Hundreds march through Aberystwyth against public sector pension changes

Over 600 striking public sector workers marched through Aberystwyth today against the UK government's planned major changes to pensions.

The march, organised by Ceredigion Against the Cuts, included workers from Bronglais Hospital, local schools, Coleg Ceredigion, the National Library, the County Council and the National Assembly. Photos of the march, which ended with a rally in the Morlan, can be seen by clicking this link.

Over 40% of Ceredigion's workforce are employed in the public sector with many more reliant on the services they provide.


Llanbadarn Council asked to sell more land for Sainsbury’s

Llanbadarn Fawr Community Council has been asked to sell its  land next to the Llety Parc playing field outside Aberystwyth to add to land reportedly being sold to Sainsbury’s for development.

The land, which comprises a football pitch and a play area next to the railway line, would add approximately 50% to the land available for a supermarket.

The Community Council is now writing to all residents in the village to ask for their views. Their letter says,

"Dear All,
A developer has expressed an interest in purchasing the community playing field and children’s playing field that lie between the railway line and Llety Parc fields for a proposed supermarket development.

"Preliminary advice confirms the Council is free to sell this land if it resolves to do so, and the Council members will need to decide in the near future whether to enter into negotiations with the developer concerned.

"The councillors recognise the sale of this land would mean the loss of popular public facilities which are conveniently located within the village. However, subject to identifying an alternative site, the proceeds of sale could be used to acquire similar facilities elsewhere within the community and provide a surplus enabling the Council to fund other capital projects now or in the future.

"The decision whether to sell the land will be made by the Council but it was resolved at the last meeting to canvas local opinion on the proposal by inviting comments from every household within the community. The Council would welcome hearing from you with your views by 18th December 2011."

The interest in the land by Sainsbury's adds a further layer to the debate about Mill Street car park in Aberystwyth. 

Llanbadarn Fawr Community Council can be contacted at ccllanbadarnfawr@hotmail.co.uk or Llygad y Fro, Rhydyfelin, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 4QD


Aberystwyth Day Care Centre - the case for keeping what we have

One of the casualties of Aberystwyth’s Mill Street Development debate has been the Park Avenue Day Care Centre. The Centre is now planned for demolition to make way for new shops and a multi-storey car park and the service is to be moved into a converted section of the Town Hall alongside the new town library (plans are explained here). Whilst there are obvious benefits to placing the new day care centre in the same building as the library, it is clear that the space allocated exclusively to day care is going to be significantly reduced compared to what we have now.

Ceredigion Council has handled the Day Care Centre process extraordinarily badly. The decision was rushed through by the Council’s Cabinet, with no opportunity for input from Day Centre users or the wider public.

With the Council now legally committed to allowing the developer Chelverton to build on the site, and with the Town Hall conversion well underway and due for completion in March, hopes of saving the existing Day Centre seem optimistic to say the least. However a growing group of campaigners has come together to oppose the move to the Town Hall and their demonstration last Saturday can be seen above.

This blog has so far published statements by Ceredigion Council and by Aberystwyth Chamber of Commerce, who support the Mill Street development. In the interests of balance and debate, it’s only fair therefore to publish the views of the Day Centre campaign. Gerald Morgan, Chair of the Save Aberystwyth Day Centre Committee, writes below.

“Save Aberystwyth Day Care Centre

“Members of the Aberystwyth Day Centre Support Group oppose the plans for the Centre proposed by Chelverton Developments Ltd and the Ceredigion County Council and wish to see the retention of the Day Centre with its present facilities for the following reasons:

1. The present Day Care Centre is an admirable, purpose-built resource for the benefit of needy elderly people in the Aberystwyth area, and for their carers.

2. The Centre offers its own car parking.

3. Bus services, taxis and cars can put down or pick up clients without causing danger to other road users.

4. There is a nearby controlled pedestrian crossing for those coming from the bus station or centre of town.

5. There are no stairs, lifts or ramps in the Day Centre; it is entirely safe to enter and leave. It would be easy to evacuate in case of fire.

6. The Day Centre offers enough space for more than one kind of activity to take place simultaneously.

7. The Day Centre offers good hygiene facilities.

“All the above statements are facts.

“However, the intention to move the Centre to the old Town Hall is open to criticism for the following reasons:

1. It offers less accommodation room than the present number of clients warrants.

2. There is no room to park cars.

3. There is no safe place for buses, taxis or cars to stop for put-down/pick-up purposes.

4. There is no pedestrian crossing at this seriously dangerous road junction.

5. Access is difficult. The ramp to the basement has a 180 degree turn which will make wheelchair use difficult or impossible for the elderly. Evacuation in case of fire would be a nightmare.

6. The reduced space will exclude the most vulnerable clients and preclude alternative activities.

7. The hygiene facilities are greatly inferior to those in the current Day Centre.

“All the above statements are facts. We believe that these objections are sufficient to warrant the withdrawal of the threatened closure and destruction of the Day Centre.

“Additionally we believe:

1. that at every level the Council Council’s consultation process has been seriously inadequate

2. that had the County Council taken better advice the Day Centre could have been preserved or replaced on its present site with the full cooperation of the development company and its main client.”

Gerald Morgan
Chair, Save Aberystwyth Day Centre Committee

Photo by David Kirby


Hywel Dda plans 'listening period'' before new options are put

Hywel Dda Health Board have announced they won’t yet be going out to public consultation on their plans for the health service in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire & Carmarthenshire but will, first, be opening an extended 'listening period'.

Under the heading, “Your health: Your Future. The Health Board is listening”, today’s statement says,
“Because of the rumours circulating, misinformation, coupled to the leaking of draft documents which is undermining public confidence, the Board has decided that it will add an additional stage to the clinical services review in Hywel Dda prior to formal consultation. This will provide the opportunity for the public to form their opinions from an informed position and for the Health Board to be able to listen to their views.

“It is therefore our intention to undertake a period of pre-consultation engagement with our staff, our population and our neighbours who use our services. This exercise will enable us both to listen and inform our population on the current position, the case for change and the potential options for healthcare in the future. We recognise that any change can be challenging and we want to ensure there is a wider understanding of both the issues and potential solutions.

“There will be an extensive programme of activities, events and information sharing across all three counties. This listening programme will commence prior to Christmas and will continue well into the new year.

“We have been working closely with our clinicians to look at the potential options we have around our services. We are now at a stage where we believe this work, if shared more widely, will help shape the options for consultation. We will openly share the work we have done so far, listen to any concerns and take into consideration any alternative suggestions.

“No formal decisions have been reached and we hope the public will help us to shape the future of the local NHS.”

With the programme set to continue ‘well into the new year', it now seems clear that no decisions will be made before the local elections in May.

The statement goes on,
“Within Hywel Dda we are clear that no change is not an option. We must look at how we use the funding we have more effectively so we can provide our population with high quality, safe and sustainable services for the future.

“Once the listening period is completed, we will analyse the information we have received and this will influence any options we put forward for formal consultation.”

It’s difficult to argue with what reads as a genuine attempt by the Health Board to engage in dialogue in the face of almost continuous criticism in various local papers throughout the three counties in defence of their local hospitals, although the decision is almost certainly also influenced by a desire by the Welsh government to avoid difficulties for the Labour Party in South-west Wales in the lead-up to the elections.

For those campaigning to retain services at Bronglais Hospital, it’s interesting to note that campaigners for Llanelli Hospital turned up at today’s Board Meeting in Carmarthen. Llanelli is 11.5 miles from the next nearest hospital at Morriston in Swansea, roughly the distance from Aberystwyth to Llanon, Furnace or Ponterwyd. Bronglais Hospital, on the other hand, is 49.6 miles from their nearest hospital at Glangwili in Carmarthen. By any geographical consideration, Bronglais ought to be as safe as houses.


Parc Natur Penglais - 20th anniversary

The Parc Natur Penglais Local Nature Reserve on the north side of Aberystwyth celebrated its 20th anniversary yesterday with a work day and ceremony.

In the last 20 years the Parc has been transformed, by a partnership of local residents and the County Council, from an abandoned quarry and neglected woods into a venue that now receives 30,000 visits a year, according to the hidden counters on the site. The Parc contains a wide variety of environments, including secluded woodland paths, a well, impressive beech clearings and stunning views of the town like the picture above taken yesterday by David Kirby.

During a break in the work of gorse-clearing by the University's Conservation Volunteers and others, Saturday saw the raising of a Green Flag, the parc's latest award for being one of the best green spaces in the UK.

The Parc Natur Penglais AGM, featuring a talk from Mel ab Owain, will be held on Wednesday 23rd November at 7.30 at St Paul's Methodist Church, Queen Street, Aberystwyth.


Olwen Davies 1924-2011

The tribute below is by Jill Gough

Olwen Davies (pictured here meeting Desmond Tutu) died peacefully in Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth last week.

Many will have known Olwen locally through Aberystwyth CND and the Aberystwyth Peace Network, as a stalwart of CND Cymru (Vice Chair for 20 years) and a representative for Cymru on British CND Council (and on the International Advisory Group) as well as her work for the Chernobyl Children's Project. I have been privileged to call Olwen a comrade and fellow campaigner over many of these years.

Olwen was a determined woman who was always truly alive. Her family came from Blaenpennal in Ceredigion. Although Welsh in her heart and her language, she spent her early years in the Old Kent Road, London where her family were part of the London-Welsh dairies. Olwen said that her mother had told her that she was always singing, even as a baby. Later she returned to Wales - I believe in 1939 - and went to school in Tregaron, and being a musical young lady was encouraged to go to College and take up singing as a profession. For several years she lived abroad, working for a while as a translator (and singing) for the UN in Rome.

When her mother became infirm in the 1980s Olwen returned again to Wales and cared so gently and tirelessly for Mary. She also taught singing in Aberystwyth University. She was well known around the town for her individual style of dressing (she made her own clothes) and her CND headgear and jewellery.

Olwen's campaigning heart for peace and justice - and a nuclear free world - are notorious. I personally recall leafleting in the town with her in 1986 raising awareness of the approaching Nuclear Free Wales Festival in Aberystwyth Arts Centre. She was dressed as Margaret Thatcher - and I as a parrot. (That was Olwen's idea). Around 2,000 people attended the festival that year - there was also a contribution for the newly declared 'Nuclear Free Aoteroa' I remember. Of course there was music at the conference - Olwen made certain of that.

Olwen visited the Soviet Union with the peace delegation and represented us at European Nuclear Disarmament conferences. Whenever on a demonstration, at a conference or a meeting, Olwen would urge us to sing. She would confidently conjure up a protest song and we, at first slightly embarrassed, but eventually, by the end of the verse, confident and strengthened by the music, would join in. I have sung (as a protestor) alongside Olwen at events at Aldermaston, Molesworth and Greenham and on the streets of London, Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, Brawdy, Cardiff and at Trawsfynydd.

Writing of Olwen, more is always omitted than can be included! When I told Olwen's friend Bruce Kent that she was no longer with us he wrote: 'an indomitable woman.... She will go on singing somewhere.'

Olwen wished her 'funeral' to be quiet and wanted instead for there to be an 'Olwen Party' - in Aberystwyth Museum (time and date to be confirmed). There will, of course, be music.

Jill Gough

A link to her 80th birthday BBC interview in 2004 is here