Scallop Dredging Ban Proposed

The National Assembly has launched a consultation into scallop dredging which recommends banning or dramatically reducing the activity in much of Cardigan Bay.

Scallop fishing has become extremely controversial in recent years with large scallop trawlers clunking and scraping their way across the sea bed, scouring everything in their path. It’s reported that for every kilogram of scallops caught, 14kg of other species is destroyed at the same time. Scallops are now fetching £1865 per tonne, the demand recently being boosted by the recipes of celebrity chefs.

Cardigan Bay has two Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), designated because of the variety of animal and plant life. The Cardigan Bay SAC stretches from Moylgrove in North Pembrokeshire up to Aberarth in Ceredigion. The Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau SAC runs from Clarach, just north of Aberystwyth, round to Nefyn on the north side of Pen Llyn. At present around two thirds of these SACs are used for dredging.

The consultation proposes banning dredging in these areas and limiting the size of dredgers and their equipment everywhere else in time for the next dredging season starting on November 1st.

The consultation, being run by the Assembly's Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Elin Jones, can be found at:


LLanbadarn Bypass Disappears

In news that will delight local environmentalists, the proposed Llanbadarn Fawr Bypass near Aberystwyth has slipped off the National Assembly's radar altogether in their latest National Transport Plan.

The plan, released last week, lists all planned major transport projects in Wales until 2014. The Llanbadarn Bypass has been the most campaigned for road project in the Aberystwyth area over the years and does seem to have the support of the majority of people in Llanbadarn village which has to cope with 19,000 vehicles passing through each day. It was planned to run from near the Parc y Llyn roundabout on the outskirts of the town to the Glanyrafon junction on the A44. However, despite generally prioritising north-south road links, the Assembly's Trunk Road Agency believe that the improvements made to the Llanbadarn junction in 2006, in which two mini-roundabouts were installed along with pedestrian refuguges, should be able to cope with projected traffic growth up to at least 2019.

Despite the weight of support for the project locally, I've always been extremely sceptical that any benefits brought by a bypass could be worth the destruction of so much greenfield space alongside the river Rheidol. Although the traffic congestion through Llanbadarn can seem bad by Aberystwyth standards, it is still relatively mild and short-lived when compared to other traffic hotspots across Wales. Bypasses are also known for ultimately creating more road traffic.

One benefit of the bypass plan has been the safeguarding of the proposed route against other developments. If Ceredigion Council gives up on the project entirely this land may become vulnerable to development, although flood risk may still help to prevent this.

The only mentions of Ceredigion in Wales's National Transport Plan are a very welcome promise to introduce hourly rail services between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury by 2011 and further work on the Ceredigion Link Road between Synod Inn and Carmarthen.

The plan is being consulted on until October 12th. It can be seen at:


Bronglais Expansion Back on Track After Council Supports Park & Ride

Bronglais Hospital's Front-of-House extension is back on track after Ceredigion Council's Development Control Committee gave the go ahead to the linked Park & Ride scheme on Clarach Road once there's been agreement on minimising how the proposed subdued lighting will affect the local bat population. Despite 40 objections from people keen to save the field due to be used for the scheme, the committee felt that the risk of losing the hospital extension altogether was so great that they voted overwhelmingly to allow planning permission.

Although objectors suggested more suitable sites for the scheme, NHS executives had been making it clear for some time that the funding window is running out and any more delays would be very likely to result in the allocated £34 million going elsewhere as the NHS braces itself for major cuts in the next few years. Members of the Development Control Committee are used to developers pleading urgency in this way but NHS insiders have been becoming increasingly agitated that this threat is for real. There are senior NHS executives in south Wales who would be only too delighted to have the Bronglais money - the biggest capital project in Hywel Dda Trust - re-allocated to their own pet projects. The potentially catastrophic effects of losing the project - closure of the current sub-standard theatres, leading to the loss of A & E and the downgrading of the whole hospital - was a risk the committee were simply not prepared to take. Two years ago several hundred people marched around Aberystwyth campaigning for the hospital's status to be maintained.

Council Highways officers have for some time been looking for Park & Ride sites for both the north and south of Aberystwyth in an attempt to reduce morning queues into the town. Slow-moving traffic is the most carbon-intensive form of car use. The search for a similar site to the south is ongoing.

Other Aberystwyth planning issues decided:
The major extension to the Llety Parc Hotel in Llanbadarn has been put on hold again after the Environment Agency expressed serious concerns about flooding. Planning officers had recommended outright refusal of the application but councillors sympathetic to the locally-run business argued for more time to discuss a way of managing the risk. Council legal officers said that allowing the application without a proper flood risk plan would leave the Council, and maybe individual councillors, liable for damages in the event of a flood.
An innovative extension to Ysgol Plas Crug with strong sustainability credentials, including a turf roof, has been agreed.


Assembly Consulting on Charging for Plastic Bags

Ceredigion's Assembly Member Elin Jones has urged local residents to respond to a consultation launched this week by the One Wales Government on plans to reduce the availability of free single-use plastic bags in Wales .

The Assembly's Environment Minister, Jane Davidson AM, this week announced that she's seeking views on a proposal to introduce a charge for single-use plastic bags in Wales . In particular, the Minister wants views on what types of bags should be included in a scheme and how much retailers should charge for bags.

Elin Jones said:
“Despite positive steps being taken by many supermarkets to cut down on the amount of single-use plastic bags given out in the UK , we still have a long way to go to reduce the environmental impact of these bags – especially since they take hundreds of years to decompose.

“I hope Ceredigion residents will provide their views on these proposals in order to ensure any resulting legislation strikes the most appropriate balance between meeting the needs of consumers and protecting the environment”.

This is an issue that many people in Aberystwyth have campaigned on but, because local councils don't have the power to enforce a policy if this kind, it's proved very difficult to make progress. Only towns like Totnes in Devon, with an unusually large number of independent, green-minded businesses, have succeeded in getting a voluntary town-wide agreement to eradicate free plastic bags. The Assembly, on the other hand, now has the power to use the Climate Change Act 2008 so it's at this level that we're most likely to get some action.

Details of the consultation and how to take part are here:


Aberystwyth Night Time Economy Project Saved

Aberystwyth Town Council this week saved the town's Night Time Economy Project when it agreed to give the scheme a grant of £14,000. The scheme had been running for the past year and was judged to be very successful at curbing the alcoholic excesses that often cause town residents and the police so much trouble at night. But funding streams had dried up and the project was in danger of folding completely. £14,000 is a very large grant for the Town Council but, judging from complaints regularly received from residents, the cost was felt to be justified as helping to provide the kind of practical help that people living in the town are requesting.

The scheme looks at the night time economy as a whole and works with everyone involved – drinkers, landlords, the university, taxi drivers, the ambulance service and the police - in helping to reduce the harm caused by alcohol to both local residents and drinkers themselves whilst still encouraging the town to be a vibrant place at night. This includes broadening out what’s on offer to include entertainment not involving alcohol.

The scheme can now carry on for another year and, whilst Aberystwyth will remain the focus of its operations, will also be extended to other towns in Ceredigion.

The Hogarth painting above depicts a typical night time scene in Aberystwyth prior to the commencement of the Night Time Economy Project.