Glyndwr to rise again

Cadw have published a plan to revive the spirit of Owain Glyndwr at key sites across Wales. The historic environment body for Wales proposes a series of major improvements to eight sites aimed at publicising Glyndwr’s life and achievements, improving the conservation of the sites and, of course, bringing money to the areas in the form of heritage tourism.

The eight places identified as best telling the story of Glyndwr’s life and uprising in the 14th century are:
* Aberystwyth Castle
* Canolfan Owain Glyndwr at Machynlleth
* Pennal near Machynlleth
* Harlech Castle
Bryn Glas battlefield at Pilleth near Knighton
Hanmer near Wrexham
* Glyndyfrdwy near Llangollen

The report’s proposals for Aberystwyth Castle, more modest than at some of the sites, include:
* A programme of re-enactments, including Welsh language performances
* Exhibitions and displays in the usually closed tower and underground room
* Interpretation panels
* Signage from the town centre and station
* Flying the Glyndwr flag from the tower all year round

The report points out that Aberystwyth Castle, despite having a, “pleasant, open and welcoming ambience” in a prominent setting a short walk from the town centre is currently downplayed and taken for granted as part of the town. The castle was the scene of a major siege involving Glyndwr towards the end of his uprising.

Canolfan Owain Glyndwr in Machynlleth is now working on a consortium, including Ceredigion Council, around the Aberystwyth/Machylleth/Pennal cluster of sites to access European and other funding based on Cadw’s proposals.

Although Glyndwr’s main image is as a warrior (as in the above statue in Corwen), he was a much more rounded figure than that with interests in higher education and internationalism. Whilst he's very well known to Welsh nationalists, Cadw’s plans will raise awareness amongst the mainstream population and visitors to Wales.


Prom bikes plan shelved till the Autumn

The plan to provide a motorbike parking area on Aberystwyth promenade (covered here) has been shelved until the Autumn following public protests. The delay will give the Council time to re-think the plans in the light of the comments made.

I have to say I feel a little sorry for Ceredigion's Highways department. They must be getting used to this kind of situation. It doesn't matter what the issue is, the scenario goes like this:

1/ There are widespread public protests about something or other. Everyone seems to be unanimous that 'something must be done'. So clear is the public view being expressed that it seems a waste of resources to do a full consultation.

2/ The Council takes heed and puts a plan together.

3/ On hearing of the plan, a completely different set of people, maybe even larger than the first and who were previously silent, launch a major counter-protest.

4/ Those originally calling for the plan melt away.

5/ The Council retreats with its tail between its legs.


Aberystwyth Roundup

Ceredigion Council continues to pursue the building of a multi-storey car park on the site of the current Mill Street car park. The Cabinet have now agreed the criteria for choosing the developer which will include stipulations on the quality of the building, use of local materials and support for the independent retail sector in the town. It’s hoped the building could be complete by 2014.

Plans to create a school for 3-19 year-olds in the Tregaron area have been passed in principle by Ceredigion’s Council Cabinet. Although the decision will involve closing several small schools in the area, it’s been far less controversial than similar plans for the Llandysul area passed three weeks ago because input from Assembly Member Elin Jones and County Councillor Catherine Hughes among others has succeeded in brokering two crucial concessions with the County Council’s education department.

A new federal primary school will be built at a site yet to be identified to the west of Tregaron to cover Llangeitho, Bronant and Penuwch schools. Similarly, a federal primary school will be created in Pontrhydfendigaid to cover the area to the north of Tregaron. There have been widespread concerns about the future viability of Tregaron secondary school which currently has over 200 vacancies and the plan is intended to end these worries. The planned new school will also be Welsh-medium, a step which will significantly help the long-term future of the language in North Ceredigion. Consultations involved a series of meetings with school governors and two public meetings. The Council will now proceed with a formal consultation, in line with legislation, to close the existing schools at Tregaron, Lledrod, Bronant, Llangeitho, Penuwch, Pontrhydfendigaid and Llanddewi Brefi.

Aberystwyth Town Council has moved to the (currently) stifling heat of the top floor of the Business Centre in Baker Street after being ejected from the Town Hall in preparation for the development of a new library there.

Hywel Dda Health Board's consultation on changing the official name of Carmarthen Hospital from ‘West Wales General’ to Glangwili Hospital has ended. On deadline day the internal staff poll was running at 58.3% in favour with 41.7% against whilst, the last time I looked, the public poll was running at a much clearer 80% in favour.

Siop y Parc in Blaenplwyf was the venue for the launch last week by Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones and Assembly Member Elin Jones of a scheme to offer grants of up to £1,000 to people and small businesses living in broadband not-spots. A total of £2 million is being made available by the Welsh Government to finance the cost of installation with individuals and businesses being able to combine their applications to buy a broadband solution for their wider community.

An exhibition of children’s drawings from Gaza will be on display at the Officers Club, Terrace Road, Aberystwyth from 12th – 17th July with support from the United Nations.

The Welsh Arts Council has announced that all four arts organisations in Ceredigion currently receiving support from them will continue to do so in the next financial year. The four are Aberystwyth Art Centre, Cwmni Theatr Arad Goch, Theatr Felinfach and Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan.

Plaid Cymru activists are meeting at Aberystwyth University this weekend for their Summer School, an event the party have been holding since the 1930s. Aberystwyth will also be the venue for the party’s annual conference from 9th – 11th September to be held at the Art Centre.

A recent report on the seaside industry has estimated that 1,200 jobs are directly supported by seaside tourism in Aberystwyth. The report also found that the seaside tourist industry adds £300 million a year to the Welsh economy.

Aberystwyth University have submitted a planning application for a ground source heat pump on land next to Pantycelyn hall of residence.


Seagull season again

This slightly lost looking chap is a juvenile herring gull. And he’s probably hungry. There are plenty of them around Aberystwyth at the moment and, as happens at this time every year, they’re out looking for food the easiest way they know – by breaking into black bin bags on Tuesday and Thursday mornings which are rubbish collection days in Aberystwyth town centre. The result is often rubbish strewn all over the streets until a Council worker arrives to clean it all up.

Ceredigion Council regularly receives pleas from residents to find a way to end the problem. As an opposition councillor it would, of course, be easy for me to criticise, say, the Cabinet Member for Environmental Services over this. But, having regularly lobbied Council officers on the issue over the years, I know they’ve explored every conceivable avenue. Some of these have been more effective than others (last year a thicker kind of plastic bag was trialled - the seagulls laughed and pecked their way through them) but I like to think some of the measures they have adopted have been put in place because of the lobbying we’ve done.

Aberystwyth town centre is full of Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) and narrow pavements, neither of which can accommodate proper bins. Bearing in mind these unavoidable physical limitations, let’s look at the more successful steps that have been taken over the past couple of years:

1/ A separate food waste collection has been introduced using hard containers so that black bags contain much less food than in the past, thereby reducing the incentive to the gulls.

2/ On most days council officers are out cleaning the streets from 6am. On Tuesdays and Thursdays – collection days – additional Environmental Services officers are out monitoring the way black bags are put out and searching damaged bags for evidence of names and addresses. Working on the premise that the best way forward is to target individual transgressors, they then knock on the doors of those with damaged bags and discuss with the resident alternative ways of presenting their waste, e.g. was the bag put out at the correct time, is the property suitable for a hard bin (which the Council provides cheaply), do they make use of the recycling collection etc...

3/ If no-one is in a letter is sent to the resident and/or landlord. In the case of HMOs copies are then sent to the Council’s HMO Officer who then tackles the landlords individually. Since the beginning of the season in March close to 150 such letters have been sent out. Only a handful of properties have had to be told a second time.

4/ Each term all 8,000 students are e-mailed with advice on putting out their waste via the University e-mail system. Council officers also attend the Fresher’s Fayre

5/ Lastly, in a new move that hasn't yet received publicity, the Council last week passed a motion to bring in on-the-spot fines of up to £300 for people leaving out black bags on the wrong day and other littering offences.

Is this enough? Could more be done? One solution often mooted is a cull. Quite apart from the public outcry these generate, attempted culls have been found to be ineffective as the birds killed are quickly replaced by others. Anyone wanting to conduct a cull would require a licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This specifically excludes the opening of rubbish bags, noise or droppings as a justification so a license would probably not be forthcoming.

My feeling is that, if the Council is taking all the reasonable steps above, then the next most important thing is to give good publicity to who to contact when a mess is created and respond instantly to calls. That way any litter problems are short-lived.

The seagull problem is only there, of course, because we feed them our rubbish each week. The gulls are probably very grateful and must think we love them. Unwittingly the Council may now have come up with a measure to address this that looks likely to be far more effective than all the others brought in so far. As reported on this blog, at an unspecified time in the next couple of years, and for reasons unrelated to gulls, the Council intends to increase its recycling collection to weekly and to cut the collections of those enticing (to a herring gull) black bags to fortnightly. At a stroke this would reduce by a half the food available on the streets.

A couple of years ago I was at a public meeting of around 80 townspeople at the Morlan in which the seagulls issue was raised. The chair decided to hold an impromptu straw poll on whether ‘something should be done’ or not. When the hands were raised it became obvious the meeting was split down the middle.

So, over to you. Do you think the seagull situation is a real problem or fuss about nothing? Has it got worse or better in the last couple of years? Is the Council doing enough and, most importantly, given the realities of the situation, is there anything you think it could do better?