Aber's students standing for election

University Students arrived back in Aberystwyth at the beginning of the week. If those living in town houses haven’t already found election leaflets on their doormats, they certainly will in the next few days.

There are now around 9000 students compared to a year-round population of 12,000 in the town (although that last figure excludes Waun Fawr and Llanbadarn Fawr, areas commonly considered to be part of Aberystwyth).

Whilst almost all permanent residents in Aber value students for the massive contribution they make to the town, it’s still common to hear older people grumble at election time that that they should be voting ‘at home’. That's a debate that is long gone now and, with ‘home’ for most being, in reality, mainly in Aberystwyth and only part elsewhere, it’s really up to each student to choose for themselves where to vote. Of course, many do still vote at their parents’ address by post.

Although roughly 30% of Aberystwyth students are from Wales, the presence of so many from elsewhere has always posed some difficulty for Plaid Cymru. The party has always recognised that, with a total lack of publicity for Plaid outside Wales, expecting someone who only arrived here a few months ago to immediately bone up on Welsh politics and vote Plaid is a big ask.

By the time students are in their second or third year,  those interested in politics and of a left persuasion frequently decide to switch to Plaid once they’ve recognised the party’s inclusive, left-wing policies. But those not bothering to enquire further have tended to be split between Labour and the Lib Dems, with a small smattering of Tories, easily distinguishable by their quite remarkable accents.

At the last Westminster election the Lib Dems tried to corner the student market with some success, brought about by their  opposition to tuition fees. This was somewhat galling for Plaid as they were equally supportive of students but, again, due to the UK media, this was much less well known.

However, since the advent of the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition at Westminster, and the consequent Lib  Dem support for a huge increase in the cap on tuition fees, that Lib Dem support amongst students has completely crumbled. Now, with Labour and the Greens not standing in Ceredigion (with the exception of one Labour candidate in Lampeter), Aberystwyth students from outside Wales who have yet to acclimatise to Welsh politics have been left wondering where to put their vote at the local elections.

Now another factor has come into play. Until recently, it was relatively unusual to see students standing in local government elections here, and unheard of for them to be elected. There’s always been the problem that the majority of students stay at University for just three years and the usual term of local government is four years (five this time). On the other hand, Aberystwyth does have one of the highest rates of students staying on to live in the area after completing their degree so, for those committed to the area, the length of their course is not necessarily a problem.

It was Richard Boudier who showed the way when he was elected to Aberystwyth Town Council for Labour in Penparcau four years ago when he was a student and after being in the town for just a few months. He took the role seriously and ended up becoming Mayor of Aberystwyth at the same time as being Labour’s candidate for Ceredigion in the 2011 Assembly election. His term of office comes to an end at this election and he will then be standing down from local politics.

Following on from this, the Aberystwyth Guild of Students, and their newspaper The Courier, has recently been showing an increased interest in local politics. And, as part of these developments, Plaid Cymru have now taken up Richard Boudier’s gauntlet with four students out of their 14 Town Council candidates standing in the elections on May 5th.

My belief is that, with students making up such a high proportion of the town’s population for much of the year, it’s actually important, and indeed helpful to everyone in the town, for them have some representation on the town council, the lowest level of local government.

Plaid’s four student candidates for the Aberystwyth Town Council elections on May 5th are:

Bronglais ward - Chris Griffiths
Chris is originally from Neath and is studying Politics and Welsh. He is particularly interested in health issues and plans to volunteer with the St John’s Ambulance service.

North ward - Dafydd ap Franc and Jeff Smith
Dafydd is originally from Rhyl and is studying Welsh and Welsh history. He is president of the University’s Catholic Association.

Jeff is originally from Kent. He came to Aberystwyth to study Maths and is now doing a PhD. He learnt Welsh whilst living at Pantycelyn and is now fluent. He has a strong interest in environmental and transport issues.

Central ward - Carys Ann Thomas
Carys is from Carmarthenshire and a geography student. She has been elected as the Guild of Students’ Welsh affairs officer and UMCA President for the next academic year. She particularly wants to be elected to the Town Council to give students a stronger voice.

If you're an Aber student, I think they'll do a good job of representing you. If you're not, I think 'town and gown' relations will be enhanced by their presence in our local politics. Why not give them one of your X's on May 3rd?


Aberystwyth wins Purple Flag Award

Aberystwyth has become the first town in Wales to achieve the Purple Flag Award.

Purple Flag is an accreditation scheme that recognises excellence in the management of town and city centres at night. It aims to raise standards so that what is now called the ‘night time economy’ can thrive in a way that is safe and crime-free. Just as Blue Flag is an indicator of a good beach, Purple Flag is an indicator of where to go for a good night out and  brings positive publicity for successful town and city centres.

The award considers issues such as perceptions, policing, licensing, pedestrian routes, different agencies working together, public transport and taxis, parking, crowd management, information, food and dining, pubs and bars, other attractions, arts and culture, diversity and identity.

The ‘Aber@Nos/Night’ project involves a number of organisations working together to address night time economy issues. Partners of the project include Ceredigion County Council, Aberystwyth Town Council, Aberystwyth University, the Guild of Students, Dyfed Powys Police along with others such as the Chamber of Commerce and Menter Aberystwyth.

Initiatives include:
* The ‘Sshhh!’ campaign - aiming to heighten awareness of noise at night and to be mindful of local residents.
* The Best Bar None Award scheme - rewards licensed premises which fulfil the requirements of this UK award scheme which aims to recognise and reward businesses which are serious about customer care, customer safety and offer a quality venue.           
* The Validate Card - an approved proof of age scheme.

As part of this work, officers from Ceredigion County Council’s Public Health Protection service also attend Aberystwyth University Fresher’s Fayre, Coleg Ceredigion, secondary schools and community events to give health improvement and alcohol harm reduction information.

All this increases positive rather than negative activity at night and supports the town’s economy. This was evident recently where over a 1000 people attended the Christmas Lights event which was a collaboration between ‘Aber@Nos/Night’, the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Radio Ceredigion, local businesses and Santa who also attended.

More events are planned and it is hoped that five or six annual events will become a regular feature of the town, during which time the ‘behind the scenes’ work with regards to keeping Aberystwyth safe, mobile, vibrant, clean and efficient will continue.

Aberystwyth was independently assessed for the Purple Flag Award over the weekend of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of March.


Community Council postal ballot papers wrongly worded

Ceredigion Council has acknowledged that postal voting forms for Community Council elections, including for Aberystwyth Town Council, are wrongly worded. The Councils affected are Aberystwyth, Aberteifi (Cardigan), Llangeitho, Llangybi, Llansantffraed and Llanwenog. 

The lilac ballot papers in the multi-members wards, which were posted from Aberaeron today (Thursday) say, "Vote for x candidates only". They should say, "Vote for no more than x candidates". Hopefully voters will be guided by the advice contained in Plaid Cymru's Town Council election leaflets which is correct. 

Most County Council wards are unaffected but those who elect two councillors - Penparcau and Lampeter -  have been.

All affected postal voters are being contacted tonight or tomorrow morning by hand-delivered letter. Voters who have already posted their voting papers before being contacted will be entitled to ask for replacement ballot papers if they want to change the way they voted.


Plaid's candidates for Aberystwyth Town Council

Plaid Cymru are putting up a record number of candidates for the Town Council elections in Aberystwyth

The figure of 14 nominations for the 19 seats on the Council beats their previous record set at the last elections in 2008

Plaid’s 14 candidates are:

Bronglais (4 seats) - Endaf Edwards, Chris Griffiths, Sue Jones-Davies, Alun Williams
(One Lib Dem also standing)

Canol/Central (3 seats) - Lefi Gruffudd, Carys Morgan, Carys Ann Thomas
(Two Lib Dems also standing)

Gogledd/North (3 seats) - Dafydd ap Franc, Jeff Smith, Mark Strong
(One Independent also standing)

Penparcau (5 seats)  - Steve Davies, Mererid Jones, Kevin Price
(Two Lib Dems, one Independent and one Conservative also standing)

Rheidol (4 seats) - Brian Davies
(Three Lib Dems & one Independent also standing)

The candidate figures for the other parties are: Lib Dems 8 (down from 14 last time), Independents 3 (up from 2), Conservatives 1 (down from 3).

Meanwhile, half a mile down Llanbadarn Road road, Llanbadarn Fawr Community Council has already elected 13 councillors unopposed. Plaid councillors are:
Padarn Ward - Gareth Davies
Sulien Ward - Mark Hemingway, Paul James, Stephanie Lennon and Dafydd Pritchard.

Heading up Penglais Hill, on Faenor Community Council (Waun Fawr and Comins Coch), 10 councillors have been elected unopposed, including Terry Lambden from Plaid.

Both the Town Council and County Council elections will be held on Thursday  3rd May. Full candidate lists are available here


Plaid's candidates for Ceredigion

Plaid Cymru have announced their candidates for the County Council elections in Ceredigion.  

The party will be putting up 34 candidates in the total of 42 seats. Plaid are hoping to win the 22 seats required to take over the running of the Council. They currently have 20, just two short. Despite Plaid being by far the largest party represented, the Council is currently run by a coalition of the other political groupings - 12 Independents, 9 Lib Dems and one Labour. Catherine Hughes has already been elected unopposed for Plaid in Tregaron.

Plaid’s candidates are:
Aberaeron – Gwenllian Mair
Aberporth – Des Davies
Aberteifi/Cardigan Mwldan – John Adams-Lewis
Aberteifi/Cardigan Rhydyfuwch – Graham Evans
Aberteifi/Cardigan Teifi – Catrin Miles
Aberystwyth Bronglais – Alun Williams
Aberystwyth Canol/Central – Chris Mackenzie-Grieve
Aberystwyth Gogledd/North – Mark Strong
Aberystwyth Rheidol – Endaf Edwards
Aberystwyth Penparcau (2 seats) – Steve Davies & Lorrae Jones-Southgate
Beulah – Lyndon Lloyd
Capel Dewi – Gethin Jones
Ceulanamaesmawr – Ellen ap Gwynn
Ciliau Aeron – John Lumley
Faenor – Terry Lambden
Llanarth – Bryan Davies
Llanbadarn Fawr Padarn – Gareth Davies
Llanbadarn Fawr Sulien – Paul James
Llanbedr Pont Steffan/Lampeter (2 seats) – Rob Phillips
Llandyfriog – Towyn Evans
Llandysul – Peter Evans
Llanfarian – Alun Lloyd-Jones
Llanfihangel Ystrad – Lynford Thomas
Llangybi – Odwyn Davies
Llanwenog – Geraint Davies
Melindwr – Rhodri Davies
Penbryn – Ian ap Dewi
Penparc – Shan Williams
Tirymynach – Jaci Taylor
Trefeurig – Dai Suter
Tregaron – Catherine Hughes (elected unopposed)
Troedyraur – Gerwyn James
Ystwyth – Mererid Jones

The elections will take place on May 3rd.

Update: The total number of candidates standing for each grouping has now been released as follows: Plaid 34, Lib Dems 28, Independents 22, Conservatives 21, Labour 1.
Full candidate lists are available here


Greening Aberystwyth’s Approach Road

Proposals have been put forward for lining the main approach road to Aberystwyth with trees.

A report, ‘Greening Aber’s Approach Road’, has been put together in acknowledgement of the widely-expressed concern that the piecemeal development taking place along the route over the last few years has tended to ignore any need for a uniform style or welcoming aesthetic. The 30-page report has been written by Dafydd Fryer on behalf of Forestry Commission Wales in partnership with the Greener Aberystwyth Group.

The Aberystwyth appoach road, stretching from the Parc y Llyn roundabout in Llanbadarn Fawr to Alexandra Road near the town centre is called, at different points along its length, Ffordd Parc y Llyn, Boulevard St Brieuc and Park Avenue/Coedlan y Parc. The route currently has around 30 different owners or stakeholders along its length so any agreement for tree-planting would need plenty of negotiations. The planting of a semi-mature tree in an urban environment, including the necessary cage to channel the roots away from underground services, is reckoned to cost around £1,300.

Although that may seem daunting, in Swansea, as part of their regeneration plans, a recognition of the economic benefits of presenting a harmonious green entranceway to the town has recently resulted in the go-ahead for detailed design work on a new tree-lined boulevard on Oystermouth Road.  Greening Aber’s Approach Road proposes a similar plan for Aberystwyth.

The report concludes:
“It is clear there is huge scope to green-up the flanks of the road if the will and resources are available. Tree planting could have a hugely significant role in unifying the whole approach to the town. Despite the challenges and obstacles that would face accommodating trees into this predominantly hard and constricted landscape, the vast range of benefits that urban trees offer town environments would be a major contributor towards ensuring the regeneration of Aberystwyth.”

The next step is to gauge reaction from funding bodies as to whether the plan has the makings of a regeneration project that can be developed further.

I can supply an electronic copy of the report to anyone e-mailing me at alun1001@yahoo.co.uk