Seven steps to a green economy for Ceredigion

Plaid Cymru yesterday brought back memories of Cynog Dafis’s historic reign as Plaid Green MP for eight years between 1992 and 2000 when their 2010 parliamentary candidate Penri James launched a new document, ‘Seven steps to a green economy for Ceredigion’.

The document was written by Penri in collaboration with Peter Midmore, Professor of Economics at Aberystwyth University. The photo shows Penri discussing the publication at its launch yesterday in Owain Glyndwr Square, Aberystwyth with Professor Midmore and Rhondda Assembly Member Leanne Wood.

The seven steps, which the document discusses in detail, are:
* Improving home energy efficiency
* Investing in green construction skills
* Creating spaces to grow food
* Increasing the use of bio-energy
* Integrating public transport
* Creating more cycling and walking routes
* Educating for sustainable lifestyles

Penri James said,
“This action plan contains a range of practical ideas which will contribute in a small way towards tackling global environmental problems. But it also offers ways for us in Ceredigion to improve the quality of our lives and to kick-start the local economy.”

The booklet can be obtained from the Plaid Office in Pier Street or by e-mailing me at alunw@ceredigion.gov.uk for an electronic copy.


Plaid call for supermarkets to stock Welsh milk

Plaid Cymru’s Assembly Member Elin Jones and Penri James have called on Ceredigion’s supermarkets to improve the availability of Welsh milk on their shelves.

Over the past fortnight, Plaid have been surveying the origin of both organic and non-organic milk on sale at supermarkets and large convenience stores throughout Ceredigion.

Three supermarkets came out on top. - CK’s at Waun Fawr, Aberystwyth, Sainsbury’s in Lampeter and Tesco in Cardigan all offered shoppers the opportunity to purchase both organic and non-organic milk from Welsh farms.

Of the 16 places visited, six stores (37 per cent) did not sell any Welsh milk at all. These included discount supermarkets Lidl and Aldi, and the Iceland chain. Organic milk from Wales was available at 50 per cent of the stores visited while non-organic Welsh milk was available at only 31 per cent of the shops.

Penri James said:
“I’m extremely disappointed that such a large proportion of Ceredigion’s supermarkets and convenience stores don’t offer Welsh milk to customers. It’s essential that we support our local agriculture industry as much as possible and I believe that supermarkets have a role to play to help consumers proactively purchase Welsh milk."

Elin Jones said:
“Penri and I have now written to each retailer highlighted in our survey, congratulating those who are already stocking Welsh milk while urging the others to do the same. We were particularly concerned that the Co-operative is only stocking Welsh milk at its Lampeter store, and have asked the chain’s Chief Executive why the same cannot be done at its Aberystwyth and Cardigan stores.

“There's clearly a demand for Welsh milk among consumers and, at present, this demand isn’t being met in all instances. I’d therefore urge Ceredigion residents to ask their local supermarket to start supplying Welsh milk if they don’t already do so. Consumer power is hugely influential on the activities of supermarkets”.


Ceredigion consults on how to improve recycling

Ceredigion Council are conducting a consultation on how to take forward their recycling service after the National Assembly asked councils to look at how they can reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

Ceredigion currently recycles more waste than any other local authority in Wales. The options being looked at for improving this further include:
· increasing the number of houses offered kerbside recycling
· changes to the way recyclables are collected,
· increasing the separate food waste collection service
· changing the way the Council collects waste that can’t be recycled

Particularly under scrutiny is food waste. When this goes to landfill it breaks down and produces methane, a much more powerful contributor to climate change than carbon dioxide. Currently around 5000 households in the Aberystwyth area receive a food waste collection service and expanding this into other areas is a strong possibility together with encouragement for traditional garden composting.

You can access the consultation at:


Planning enforcement at breaking point in Ceredigion

The dire situation with enforcement of planning laws in Ceredigion was highlighted in last week’s meeting of the Council’s Development Control Committee.

The meeting heard that Ceredigion’s sole planning officer receives an average of 400 cases a year. Going around Wales, with most councils having at least two enforcement officers, the next hardest working officer only has to deal with 200 cases a year. When I raised this in the meeting I was told that the astonishing difference in workload between Ceredigion’s enforcement service and others was due to lack of financial resources.

There have been many cases (for example below and here) where, because Ceredigion’s planning enforcement service is so stretched, it's not been possible to be pro-active in monitoring situations where planning rules are in danger of being infringed. Things have consequently exacerbated and legal officers, estates officers or health & safety officers have ended up getting involved before the situation can be resolved.

Some of these issues could cost the council less money if they were nipped in the bud early in the process. At the same time a small number of developers know the situation and are taking advantage by sailing close to the wind.

Planning enforcement needs to be properly resourced in Ceredigion and the figures from across Wales show how stretched things are here compared to other places.


Caravan residents threatened with eviction amidst legal chaos

Residents of 44 residential caravans are threatened with losing their homes in Aberystwyth Holiday Village at Trefechan after it was discovered that they had been sold plots without planning permission over a period of up to 20 years.

The issue arose in last week’s Development Control Committee which heard a retrospective planning application for the residential caravans from the site owner. The application is attempting to rectify a situation that had been brought to light by Plaid Cymru councillor Aled Davies during his successful by-election campaign in July 2008 when he took up the many legal irregularities on the site on behalf of residents. Of the 172 caravans on the site 68 are lived in permanently but only 24 of these have planning permission for permanent residential as opposed to holiday use. The conditions on the site currently fall well short of those legally required for permanent dwellings.

The problem for the County Council is that, as they now fully acknowledge, the situation should have been sorted out when they issued the current owner with a new license as far back as 1989. At that time, with the site having just changed hands, there were even more unauthorised residential caravans on the site than now, and yet a license was still issued. In the intervening years council inspectors have failed to do anything about this situation and, indeed, the council has been claiming council tax on the dwellings. This makes the legal situation extremely complicated. The whole shambles is really a relic of a bygone, less stringent age and could keep lawyers busy for years.

I went round the park with Aled during his by-election campaign and spoke to many of the residents. Almost all had bought caravans to live in permanently because they couldn’t afford to buy a house and had put all their savings into buying these places. Because buying a caravan doesn’t usually involve all the legal checks entailed in buying a house they had only become aware of the planning situation as time went by.

If the residents are thrown off their plots, as long-term residents, the council would be responsible for housing them, adding substantially to the already huge waiting list for local housing.

The meeting also heard that if these people weren’t allowed to live at the holiday village any longer there would be no decrease in the number of caravans, just a change in their occupants - from full-time residents to holiday makers. These caravans are currently well looked after by largely retired people who care about them.

Planning officers recommended that the application for residential use be refused in line with the Council’s general policy against residential caravans. However, mindful of the desperate need of these particular residents, members of the Development Control Committee voted to give the owner of the holiday village two months to agree to strict (and costly) conditions for bringing the site up to a legal standard with a view to granting planning permission if he can comply.


The last Ceredigion snow report (?)

Here’s what will hopefully be the last necessary report on snow clearance work in Ceredigion:

Salt Stocks – 715 tonnes
Salt received today – A surprise 142 tonnes from Salt Union in Cheshire
Salt and grit spread within the last 24 hours – 44 tonnes

Primary routes – 1 pre salt run carried out. The ploughs, snow blowers and JCBs used to clear drifting and laying snow on the primary routes

Secondary routes – Snow blowing and clearing on secondary routes, also minor roads with more JCBs being hired to continue the work.

Road Closures – Some lower class roads still closed but snow clearance work in hand on those routes

Refuse collection – Refuse collection, having been suspended, was carried out today. Normal daily collection would be approx 100 tonnes whereas 229 tonnes was collected today. A lot more resources will be directed to refuse collection starting on Monday and the intention is to revert to the normal collection schedule. It may require more than one journey into each community as the week goes on, so residents shouldn’t panic if they see the rubbish lorry driving away leaving rubbish behind – it will return. Manpower deployed 130 using 50 vehicles.There will be no refuse collection over the weekend but snow clearance will continue on minor roads.

The picture shows the scene near Talgarreg

Thanks to Ray Quant for the info


Rural snow

Now that the snow's cleared in Aberystwyth it's easy for us living in town to forget the situation in the rural areas. This picture was taken last night in Pisgah, six miles out between Capel Seion and Devil's Bridge.

Diolch i Jim Griffiths am y llun

Clarach Road car park gets the go-ahead

Ceredigion Council’s Development Control Committee have voted unanimously to give planning permission to a 200-space car park on Clarach Road to the north of Aberystwyth. Half the car park is intended to act as a replacement for the main Bronglais Hospital car park during the intensive building programme due to start there in February whilst the other half will be for University students. In five years time the site will revert to being solely for university students.

The application has proved to be controversial, with local residents objecting strongly to the use of a greenfield site on the edge of town.

The hospital need to find a semi-permanent off site car park as part of the planning permission for their new development in order to avoid chaos in the streets around the hospital. Similarly, the university have long sought a car park to prevent its students having to park in the streets around the town.

Although protestors have argued that catering for cars in any way at all worsens the problems they cause, many environmentalists regard Park & Rides as the best way to reduce pollution caused by traffic jams in town centres.

Aberystwyth University have stated an intention to concentrate all their facilities, some of which are currently located close to the town centre, on the Penglais campus in the future. They have several planning applications in process at the moment with more believed to be on the way


Refuse collections resume in Aberystwyth...and Wednesday night gritting report

Domestic refuse collection for Aberystwyth Town, Penparcau and Llanbadarn Fawr areas will resume tomorrow (Thursday 14th). Decisions on resuming the service in the rest of the county will be taken tomorrow. This will depend on an improving weather situation.

Ceredigion Council's Highways department reports,
"The Department is receiving many complaints about refuse not being collected. Radio Ceredigion were asked to issue bulletins but in this instance it seems to have had limited success in getting the message over to residents."

The rest of tonight's report on the weather situation runs as follows:

"Salt Stocks – 475 tonnes
Salt received today 145 tonnes. Further supplies expected during next two days.
Salt and grit spread within the last 24 hours – minimal usage to weather conditions, where it has been snow ploughs and blowers.

"Primary routes – All plant engaged in ploughing and four snow blowers have been fully deployed plus using JCBs to clear drifting and laying snow.

"Secondary routes – Minimal work carried out on secondary routes due the work required in keeping the primary routes open

"Road closures – Many roads were closed during the day and some were reopened. Roads still closed late afternoon were:

"A486 between Synod Inn and Ffostrasol
B4571 at Penrhiwpal
A4120 Pisgah – Trisant Junction
A4120 Ponterwyd – Devils Bridge
B4343 Pontrhydfendigiad – Ffairhos
B4343 Devils Bridge – Pontrhydygroes

"Bus Services – Many commercial bus services were suspended during the day and a number of schools buses from the following areas could not run into Penglais and Penweddig – Devils Bridge , Pontrhydygroes, Llanafa, Llangwyryfon, Cwmsymlog.

"Manpower deployed 170 using 53 vehicles.

"The Department continues to work extremely hard with the ongoing operational situation, including the Glanyrafon support workers who ensure the equipment is maintained plus the other support services which all add to a successful team ethos."


Ceredigion donates land for allotments

Ceredigions Council’s Cabinet today agreed to lease land to Aberystwyth Town Council to create new allotments. The agreement follows long-running requests for the council to find land to reduce the current five-year waiting list for vegetable plots.

It is estimated that the area, which is next to the current allotments in Penparcau, could accommodate around to eight new plots. The Council had also received a request from the adjoining caravan park to provide an amenity area for park customers but the owner was apparently only prepared to pay a nominal sum so the request was rejected in favour of the Town Council.

The terms of the lease have yet to be agreed. The Town Council will first have to fund the laying out and fencing of the allotments together with supplying water.


Ceredigion - Monday night gritting report

Salt Stocks – 510 tonnes
Salt received today – 96 tonnes from Salt Union in Cheshire
Salt and grit spread in the last 24 hours – approx 120 tonnes

Primary routes - 2 pre salt runs carried out County wide. Secondary routes – Gritting of more secondary routes carried out today to all the main towns and main route into the main County settlements where possible.

Grit Bins. Whilst the Department has been restocking grit bins when access and supplies allow, the following press release has been issued:

The effectiveness of the restocking is being reviewed as there is evidence that the bins are being emptied within the hour and the grit removed for use other than spreading on the carriageway adjacent to the bin.

Of greater concern is the suggestion that some are taking advantage of the cold weather by stealing grit and then cold calling on the elderly offering to grit their driveway or path for a charge. The Council’s Principal Trading Standards Officer, is advising members of the public who are approached by any such person to be on their guard; to always ask for identification and if possible make a note of any vehicle and its registration number. Anyone who is approached by a person offering to grit their path or driveway is advised to contact the Council’s Trading Standards Section on 01545 572105

Road closures due to weather conditions:
All primary routes are open

Roads closed but passable with 4X4
Borth to Clarach, Cwmystwyth, Glanyrafon Farm, Dyffryn Castell to the Ford.

Police have requested closure of the road between Blaenwaun, Gwenlli and Caerwedros Square and the road from Caerwedros Square to the Crown Inn, Llwyndafydd. The roads have been treated but remain treacherous.

The road between Capel Dewi and Llandysul, known as Penrhiw is also closed.

The refuse collection service still remains suspended due to the staff being transferred to winter maintenance duties. This will be reviewed on Wednesday

The Highways Department continues to assist with meals on wheels, with the assistance of the Mid Wales 4x4 Club. They have also assisted the Health Trust and Social Services through the deliveries of essential drugs and transporting 20 carers to their clients.

The Department is still responding to boiler failures and an increasing number of burst pipes, so all in all the workers are extremely busy.

Manpower deployed in the last 24 hours 170 using 50 vehicles.

All Local Authorities have been instructed to reduce salt usage by 25% to conserve stocks over the coming weeks. The Highways Department will continue to monitor salt usage and depending on the weather over the next few days and the availability of salt supplies, may reach the point where the treatment of secondary routes will be reduiced or curtailed. Tiredness is beginning to creep in, especially for the drivers who have been out day and night for the past week, often driving in hazardous conditions.


Ceredigion - Sunday night gritting report

Salt Stocks - 480 tonnes
Salt received today – 100 tonnes from Salt Union in Cheshire. Hopefully we'll receive a further 100 tonnes on Monday
Salt and Grit spread within past 24 hours – approx 170 tonnes

Primary routes – 2 pre salt runs carried out. Secondary routes – Gritting continues and more routes have been opened up. There should now be an access route to all sizeable communities.

Snow clearance has been carried out during the day on the Cwm Ystwyth loop, though access to Ystumtuen continues to be passable using 4X4. Likewise the Clarach to Borth route is still closed by the police, whilst the Buarth area and Penparcau estate roads have all been treated and are accessible again. More pavements have been cleared in both the North and South of the County. Grit bins will continue to be replenished as stocks allow.

Whilst the situation has improved due to the slight rise in temperature, we shouldn’t become complacent especially as heavy snow is forecast for parts of the country during Tuesday/Wednesday and it remains to be seen how it will affect Ceredigion.

The Highways Department deployed 70 workers during Sunday and 32 vehicles.

The refuse collection service will be reviewed on Monday.

Thanks to Ray Quant for the info


School closures affecting services and the economy

Ceredigion County Council has appealed to National Assembly Ministers to postpone the A, AS and GCSE exams due to take place in secondary schools across Wales next week. Ceredigion's appeal apparently also has the backing of Powys Council.

Up to now I’ve supported the weather-related decisions taken by Ceredigion Council in difficult circumstances, but I do seriously question the readiness of the Education Department to allow its schools to close. Although Aberystwyth town is one of the areas least badly hit by the snow, all schools have been shut with parents being told that, for health & safety reasons, they won’t open again until pavements around the schools are free from ice. With more snow forecast for Sunday and Monday and temperatures set to remain at or below freezing there seems to be a real possibility of some schools being shut for a full two weeks after the Christmas holidays have ended.

Apart from the disruption to the education programme, this means hundreds of parents staying away from work to look after their children with all the impact on other services and the economy that this entails, including cancelled hospital operations. The knock-on effect of scores of workers being absent in addition to those who genuinely can’t get to work doesn’t seem to have been taken into account.

Maybe the mild winters of recent years have left us out of the habit of coping with bad weather. I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had with people over a certain age talking fondly about walking to school through snow drifts and the ice slides they used to play on in the playgrounds.

I fully recognise that some children in rural areas will find it impossible to get to school. But in my view the schools should be open for those who can make it. If the issue has now become the safety of pavements around the schools and the fear of Councils being sued if someone slips over then surely it would be worth prioritising clearing these in order to get the community functioning again. I see today’s Cardiff v. Blackpool match has gone ahead after the club organised fans to help clear the concourse around the ground.

The issue of whether exams should take place next week is, of course, a slightly different issue. Wales has to be treated as a whole in any decision taken in order to maintain the confidentiality of the exam papers. Ceredigion seem to have appealed to the Assembly without realising they really needed to be putting their energies into enlisting the support of other councils around Wales. Other than Powys, that doesn’t seem to have been forthcoming. The Welsh Joint Education Committee disagree with Ceredigion and the exams will be going ahead regardless, forcing secondary schools to open. How much easier would that be now if they hadn’t all closed in the first place?


Ceredigion gritting update

The latest situation in Ceredigion as received at 10.48 tonight:

Salt Stocks - 700 tonnes
Salt received today - 100 tonnes from Salt Union
Salt and Grit spread in the past 24 hrs – approx 240 tonnes.

Primary routes: 2 salt runs carried out county wide. Secondary routes: Gritting of some secondary routes to all the main towns and a main route in the main County settlements where possible. This will continue over the weekend.

Grit bins are being replenished as access to them and supplies allow; especially as the crews move into the secondary areas.

Roads: All primary routes open. Police have requested closure of Clarach to Borth (salted but still treacherous), Buarth Area Aberystwyth (salted but still treacherous), Some estate roads in Penparcau

Cwm Ystwyth loop and Ystumtuen passable with 4X4

Some pavements have been cleared/gritted throughout the County during the day.

The highways department deployed 172 workers during past 24 hours using 50 vehicles.

The highways department is still assisting with Meals on Wheels and assistance now being given to providing transport for Social Service carers.
The department is also now responding to boiler failures and burst pipes.

Thanks to Ray Quant for the information

Ceredigion refuse collection suspended

Domestic refuse and recycling collections have been suspended across the whole of Ceredigion until further notice.

Ceredigion Council's Highways, Property and Works staff are working 24-hour shifts with refuse collection and other staff being redeployed to help with clearing secondary roads and pavements.

Residents are being asked to take back from the kerbside bags they have put out in the expectation of them being collected.

Many areas have not received their scheduled refuse collection in the last 24 hours but it's only today that a decision has been taken to suspend the service for the foreseeable future.

From Monday 11th Ceredigion's website will carry daily information noting whether or not services remain suspended.


Ceredigion gritting latest

Latest report on Ceredigion's winter maintenance situation received at 10pm tonight:

"Brief update for past 24 hrs. Our salt stocks are approx 725 tonnes. We received 80 tons today and hopefully we may receive 120 tonnes tomorrow. We have spread approx 195 tonnes in the past 24 hours.

"All primary routes remain open though the police requested closure of Clarach to Borth and the Buarth area in Aberystwyth. Ploughing and gritting of some secondary routes was carried out today. Secondary routes still require extreme caution with some minor roads still heavily iced with some overlain snow.

"The refuse collection service has been suspended as manpower has been diverted to winter maintenance duties. This will be reviewed on Monday. Residents are advised to retain the rubbish until the next scheduled collection. Those who live near civic amenity sites always have the option of taking their rubbish to the site.

"The department has deployed 172 workers during the last 24 hrs with about 40 vehicles being deployed. Some local contractors are being used for snow clearance using JCB’s.

"Manual staff are engaged in delivery of meals on wheels. We are also assisting in maintaining services to the Residential Homes and agreed protocols for assisting the Social Services Department. Protocols have been set up with the Local Health Board to assist where possible in the delivery of essential drugs."


Ceredigion saving its salt

Cyngor Sir Ceredigion has announced it will prioritise keeping the county's primary road network open over the coming days and will not be salting minor roads at all.

A spokesperson for Ceredigion County Council explained,
"Before each winter, stockpiles of salt totalling 5,750 tonnes are accumulated and stored at the two Ceredigion Depots located near Llandysul and at Aberystwyth. We currently have 1,500 tonnes remaining but it is important to conserve those stocks as very many areas of the UK have much less stocks remaining and may need to be re-stocked before we do”.

The Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Ray Quant, said,
“At this time we have approximately enough salt to see out the week should the cold weather continue and we are unable to obtain further salt supplies. To conserve salt supplies to concentrate on the primary routes we have stopped salting secondary routes.

“There are seven local authorities in a worse position than Ceredigion in terms of salt stocks and therefore it is anticipated that the Assembly may reintroduce ‘Salt Cell’ this week, where they co-ordinate the supply of salt to and between Local Authorities.. The overall situation for the wider UK is gloomier for some authorities recently hit by the heavy snow falls.”

One farmer last week had to pour away 2000 litres of milk and expects to have to do the same again because the milk tanker is unable to travel on an un-gritted unclassified road.