Aberystwyth Chamber of Commerce backs Mill Street plans

Aberystwyth's Chamber of Commerce, which represents around 60 town centre small businesses, has given conditional backing to the building of a multi-storey car park and major supermarket on the town's Mill Street car park.

A letter from the Chamber, sent last Friday, says,

"The Aberystwyth Chamber of Commerce would like to express their support for the decision made to appoint a Tesco-led development on Mill St.

"This support is conditional upon there being sufficient municipal car parking provision that is available for all users of the town centre and not exclusive to the users of the Mill St development.

"Whilst Tesco may not be an ideal choice for a lot of people the primary consideration must be to ensure that the Mill St development takes place as quickly as possible to provide a regeneration fillip to the town. We are hopeful that this can be a catalyst to attract other quality retailers such as Marks and Spencer onto the other available sites within or close to the Town Centre.

"As ever the devil is in the detail in these deals and we would appreciate being kept informed of progress so that we can maintain a supportive role in the process.

"As an aside, it would have been a considerate gesture from the developer if consideration could have been made to relocating or retaining the day centre within the development."

Meanwhile, this morning's meeting of the Council's Economic Development Scrutiny Committee voted, following a lively and lengthy discussion on all the ramifications, to back the Cabinet's decision last Tuesday (see story below) to support the Mill Street scheme with the additional recommendation that, "All capital receipts be retained by the Council to sustain and enhance the retail provision of the town". The discussion was held after six councillors (including this one) signed a motion to 'call-in' the Cabinet decision for more scrutiny.

Open public discussion of the scheme has been beset by commercial confidentiality and procurement regulation restrictions. Full details are now expected to be made public in the next couple of weeks.


Mill Street decision called in

The decision of Ceredigion Council's Cabinet to appoint a developer for Aberystwyth's Mill Street Car Park Scheme has been 'called in' by backbench councillors.

Under the Council's standing orders, a Cabinet decision can be called back for discussion by the wider Council before being enacted. The Cabinet decided, at their meeting on 13th September, to appoint the highest scoring tender for the site ('Bidder A') using a matrix for deciding competing bids set up by the Council under strict European procurement regulations.  The Cabinet voted to authorise Council Officers to agree and finalise all contracts associated with the development and to authorise officers to also explore any further development opportuniites emerging elsewhere in the town. 

Six councillors are required to sign a call-in request and that number was reached only a few hours before today's 5pm deadline. The wider Council will now discuss the plans atv a meeting within the next couple of weeks, although commercial confidentiality rules will prevent this being held in public. The issue will then go back to the next meeting of the Cabinet who will take on board the views of the wider Council but still have the final say. 

Following the call-in, the issue will be discussed in a closed session towards the end of  a meeting of the Economic Development, Tourism and Europe Scrutiny Committee on the morning of Wednesday 28th September. The motion to call-in the decision was signed by councillors Ellen ap Gwynn, Alun Lloyd Jones, Ian ap Dewi, Gareth Davies, John Roberts and myself with support from the committee chair, Liz Evans.


Mill Street Plans to go public soon

Ceredigion Council Officers have chosen a preferred scheme for the Mill Street car park in Aberystwyth – but won’t make it public until the scheme is discussed and agreed by the Council Cabinet.

In February the Cabinet resolved, “To promote the development of a multi-storey car park on Mill Street as a key strategic aim of the authority”, and authorised officers to undertake a procurement exercise to select a company to develop the idea. The Officers have now chosen a preferred bidder, out of three companies submitting tenders, by a process of ‘competitive dialogue’ which involved judging the bids against a ‘matrix’ of criteria. These included the planning content and design, the ability to deliver the plan, the financial package proposed and the overall economic benefit.

The officers’ report will be discussed at a closed session of the Council Cabinet on Tuesday morning.

Following Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, the Mill Street decision will not now be made public before 5pm on Thursday 22nd Sept as this is the deadline for the decision to be 'called in' (i.e. challenged). If no call-in is received, the decision will probably be announced the following day. If the decision is called in, the result will not be announced until this process is complete, probably in a week or two's time.


Plans to close Defra Veterinary Laboratory in Aberystwyth

More public sector jobs are under threat in Aberystwyth following the recent revelation that the Defra Veterinary Laboratory on the Buarth has been earmarked for closure.

The Prospect trade union has revealed that the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has submitted proposals to the Westminster Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman MP, which would see both Aberystwyth and Carmarthen laboratories closed by April 2013.

Ceredigion's Assembly Member Elin Jones AM said:

“I’ve long suspected that a move to close the vet lab at Aberystwyth was on the cards but those closure plans have been resisted until now. Losing good science-based jobs will be a big blow to Ceredigion.

“In Aberystwyth there is a longstanding expertise in agriculture and land-based jobs with the University and IBERS, but this would be eroded by the closure of the vet lab.

“Closing both the labs at Aberystwyth and Carmarthen will leave Wales without any such facilities. Given the high livestock numbers in Wales, the work carried out in these Defra centres is essential in the fight to eradicate animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth, Bovine TB and Bluetongue”.

The closure would mean people having to go to Shrewsbury for the service in future. There's been no local consultation on the proposals and seemingly no consideration of how the closure might affect the local area. Aberystwyth can't afford to lose another key public sector facility with the knock-on effects for the wider local economy.

Aberystwyth and the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation

Aberystwyth’s standing in the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, published last week, contains one or two surprises.
The Index divides Wales into 1896 areas of about 1,500 people each and places them in order. Here’s how the different areas of Aberystwyth fared in the overall result, 1896 being the best possible score and 1 being the worst:

Bronglais - 1822
Gogledd / North - 1584
Rheidol 2 - 1369
Rheidol 1 - 1203
Canol / Central - 1076
Penparcau 2 - 747
Penparcau 1 - 652

To make up these overall figures each area is scored on a range of indicators. Out of the 1896, Bronglais Ward is number 23 in Wales in terms of employment and number 56 in terms of income.

What is really surprising is the results for the town centre. Central Ward is the second best in Wales for proximity of access to services but the very worst, bar none, for quality of housing.


Elin Jones to stand for Plaid leadership

Elin Jones, Welsh Assembly Member for Ceredigion, today announced her intention to stand for the leadership of Plaid Cymru. Full statement below:

"Today I am announcing my intention to stand for election as Plaid Cymru’s next Leader. I believe that I have the strength of character and clarity of vision to be the party’s Leader, and I have spoken to many members and supporters over the summer weeks to gauge views on the party’s future and my role in that future. I will now be putting my name forward to stand for Party Leader when nominations open.

"Plaid Cymru has achieved a great deal for Wales over the past few years. This year saw the establishment of Wales’ first legislative Parliament and the completion of Plaid’s first-ever term in Government. Now a new chapter is opening for Plaid Cymru. Our task is to strengthen our country’s autonomy and economy, and to make the case to the people of Wales that our nation is better served by independence than dependence.

"Unlike the British parties, our job is never to manage Wales, but to build Wales. Sometimes Plaid will contribute to that work from within Government, sometimes from outside. However, our aims remain clear: that we build our country’s independence and that we work to achieve economic prosperity and social justice for our people.

"We need, as a Party, to reach out to a wider array of voters. We cannot just speak to ourselves, we need now to go out and talk to, and for, everyone in Wales. Over the coming months I will outline clearly how I believe we can reach out to people and build our support.

"I have held many offices within Plaid Cymru, both locally in Ceredigion and nationally, as Party Chair and now Director of Communications. I have been a Town Councillor and, since 1999, an Assembly Member for Plaid Cymru. I began my working career as an Economist, and politics has been a lifelong interest and passion.

"I am a West Walian and a proud Cardi. Had I lived in any other country in the world, I would still have been a republican and a socialist. But as a Welsh citizen, then I am also a Welsh nationalist. I speak both languages of Wales.

"I am passionate and ambitious for my country. An occasional Welsh Grand Slam or Gold Medal is great, but is not enough for me. I want to see Wales as a self-governing nation placed among the best countries of the world in terms of its education, economic and environmental achievements too.

"If elected its Leader, then my party can expect 100% dedication from me. I am a hard-worker and a team player. Winning a tough marginal seat such as Ceredigion four times on the trot would not have been possible without those characteristics.

"I enjoy meeting people and working for people. My constituents know that I am there for them – whether in a formal surgery, on the end of a phone or in the supermarket aisle on a Saturday afternoon. Gaining people’s trust is a necessity for any politician. I have done so in Ceredigion and in my recent role as Rural Affairs Minister. I can do it again as Plaid’s Leader.

"I can be trusted to listen, to take tough decisions and win arguments. But, most importantly, I have learnt that there is little point in taking those tough decisions or winning those arguments in isolation. I can take people with me.

"Today is my 45th birthday. I was born in Carmarthen, in 1966, on Gwynfor’s birthday, September 1st. That makes me acutely aware of the longer-term struggle by Plaid members and supporters in seeking to establish an independent nation. Many have known darker political times than me. However, realising the ambition of national freedom should continue to unite and motivate us all.

"Plaid Cymru has achieved so much for Wales over its 86 year history. But so much remains to be done. As we begin our party’s next chapter, and Wales’ first chapter with its legislative Parliament, I am ready to lead Plaid Cymru."