Nadolig Llawen

Nadolig llawen o Aberystwyth

A merry Christmas from Aberystwyth


The Welsh Government's plan to regenerate Aberystwyth

A few months ago I was standing chatting on Aberystwyth Prom when we noticed some important-looking men in suits gazing around. We thought we’d be cheeky and went over to ask who they were.

It turned out that it was Huw Lewis, the Welsh Housing, Regeneration & Heritage Minister with his entourage. They were on a visit to discuss what to do with £10.3 million the Welsh Government was thinking about giving to Aberystwyth as one of seven ‘Regeneration Areas’ in Wales. These were set up in 2010 under the then Plaid/Labour administration. The aim of them is to help create attractive and thriving towns, to tackle economic inactivity and to improve accessibility.

After we’d introduced ourselves, Huw Lewis said, “OK then, if we’re thinking about allocating money here, give us your pitch for Aberystwyth”. I had about two seconds to think of a response and came up with this argument: “With the low population density in the middle of the country, Wales is always in danger of being dragged apart and becoming effectively two nations – North Wales and South Wales. In terms of nation-building, what we need is a really vibrant, healthy town in the middle to pull the two together. That’s where Aberystwyth comes in”. They looked surprised and said, “Hey, that’s actually a really good pitch!”. It certainly wouldn’t have cut much ice if I’d tried to tell a housing minister from Merthyr how impoverished we are.

Anyway, a few months on and the Welsh Government has put together a kind of interim report on what’s been a happening with the £10.3 million so far and what’s going to happen next (I’m sure they’d thought of it all before they bumped into me). The full document can be seen here.

The schemes (with Welsh government contribution in brackets) include:
•   University to National Library link road to allow expansion of the bus service and improved cycle links (£192,000)
•   Multi-use games area (‘Adizone’) at Min y Ddol in Penparcau (£250,000)
•   Major improvements to Aberystwyth Bus station and Alexandra Road to make them more pedestrian-friendly and link more easily to the town centre (£1 million)
•   Town improvement grant - to improve the appearance of shops in the town centre (£600,000)

Other ideas planned are:
•    Revamp of the Prom (consultation covered in a previous post)
•   Revamp of Town Clock square (at the junction of Bridge St, Great Darkgate St, Pier St – public consultation to come)
•   Revamp of the train station entrance (priced at £3 million so must be big)
•   A new youth facility – no details yet

I like all the schemes mentioned, although I’m sure I’ll want to quibble about some of the details. However, although it might sound churlish to say this, it’s notable that the Regeneration Area Board, (the body set up to devise the programme) contains no-one with a democratic mandate to represent the people of Aberystwyth. The nearest thing - and he has only very recently been invited - is Chris Mackenzie-Grieve, the Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, who genuinely represents small shop keepers in the town and should have been on the Board from the start.

Although most members of the Board are perfectly decent people with a contribution to make (like the Chief Exec of Tai Ceredigion and University and National Library reps), the only person elected by the actual people of Ceredigion is Council Leader Keith Evans who was elected to represent the people of....Llandysul. I think that’s a pretty serious omission and very difficult to understand. If they didn’t trust Aberystwyth councillors they could at least have asked the Assembly Member.

Still, maybe we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. With the current economic climate set to continue for years, once this money’s gone it’s likely to be some time before we get any more. Keeping Aberystwyth vibrant will then be up to us.


Marks & Spencer coming to Aberystwyth

Ceredigion Council today played what it hopes will be a trump card in the debate over plans for Mill Street car park in Aberystwyth when it announced that Marks & Spencer is likely to be the second major store to come to the site.

The Council's statement, released late today, says,
"The Council’s preferred developer on Mill Street car park [Chelverton] has negotiated and agreed terms for Marks and Spencer (M&S) to be included in this development opportunity, alongside Tesco. The proposed M&S store will be a full format 54,000 sq ft (gross) variety store comprising 8,000 sq ft net sales convenience (food) and 29,000 sq ft net sales comparison goods (clothing, household goods etc). This agreement has today been approved by the Board of M&S."

Marks and Spencer is intended to go on the land currently occupied by the Park Avenue Day Centre. The Council's original intention, now superceded, had been to place three smaller un-named shops there and this has been the subject of a vigorous local campaign to keep the well-regarded Day Centre on the site. 


Northgate student housing application rejected

A planning application to turn the former government buildings in Northgate Street, Aberystwyth into student housing was rejected by 14 votes to 6 by Ceredigion Council's Development Control Committee today.

The committee rejected the application by Cantref Housing Association on the grounds that it was incompatible with the high number of elderly residents in the narrow streets around the building and because it would remove a potential employment site close to the town centre. Many local residents had objected. The building was partially occupied by a government passport office until four months ago.

Aberystwyth University had surprised some by not backing the scheme, despite the current student housing crisis. Instead, they aim to solve the crisis within two years by building environmentally-friendly accommodation for 1000 students next to the existing Pentre Jane Morgan student village at the top of Penglais Hill, where they say their accommodation can be better managed as a block.

In making the application, Cantref seemed to have moved from their core remit of providing housing for people on the local housing waiting list but without bringing the university on board with their plans. The University are hoping their application to extend Pentre Jane Morgan will be approved early in the new year.


Ceredigion agrees cruelty-free purchasing policy

Ceredigion Council have adopted a cruelty-free purchasing policy for cleaning products. The Council agreed the policy on Thursday, "...whereby only cleaning products that have not been tested on animals would be used".

The adoption came after I asked the Council to look into a cruelty-free policy back in June. Council officers investigated and produced a supportive report saying the idea was perfectly feasible if an electronic ordering system was set up to monitor the purchases of all departments. 

The Council will now set up the system for ensuring that only cleaning products conforming to the policy will be used in its many establishments across the County, including schools and offices. The new policy was agreed unanimously.

The adoption of this policy brings credit upon Ceredigion in a similar way to the Fairtrade motion I  first proposed in 2006  and which was finally adopted in 2008. Individuals can only do so much with their purchasing power. It's when large institutions such as councils take these ethical steps that real change in industry practice occurs.


Aberystwyth Prom Consultation

An exhibition of suggested physical improvement projects to Aberystwyth Promenade, using Welsh government Regeneration Area funding, will be on display at the Bandstand on Tuesday 6th December from 11am - 8pm. This will include ideas for a new bandstand.

Ceredigion Council and Welsh Government reps will be there to discuss the initial proposals.

The exhibition will also be at Morrisons supermarket, Parc y Llyn on 10th and 11th December and then in the window of 53-55 Terrace Road (previously Boots). Comments can be sent to aberystwythregeneration@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Update: The consultation can now be seen here


Plaid announces County Council candidates for Aberystwyth

Plaid Cymru have selected their prospective candidates for the six Aberystwyth wards in next May's County Council elections. The candidates are:

Canol / Central – Chris Mackenzie-Grieve
Chris owns MGs Café in Chalybeate Street and is the Joint-Chair of the Aberystwyth Chamber of Commerce. He has a degree in corporate finance from the London School of Business and runs his own company which consults on how business can improve profitability. Chris said: "My mission is to make the town centre into a vibrant and thriving place. I think I can use my skills to improve the transparency and efficiency of the Council."

Gogledd / North – Mark Strong
Mark lives in the ward and works at the National Library. He is chair of the Ceredigion Care Society / Cymdeithas Gofal Ceredigion and has been a Town Councillor for the past eight years, representing them on the board of Menter Aberystwyth and on the Prom Forum. He is committed to maintaining services, protecting the environment and supporting sustainable development.

Penparcau (2 seats) – Steve Davies and Lorrae Jones-Southgate
Steve is a Town Councillor who lost by just 14 votes at the last County Council election in 2008. He works at the Rheidol Hydro-electric power station and is keen on rugby and rowing.
Lorrae was Mayor of Aberystwyth in 2007-8. She works in respite care and is particularly concerned with care for the elderly. Both she and Steve were active in the campaign to save Bodlondeb.

Plaid's current sitting councillor in Penparcau, Rob Gorman, is stepping down due to pressure of work in his fishing business and fully backs Steve and Lorrae.

Rheidol – Endaf Edwards
Originally from Pontrhydfendigaid, Endaf works for Coleg Ceredigion as an Information and Learning Technologies Co-ordinator. He was active in the successful campaign to save Bodlondeb residential home for the elderly. His priorities as a councillor will be education and learning, environment and planning, leisure and recreation.

Bronglais – Alun Williams
Er...yep, that's me. You know the sort of thing...sitting councillor, likes trees, tries to keep people informed....

Ceredigion Assembly Member Elin Jones AM said:
"We have a great team of candidates standing in the Aberystwyth area in the forthcoming Ceredigion Council elections. I’ve no doubt that every single one of them would be a strong voice for their respective wards in the Council chamber".

The Local Government elections will take place on May 3rd 2012

The picture shows, back row left to right: Steve Davies, Chris Mackenzie-Grieve, Mark Strong, Endaf Edwards.
Front row left to right: Lorrae Jones-Southgate, Elin Jones AM, Alun Williams