

In another development, a concerned resident from Trisant is looking for people to help conduct a street survey at the end of March to gauge public opinion on the issue. She says, "One of the things that has been mentioned by both councillors and Meirion Jones is the supposed public opinion poll, and market research already carried out. I have to ask, where? and when? I have never been approached by anyone in relation to this matter. To date, I have been unable to find anyone who has." Anyone wanting to help with the survey, which is being designed to be as neutral as possible, can contact her at henkeeper@aol.com .

Finally, just to show this blog is even-handed, I'll also publish any arguments in favour of the proposed development that come my way.


Cliciwch i ehangu / Click to enlarge


Call for Full Public Consultation on New Town Centre Plans

Plaid Cymru County Councillor Alun Williams has called for a new full public consultation before any further decisions are made regarding the old sorting office site between Great Darkgate Street and Chalybeate Street in Aberystwyth.

“The six-week public consultation on plans for this part of town only ended on December 15th, just one month before the new plans - two and a half times the size - were made known to councillors. Although the original plans to develop the former sorting office yard were apparently favourably received by the public during the Masterplan consultation, these plans bore no relation to the massively expanded scheme we see now that was launched just one month later. It would be, frankly, dishonest to pretend that public support for the original plan automatically amounts to support for this new one. If the Council, quite rightly, felt the original, relatively modest, plan was important enough for public consultation, then this radical expansion, which was not asked for by the public, should be consulted upon in exactly the same way.”


Traders Meet to Discuss CPO Plans

Thirty people, mainly local small traders, crammed into MG's cafe in Chalybeate Street tonight to discuss how to respond to plans for a massive demolition and re-building programme in Aberystwyth town centre between Great Darkgate Street, Chalybeate Street and Queen Street.

After a lot of discussion the meeting agreed to seek more detailed information and meet again in a week's time. Almost all those speaking were against the plans. However it was pointed out that the plans could benefit some of the multi-national chains occupying small shops in the areas affected. Although some local traders had heard whispers as long as several months ago, the main view expressed was outrage that most traders had heard about potential Compulsory Purchase Orders through the local paper before being approached by either the developer or the County Council.

Key dates in the near future are the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday 12th March which will receive a presentation by the Council's Economic Development Department (only open to Chamber members) and the Town Council meeting on Monday 23rd March which will hear a similar presentation (6.30pm, Swyddfa Sir. Albert Place. Although the public can't participate they're welcome to observe and hear the information).

The County Council are due to discuss plans for possible Compulsory Purchase Orders on April 30th at 10am in Penmorfa, Aberaeron

The Chair of the Chamber of Commerce encouraged all traders present to join the Chamber. Although he himself was not opposed to the scheme and felt there were some benefits, he made it clear that the Chamber would support the views of its members.

For more background see the links below from the Council Cabinet agenda on 24th February at which the decision was taken to pursue the Compulsory Purchase Orders if the Full Council agree. Click on 'Canol Tref Aberystwyth' or 'Aberystwyth Town Centre'.

There's also an online petition, somewhat oddly started by Conservative students, at: http://www.petitiononline.com/aber1/petition.html

And, for those who use Facebook, there's a page entitled 'Say no to Debenhams - say Yes to saving Aberystwyth's local businesses'.