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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Late notice ... try a picnic in the park this evening

The weather is looking good, an evening of music and song from stage, screen and television featuring Llangollen Silver Band (senior and youth), and the choir Sentimental Journey plus other musical guests.

Bring your picnic rug and something to eat and drink and enjoy the fabulous setting.

The event starts at 6pm and will last for about two hours with breaks, if wet we will be under cover.

Tickets are available from Honeypots, the town clerks office and band/ choir members. They are £5 and under 7's are free.

Corwen station plan gets further down the line


 
* An artist's impression of how the new station
will eventually look.



* Representatives of the Corwen business community, Llangollen Railway Trust and Denbighshire County Council on site.  


 
* The site of the station.
 
Llangollen Railway Trust (LRT) has been awarded a £59,074.00 Cyfenter grant for the provision of the phase 1 station at Corwen.

Cyfenter is a project administered by Mentor Mรดn, financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and Denbighshire County Council, that provides financial investment for social enterprise in north west Wales.
 

Announcing the outcome of the successful application for funds to Corwen community and business leaders, LRT chairman Jim Ritchie said the award will allow the railway to go out to tender for work for the installation of concrete foundations for the platform at the phase 1 station site, to be known by a bi-lingual name as Dwyrain Corwen East.

The platform timber sections will be constructed in the railway’s own workshops and will be delivered to the station site for erection once track is in place later this year.

Looking at the prospects for further track extensions, Mr Ritchie said that the rail head would shortly be extended to the location at Bonwm Bends.
 
There after, once base ballasting is complete, the track will extend towards over-bridge 28 near Plas Derwen.
 
Repairs to the brick arch of the over bridge will be undertaken by contractors.
 
It was envisaged that track laying will continue beyond the bridge into the station site during the autumn of 2013.

However, Mr Ritchie also noted that there were potential impediments to this schedule.
 
In particular, the need to rebuild under bridge 29 to allow pedestrian access to the site of a nature reserve on the north side of the Dwyrain Corwen East site and, also, for under-bridge 30 to be incorporated into Denbighshire County Council’s Corwen Flood Relief scheme, at the western end of the station site.
 
Completion of both of these schemes was a priority need if work on the station was to proceed to schedule. 

Llangollen Railway Trust still needs to raise funds to complete the Phase 1 project.
 
Thanks to the grant aid, some recent generous donations and other fund raising activities, the current need is to raise an estimated £78,000, much of which would be needed to ballast the extended track before trains can operate.
 
Subject to these needs being met, Mr Ritchie announced that the first train for invited guests and supporters would arrive at Dwyrain Corwen East on March 1, 2014, which is appropriately St David’s Day.

Mr Ritchie said: “The Railway is delighted to be awarded the European Regional Development Fund Cyfenter grant aid that will allow the construction of Dwyrain Corwen East station in the next few months.

"This phase 1 station is just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre and we look forward to bringing visitors to the town next year. We will also be offering subsidised transport for local residents between Corwen and Llangollen for those who wish to take advantage of the extended railway.

"Whilst recent donations and this grant reduce the total amount of money needed to complete the extension, we continue to appeal for more financial support to reach Corwen by the St David Day’s target next year.”

Denbighshire County Councillor Huw L Jones said: “I am pleased and grateful that the grant aid application by Llangollen Railway Trust has been successful.
 
"The availability of this financial assistance will help secure the completion of Phase 1 of the railway project. The return of trains to the town is eagerly anticipated by the residents and businesses.
 
"The expected spin-off in visitors numbers attracted to Corwen by the railway will boost recognition of the town as an important centre for tourism and we must be ready to cater for them.”

For the Corwen Business Association, Norman Jones said: “The news of the grant aid from Cyfenter for the building of the Dwyrain Corwen East station is very welcome in assisting towards completion of the railway line.

"Corwen was a railway town of some importance to North Wales prior to the Dr Beeching cuts to the railway network in 1965, but since then it has been in slow decline.

“The return of trains, especially from an established heritage railway, will be an important step forward in the future regeneration of Corwen.
 
"Already we have businesses set up in town, or expected to move in, on the strength of the Llangollen Railway’s extension to Corwen and we can confidently expect economic growth and job opportunities to flow from the railway’s arrival.

"This benefit has happened elsewhere when heritage railways have extended their lines and similar advantages will accrue here from increased tourist numbers. We must be prepared to grasp the new business opportunities which will arise when Corwen is recognised as the new terminus for the extended heritage line in the heart of the Dee Valley now set within a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.”
 
Plans of the Dwyrain Corwen East station and photographs will be displayed in the promotional caravan to be sited in the Corwen town car park during the Llangollen Railway’s forthcoming classic transport weekend on July 5/6.

It is planned that vintage buses will operate between Glyndyfrdwy and Corwen bus interchange to bring visitors to see work on the line’s extension.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wild man of rock heads for eisteddfod stage

 

 
* Bryn Fon will appear during eisteddfod week. 
 
Wild man of Welsh rock Bryn Fon will bring his electrifying stage show to Llangollen for International Eisteddfod week.
 
The grizzled rocker will explode onto the stage at Llangollen Town Hall on the Saturday night of Eisteddfod week.
 
He will be backed by his regular band as he aims to show the next generation of Welsh rock and pop bands that there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.
 
Bryn, who started out in music in the 1970s, is still rocking all over Wales but this man of many talents also acts and farms too, on his smallholding near Llanllyfni, in Gwynedd.
He’s fresh from a tour of North Wales with the show ‘Gwyn’ - ‘White’ – a two-hander which played to 4,000 children at several venues from Colwyn Bay to Anglesey while his other acting credits include the hit S4C series C’mon Midffild.
 
It’s as a singer that the 58-year-old is best known though and which gives him his biggest buzz: “We still play two or three gigs a month,” he said: “The band has been together for about 15 years now.
 
“We played a recent show and didn’t go on until nearly midnight which is a bit late for me these days but I’m not ready for the cocoa and slippers just yet.
 
“We just want to get things happening and the phone keeps ringing and we keep saying yes.
 
“Some of the young bands get a bit jealous but there’s a lot of fresh young talent around and some really good up and coming bands on the Welsh music scene.”
 
Bryn knows the feeling after joining his first band back in 1976: “It was at the National Eisteddfod and I jumped up on stage at an open mic event and sang with some lads who had been in a band in Llanrwst.
 
“One of them, Ithel Jones, the bass player, sent me a postcard and asked if I wanted to be their singer and together we formed Crysbas.”
 
Bryn also got into acting and was even ‘Hunk of the Month’ in She magazine in the 1980s though his music career has been uneven but enduring with Sobin a'r Smaeliaid formed after he and friends were asked to be the support band to another Welsh rock stalwart, Geraint Lovegreen, in 1988.
 
Bryn cites his biggest musical inspirations to American singer-songwriters Leonard Cohen and Neil Young and also attributes some of his stage presence to the king himself, Elvis.
He even has his own record label these days, laBelaBel, and his first album released on it, Abacus, sold 5,000 copies in its first week: “If it had been in the high street stores like HMV rather than in little Welsh bookshops I’m told it would have made the charts,” he said.
 
Bryn and wife Anna – they have two children - live on their smallholding near Llanllyfni where they keep sheep and Bryn admits that has been tougher and with more late nights even than being a rock singer.
 
He said: “This last winter I lambed myself and I was up every hour of the day and night. The weather was so bad it was really hard work.
 
“I don’t like to claim any grants because I would be taking money from real farmers but it was a desperate winter and it cost me a lot in food for the sheep.”
 
Bryn will be hitting the stage at Llangollen Town Hall as part of the Llangollen After Dark collaboration between the Eisteddfod and the Llangollen Fringe Festival and he said: “We do have some new songs we’re working on although I don’t know if they’ll be ready for Llangollen but we are really looking forward to it.
 
“We haven’t played in that area for a long time and to be associated with the International Eisteddfod is a big thrill.
 
“I’ve been in the past and I’ve been looking at the promotional material and what hits you is the colour and spectacle of it. It’s a fantastic event.”
 
Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths said: “Anyone who has grown up in Wales in the last 40 years and been interested in music will have heard of Bryn Fon – he’s one of the seminal figures of Welsh rock.
 
“He’s got a real stage presence and a tight band and we’re delighted to have him playing at the Town Hall on Eisteddfod weekend – his set will be well worth catching.
 
“It will really set the scene for a fantastic Sunday as well when Llanfest brings a host of local bands onto the Eisteddfod field and it provides a real musical link between the Eisteddfod and the town.”
 
Bryn’s band is Graham Land on drums, John Williams, keyboards, Rhys Parry, guitars, and Neil “Maffia” Williams, bass.
 
They will be supported by Africa Entsha, a slick a cappella quintet from Soweto who blend pop and male vocal harmonies with physical humour and South African song-and-dance numbers.
 
Llangollen After Dark, with the Bryn Fon Band and Africa Entsha, is at the Town Hall, Llangollen, on Saturday, July 13, doors open at 7.30pm and tickets, priced at £12.50, are available from the Eisteddfod website www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk
The 67th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod takes place this year from Tuesday, July 9, to Sunday, July 14, at the Royal International Pavilion site and boasts a star-studded lineup of concerts and competitions.
Strictly Come Dancing stars James and Ola Jordan are part of a stunning lineup at this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July.
 
The glamorous couple will perform with Cuban maestros Buena Vista Social Club and other top attractions are Jools Holland, harpist Claire Jones, tenor Noah Stewart, percussionist Evelyn Glennie and a 200th anniversary performance of Verdi’s Requiem.
 
The Eisteddfod runs from Tuesday, July 9, to Sunday, July 14, at the Royal International Pavilion site and as well as star-studded concerts there are top class music and dance competitions.
 

Area gets involved in the Big Dee Day Invasion


 * Organisers of Big Dee Day – The Invasion at Ty Mawr Country Park in Cefn Mawr.

Organisations and enthusiastic volunteers across North Wales and Cheshire are currently taking part in Big Dee Day – The Invasion.

The event follows on from the success of the annual Big Dee Day river clean-up which this year takes place on 20 and 21 September.

Organisers are keen to gather together as many volunteers as possible across the region, to help eradicate non-native species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and Chinese mitten crab from the River Dee and its tributaries.

These alien species are brought to the UK either accidentally or intentionally and can cause big problems for our native wildlife, as well as having other effects such as making river banks more prone to erosion, which can lead to flooding.

Local authority Countryside Services, Snowdonia National Park Authority, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Natural Resources Wales, Wildlife Trusts, the Welsh Dee Trust, Cofnod, Record and Chester Zoo are among the many organisations involved in this major event.

During the two day event, which started yesterday, there will also be an exhibition with stands and information boards at Ty Mawr Country Park in Cefn Mawr, Wrexham to explain more about these non-native species and the importance of eradicating them.

Councillor Carolyn Thomas, Chairman of Flintshire County Council and Chairman of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB, said: “Big Dee Day – the Invasion is a fantastic opportunity for us all to make a really positive impact on the River Dee and our local environment. This is about direct action, on both sides of the border, so we are encouraging everyone to pull on their wellies and get bashing that balsam! To get involved on either or both days please visit www.bionetwales.co.uk or contact your local biodiversity officer.”

Big Dee Day – The Invasion also has a Facebook page –
www.facebook.com/BigDeeDayTheInvasion 
 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Safety message for campers and caravanners

Given the popularity of Llangollen as a camping and caravanning area, we are publishing this warning from North Wales Fire & Rescue Service:

Caravanners and campers are being urged to take extra care after two women were conveyed to hospital with facial burns following a cooking incident at a campsite in Nant Gwynant, Caernarfon.

Firefighters from Caernarfon were called to the campsite at 18.18hrs on Thursday, June 27 following an explosion involving a butane and propane cylinder being used for cooking.

Two women were transferred to hospital by ambulance for treatment for facial burns.

Gareth Griffiths from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Caravans and tents are potentially more hazardous than our homes as the inherent risks are magnified in confined spaces -  so its important not to let your guard down and forget basic fire safety advice when on your holiday.

“Cooking inside a tent is not recommended. Even a fire-resistant tent may burn – and be particularly mindful of the risk of fire inside smaller tents with only one exit.

“Don’t change gas canisters or refuel petrol or meths stoves inside your tent and, if possible, store them outside.

“Practise using your stove before you go on your trip - and make sure the stove or barbecue is sited on a solid surface to reduce the risk of it falling over.”

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service is advising those planning a break in a caravan or tent to keep the following advice in mind:

Be prepared
- Ensure tents or caravans are kept at least six metres apart
- Find out what the fire-fighting arrangements are on the campsite and where the nearest telephone is
- Fit an optical smoke alarm in your caravan and make sure it is working
- Make sure there is either a fully charged water or dry powder extinguisher located inside the caravan near the exit door a a fire blanket adjacent to the cooking area
- Keep a torch handy for emergencies - do not use a candle
- Do not leave children alone in a caravan – and keep matches and lighters out of the reach
- Do not overload electric sockets or extension leads if you have access to a power supply and make sure electrical appliances are working correctly
- Make sure everyone knows how to operate escape windows and doors
- Keep flammable liquids and gas cylinders away from tents.
- Do not cook inside your tent.
- Be prepared to cut your way out of your tent in the event of a fire.
- If your clothing catches fire, STOP, DROP AND ROLL.
- Oil burning appliances should not be used in or around tents.
- Cooking appliances should not be used in small tents.
- Do not smoke inside tents.
If there is a fire:
- Get everyone out straight away. Fires in tents and caravans spread very quickly.
- Call the fire and rescue service.
- Give a map reference, if possible. Otherwise give a landmark such as a farm or pub to help the fire and rescue service locate you.
Bottled gas:
- Extreme care is required as gas cylinders may explode in a fire
- Keep cylinders outside a caravan unless a special ventilated compartment is provided inside
- Before going to be or leaving the caravan turn off all appliances – the cylinder should also be turned off unless an appliance such as a refrigerator is designed for continuous running
- Never use a cooker or heater while travelling.

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service offers free home fire safety checks for everyone, including caravanners, and will install smoke alarms where necessary - contacting the free 24 hour hotline on 0800 169 1234 or e-mail cfs@nwales-fireservice.org.uk  

Councillor floats idea of tourist road-train around town


Now with reader comment at foot of story ...



* Tourist road-trains like this run in various cities in Europe.

A Llangollen town councillor has put forward the idea of a tourist road-train to run around  points of interest in the area.

At its meeting last week, the council discussed the possibility of shuttle bus to serve various parts of the town.

And Cllr Phil Thane has followed this up with his own idea of a tourist train.

He told llanblogger: “I'd like to see a tourist train like you see in so many EU resorts calling at the Pavilion car park and trundling round the most obvious sites: Wharf (via Dinbren Road), Station, Church St (stop at Church) up Butler Hill if possible to Plas Newydd, down Hill St, Castle St, Abbey Road back to the Pavilion.

“Ideally it would run on a park and ride basis to encourage tourists to park out of town, possibly even offer seats to coach tours to keep them out of town too.

“Of course, this requires vision on the part of DCC, which they show no signs of, and probably a subsidy which UK Governments are ideologically opposed to.

“Elsewhere in Europe governments seem to try to provide what they think will be good then charge taxes to pay for it.

“Here we favour governments that promise to reduce taxes by providing the bare minimum of services.”

. If you think a tourist train is a good idea, please let us know at llanblogger.


Comment:
Re the idea of a tourist train in the town. This must surely be a joke. Does no one remember the trouble caused by the train run by Stephanie Booth? It upset local taxi drivers, caused disruption in the streets, and was eventually vandalised and set on fire. In any case I’m not sure they go up hills (hard to avoid in Llangollen). What’s wrong with extending the minibus service already operating at the weekends around Llangollen and up to Plas Newydd?
 
Gill Thomas
 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Police issue rogue trader warning

Police are calling on residents to be on their guard from rogue traders claiming that work is needed on their properties.
 
Officers regularly work with their partners in the Trading Standards Department to tackle bogus traders and are calling on people living in the Conwy and Denbighshire areas to be vigilant. They are also urging anyone who has concerns or believe they may have been approached by bogus builders – or anyone turning up on doorsteps offering to carry out ‘urgent’ or ‘essential’ to contact police. 

The warning is being made after police were alerted to a possible recent incident in the Conwy county area which is currently being investigated by police and Trading Standards.
 
“Local residents and businesses are being urged to be on their guard,” said Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Williams. “In the past we have had incidents reported to us whereby people – particularly the elderly in the community have been approached by traders claiming that work is required on their property and that they will carry out the work immediately.  On occasions, these individuals have been quite persistent.”
 
He added: “Residents are sometimes convinced to get the work done because it can be completed reasonably quickly. If you are approached or become aware of a neighbour who has been targeted please let us know immediately.”
 
If work is needed on a property residents should contact traders who have worked for them previously, have worked on property for friends and family and have a good reputation. It is also a good idea to ask the builder / trader if the work really is required and get additional quotations from other reputable businesses.
 
DCI Williams added: “This type of crime is particularly despicable in that the perpetrators target vulnerable people who are intimidated into handing over a cash value that far exceeds the standard of work done.  We want to do all we can to stop people falling foul of rogue traders who can be extremely convincing, but we need the help of the community. Nobody should be pushed or bullied into having any work done and I would especially appeal to relatives and neighbours of vulnerable people, who can often be reluctant to highlight the issue themselves, to contact us if they become aware of this happening.
 
“Partnership work has been undertaken and will continue in future in a further bid to reduce his kind of doorstep crime, including rogue trader patrols and the implementation of cold calling controlled zones. I want to reassure residents that we will continue with this work in a bid to stop rogue traders targeting members of our communities.”
 
Police are also issuing the following advice to householders in a bid that they can help themselves from falling victim to rogue traders:
 
If in doubt – keep them out
 
•             Be wary of special offers or warnings about your home, such as: “We were doing a job in the area and we have some materials left over” or "I noticed you've got a few loose tiles on your roof”. In short simply do not accept this type of call.
•             Don’t ever agree to a trader starting any work straight away. Take time to consult with someone you trust for a second opinion, speak to friends, family or neighbours before making any decision.
•             Don’t let a persistent trader intimidate you into making an immediate decision or into buying things you don’t need.
•             Don’t hand over a cash deposit
•             Don’t keep a large amount of cash in your home and do not agree to go to a bank or building society with the trader
•             If someone turns up on your doorstep and tries to intimidate you into having work done or into paying for work which is unsatisfactory or was not requested, the best course of action is to close the door and call the police immediately.
•             If in doubt – keep them out.
 
Finally, if residents experience a cold call or think they have been approached by a rogue trader they should record as many details about the caller as possible including vehicle registration numbers and call police on 101 or the Citizens Advice Customer Service on 08454 04 05 06.  Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Health board's latest statement in wake of damning report

In the wake of the resignation of its chairman and chief executive following damning report into its running, earlier today llanblogger asked the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board for a statement on the latest position. 

We also sought confirmation whether, in the light of the joint report by the Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales,  the £5.5 million new health centre planned for Llangollen to replace the town’s closed-down hospital would still be going ahead. 

The board’s press office replied:  The report identified significant failings and major challenges for the Board which we recognise and accept.

“Although steps have already been taken to tackle some of the issues, the Health Board is determined to respond to these matters in full and will ensure that the report’s recommendations are addressed as a priority.

“Our progress will be subject to ongoing review and scrutiny by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, the Wales Audit Office and Welsh Government.

“The Health Board’s Chairman, Prof Merfyn Jones, said: ‘Under the circumstances, I believe it is appropriate that I stand down as Chairman of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, and I have informed the Minister of my intention to do so as soon as appropriate alternative arrangements are in place.

‘There are many fundamental challenges for the Board but I am confident that these will be responded to positively to deliver the necessary improvements and I shall continue to contribute fully during this transitional period.’
“We can confirm, our Chief Executive, Mary Burrows has also indicated her intention to leave the Health Board.”
The press office said it was trying to get a response to our specific query about the future of the new health centre in Llangollen.
llanblogger will bring it to you when we receive it.

North Wales earmarked for new super-prison

North Wales has been chosen as the site of a £250m super prison which the Ministry of Justice says will create 1,000 jobs.

See the full story on the BBC website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-23077995

Health board comes under fire in high-level report



* The organisation which closed Llangollen Hospital comes under fire in a high-level report.

The chairman and the chief executive of the Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board (BCUHB), which closed Llangollen Hospital earlier this year, are to resign following a damning report, according to a story on the BBC news website this morning (Thursday).

The story says a high-level investigation found "significant management failings" at the board  that are said to have potentially risked patient safety.

As a result, claims the BBC, board chairman Prof Merfyn Jones and chief executive Mary Burrows have announced their intention to resign.

Prof Jones has filmed a statement for the BBC. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-23073768

Now, a leading health services campaigner says criticisms in the report cast doubt over the legitimacy of Llangollen's planned new health centre.

BCUHB runs NHS services across north Wales with a budget of around £1.2bn.

Mabon ap Gwynfor of Keep Llangollen Health Services (KLHS), which campaigned to prevent the closure of Llangollen Hospital, said: “The joint report by the Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales is damning.

"It states clearly that the health board lacks “the capacity and capability to provide appropriate levels of scrutiny in relation to service delivery” and, more worryingly, that it has a lack of clinical leadership.

"With the report stating that they are lacking in clinical lead it raises serious questions on the legitimacy of the proposed new health centre. 

“The board's failures have been clearly in evidence with their programme to centralise and downgrade services. The board singularly failed to scrutinise the plans to close our community hospitals, and unfortunately it’s the patients that are suffering, as we are seeing.

“Keep Llangollen Health Services have continued with the campaign to highlight the health board’s weaknesses and fight for hospital beds and an improved health service for this area. 
 

“This continued pressure by KLHS and our colleagues in other health campaigns across north Wales has contributed to the background of this detailed and damning report which has resulted in this announcement. 

"We have campaigned for our health services not because of any nimbyism but because of our real concern that the proposed plans would damage people's health. This has unfortunately been borne out by patients’ experiences, and it's clear that the Board have been lacking in any sort of leadership more especially a clinical lead.

"The report will come as no comfort to the patients and their loved ones who have suffered because of these failures. But it does raise serious questions about the legitimacy of this whole downgrading programme. 
 

"If the Health Minister wants to avoid a potential catastrophe he must, as a matter of urgency, step in and suspend the current downgrading and centralisation programme. 

"These plans were nodded through without any challenge by the Board Members in January. Their failure to scrutinise was glaring even to lay members like us. 

"People must be answerable for these serious failures."
Press release from Wales Audit Office: http://www.wao.gov.uk/news/pressreleases_5230.asp
Full joint report: http://www.wao.gov.uk/assets/englishdocuments/Betsi_Cadwaldr_Joint_Review_HIW_and_WAO.pdf

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Local AM "honoured" by new Welsh Government job

The Assembly Member who represents Llangollen in the Welsh Assembly has taken one of the top jobs in today’s Welsh Government reshuffle.

The shake-up follows yesterday’s shock resignation of Education Minister Leighton Andrews.

Earlier this evening it was announced that First Minister Carwyn Jones has appointed Clwyd South AM Ken Skates (pictured right) at Deputy Minister for Skills.  

Huw Lewis is named as the new Education Minister and Jeff Cuthbert takes over from Mr Lewis as Minister for Communities.
Mr Skates replaces Mr Cuthbert as Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology.
 
Vaughan Gething is appointed to work with Mr Cuthbert as deputy minister for tackling poverty.
 
Mr Skates was born in 1976 at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and is one of five boys to parents Mary and Ken snr.

He went to local comprehensive schools  Ysgol y Waun and Mold Alun, where he studied A Levels in Physics, Maths, English and Politics.
He went on to Cambridge University to study Social and Political Science, specialising in European regional policy and economics.
After graduating, he took time out in America and then joined the Wrexham Leader as a reporter.
He studied for his NVQ at Yale College in Wrexham and did freelance work for the BBC and The Express.

He has also served as personal assistant to Mark Tami, MP for Alyn and Deeside.

Mr Skates said: “I really am honoured to have this opportunity to join the Welsh Government.  I’ve learnt a huge amount in my time as the Assembly Member for Clwyd South and I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the new portfolio and working with Welsh Government colleagues.


“I want to bring a strong understanding of the issues impacting on North Wales to my new role and I look forward to hitting the ground running in the next few weeks on the skills and technology issues impacting on our communities and our economy.
 
“I’m really looking forward to getting started and working with partners in the sector, both in this area and right across Wales.”

Anger over plans to take X94 bus away from Parade Street

 
* Parade Street where the X94 will no longer calling from later this year.

A Llangollen county councillor has blasted plans by Arriva to stop using the Parade Street bus terminal for one of its local services.
Stuart Davies has been officially informed that the company is changing the route of the X94 bus to leave out Parade Street from when its new timetable begins on August 18.  
And in an angry response, he said: “They are ceasing to use the Parade Street terminal which was created a few years ago, turning a quiet leafy street into a yellow, barren, pole-strewn urban catastrophe.
“People will remember the furore generated when, overnight, the trees in Parade Street were slaughtered to make way for the bus terminal.
“Thousands of pounds were spent turning this part of the town in to a one way system to pander to these companies and now they are saying that they are cutting services and ceasing to use this monstrosity of a system.
“What a waste of money and vandalism it was.”

A spokesperson for Arriva Buses Wales said: “It is true that we are changing the route of the X94 to omit Parade  Street later in the year. 
“We have taken this decision, together with a number of changes along the X94 route, in order to improve the punctuality of the service.
“At this particular location, buses are often delayed when attempting to make the right turn from Parade Street Street on to Castle Street. 
“The parking bays on Castle Street effectively turn it into one lane street for vehicles as large as a bus, and when, as is often the case, delivery wagons or other vehicles block the street, it has a detrimental effect on our timetable. 
“We know from recent correspondence from our customers, local council and Bus Users UK, that punctuality and reliability of a service are a priority for our customers, and we need to take reasonable steps to ensure that the routes we use  allow us to run to timetable.
“In order to improve punctuality and maintain the existing route, we would need to put more resource in to operating the service.  This service is operated on a commercial basis with no public subsidy in this area and we are not in the position provide the additional resource required. However, we would be willing to work with the local authority if they were able to offer support in maintaining the current route.”

Cllr Davies responded: "This is an example of arrogant companies riding roughshod over local concerns."
He has asked Denbighshire County Council officials to make formal representations to Arriva about the bypassing of Parade Street.
He believes that under new timetable arrangements the X94 will stop in Mill Street, and the Arriva spokesperson confirmed this by saying: “I have been told that the X94 will stop at the bus stop near the bridge."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Police confirm skimming devices found on Llan cashpoints

llanblogger has just had the following message from local county councillor Stuart Davies:

"Sketchy details care coming in that skimming devices have been used in Llan cash machines today. I will update when I find out more."

Since Cllr Davies' warning, North Wales Police has now issued the following press release about the "skimming" which has taken place locally:

Cash machine users in the Llangollen area are being urged to check the machines before they use them.
 
The warning is being made following a recent spate of fraud offences whereby skimming devices have been placed on cashpoints in the area.
 
Once the 'skimmer’ device is in place, it will fail to eject your card and will record your card details.
 
For this reason, officers are urging people who use such machines to check the card slot to ensure that there is nothing unusual about its appearance.
 
The ‘skimmers’ are usually attached over the slot where you enter your card and spray painted to match - making the devices hard to spot.
 
Cash machine users are also urged to check for any scratches on the machine, sticky residue, tape or other signs of tamper as well as any part of the machine that looks like it's more new, or made from a different material than the rest. Missing LED lights above the card slot machine can also be a giveaway - if the ATM you're using usually has them.
 
Anyone who suspects anything untoward is urged to contact police on 101 or the ATM operator immediately - ideally using your mobile from in front of the ATM.

"Don't tinker with S4C" says Labour duo

Clwyd South Labour duo Susan Elan Jones and Ken Skates have warned the UK Government not to tinker with S4C’s funding, saying that any change could seriously jeopardise the broadcasters independence.
 
On the eve of the UK Government’s Spending Review on Wednesday the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has refused to quash speculation it will end the £6.7m grant the Welsh channel receives each year directly from the department. 
 
Any such move could leave it entirely funded by the BBC Licence Fee. 
 
Last week the Department for Culture Media and Sport agreed an 8% cut to its budget as part of the Spending Review due to be announced by the Chancellor this week.
 
The Labour pair said S4C was key to a strong and independent media in Wales and that the channel’s funding shouldn’t be cut back any further.
 
Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones said: "It is worrying if the UK Government chooses to end entirely its direct funding of S4C.  The channel has seen its budget cut back significantly in recent years and its fragile funding formula shouldn’t be tinkered with any further during this or any other spending review.
 
“The funding it receives from DCMS gives it a direct channel into the heart of government and a vital dialogue with the Secretary of State on broadcasting issues impacting on Wales, S4C and the Welsh language.
 
“S4C is only just getting back on its feet after the trauma of the last funding changes.  Only this year it had its long-term funding outlined in a new relationship with the BBC, so more change would only further destabilise the channel and impact negatively on its independence.”
 
Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates said: Under no circumstances would it be either fair or sensible for the UK Government to visit even more pain on S4C during the upcoming Spending Review.  The Government have had their pound of flesh from S4C over the last few years and it shouldn’t be returning for more cuts given the fragile position the channel is in. 
 
“I recently met with other AMs and the Chief Executive of S4C who warned us very clearly that cutting back S4C’s funding any further would negatively impact on the channel and its excellent body of work.  S4C helps generate nearly £125m for Wales’ creative economy, so any further cuts would be bad for the whole sector, not just the channel.
 
“Broadcasting in Wales is in a weak enough position as it is without more pain being visited upon it.  The delicate ecology of our Welsh media needs to be better protected and not become an easy target for cuts every time the Treasury needs to bring in more cash.”
 
S4C received £6.7m from DCMS in 2013, down from £101m in 2010.
 
The BBC will contribute £76.3m from the licence fee in 2013-14, falling to £74.5m by 2016/17.
 
Earlier this year a new partnership was agreed following public consultation over plans to fund most of S4C's activities from the BBC licence fee meaning S4C will remain independent, also receiving UK government funding and generating its own revenue

Scrapyard escapee runs for last time at Llan Railway



* No.6430 at Llangollen on its final day in service.
 

 
* Members of the train crew as they prepare for the final
departure. From left are driver Ben Jackson, guard
Wayne Ronneback, ticket inspector Martyn Amys and signalman Paul Reynolds.

Llangollen Railway's annual Railcar Gala saw one the regular steam engines based there operating its final passenger trains on Sunday.

No.6430 has now completed 10 years in service since restoration to working order after being rescued from the scrapyard.
 
The popular Great Western Pannier Tank engine is now withdrawn for a major overhaul after its boiler certificate expired.
 
On its last day in service it ran with the Great Western Auto coach owned by the group based in Oswestry as the steam train option on a day when other train services on the Dee Valley line were provided by the heritage diesel railcars.
 
George Jones for Llangollen Railway said: " No.6430 is a brave little engine having been restored at Llangollen from a very basic kit of parts after it had survived a visit to a scrapyard when originally withdrawn by British Railways.
 
"It is the only mainline engine to have escaped from a scrapyard other than the famous one at Barry Island, South Wales from which many steam locomotives were rescued.
 
"After it has donated various parts to keep an other Pannier tank in service, a lot of the missing parts were made at Llangollen to allow the engine to be restored to working order by 2003. Since then it has achieved fame as part of the two-coach Great Western branch line auto-train.
 
"It has been a worthy ambassador for the Llangollen Railway during its visits other heritage railways in Britain during its ten years in service. We hope that a fast track overhaul of the boiler and mechanical parts will allow for an early return to service.
 
"Operating on this final occasion the steam train made an historic contrast with the heritage railcars and, in particular, the two visiting single unit Bubble cars. These attracted a lot of attention and interest from rail fans keen to sample a ride on these two unusual visitors to the line."

Monday, June 24, 2013

County's Advice Network wins praise from Welsh Government

The success of the Denbighshire Advice Network in securing over £100 million in extra social security benefits and tax credits during its lifetime has been praised as an example of best practice in a report issued by the Welsh Government.

The Denbighshire Advice Network was set up following local government reorganisation in 1996 and network members work together to ensure that both specialist and generalist advice is available throughout the county meeting the needs of a diverse range of clients.

Members meet on a quarterly basis to discuss new legislation and polity, to discuss good practice, access free training, undertake joint campaigns and share information about new projects.

Now it has been cited as example of best practice in the Welsh Government document, ‘Advice Services Review: Final Research Report’.

Membership of the Network ranges from Age Concern to Youth Inclusion Programme, Shelter Cymru to Denbighshire’s Family Information Service, Mental Health Advocacy Service to the Voluntary Services Council, working to ensure that all advice providers across the age and specialism spectrum are engaged and as many local people as possible have access to effective information and advice services.

In 2012 Network members lead a successful project bid to the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund, supported by the joint Conwy and Denbighshire Local Service Board, to deliver a financial inclusion and anti-poverty project across Conwy and Denbighshire.

Some of the successes from last year include:
  • £10.8m in confirmed State Benefit and Tax Credit gains, a 31% increase on last year and a record high since Denbighshire County Council started in 1996.
  • 246 people have been represented at appeal tribunals with a 66% success rate, mainly overturning decisions to disentitled people from Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Lifting 567  children  and  997 adults above the UK and Welsh Government's 60% median income poverty lines, in total this is a 52% increase on last year and a record high.
  • Raising 419 households out of fuel poverty, a 68% increase on last year and a record high.
  • CAB resolved £18m of personal debt for 1761 people,  a 5% increase on last year.
Richard Jones Abbas, Denbighshire’s Welfare Rights Manager, said: “We are delighted that the Welsh Government has recognised the tremendous amount of good work going on in Denbighshire to reduce poverty and to make sure people know what they are entitled to claim.

“In this current economic climate, it is vital that people have access to lots of advice and information of where there are funds available and how to access them in times of need".

People wanting welfare rights advice can contact a number of organisations for information and support.

■ Denbighshire’s Welfare Rights team
Freephone 0800 169 6625
(Weekdays 10am -4pm)
■ Denbighshire CAB
01745 334568 or 814336.

AM calls for caravan park legislation

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood is calling for  proposed new holiday caravan park legislation to address concerns raised by the industry in North Wales.
 
Speaking in the Assembly Debate ‘Seeking the Assembly’s Agreement to Introduce a Member Proposed Bill on Holiday Caravan Park (Wales)’, Mr Isherwood called for the Bill to address the concerns of holiday park representatives in North Wales, deal with the problem of people living on holiday caravan parks all year around and protect caravan owners who are threatened with unfair eviction.
 
He said: “The industry states that, if inappropriately drafted, legislation would give rise to the increased cost and red-tape burden on an industry that is a mainstay of Welsh tourism, at a time of an extremely hard market. The industry wants to see abuses in holiday parks eradicated. However, it says that local authorities already have the powers to enforce.
 
"The industry says that the history of poor enforcement could be best addressed through giving local authorities a duty to enforce. However, the issues that are highlighted by the Bill’s proposal address the planning and site licensing of a park business, and, since the position for each park will be different in both these respects, they say that it is essential that enforcement is addressed on a case-by-case basis.”
 
Mr Isherwood asked for the Bill to tackle the problem of caravan owners living on sites all year around by calling on local authorities to make checks to ascertain that a site licence applicant is not seeking to circumvent the home park legislation by applying to license a home park site as a holiday site.
 
“The terms of Tree Tops caravan park state that the park is not a residential caravan park, and that neither Flintshire County Council, nor the park directors will allow customers to make their mobile holiday home their permanent home. This means that you will need to be able to prove that you are using your caravan holiday home within the terms of the park licence."
 
He also called for the new legislation to be designed to help caravan owners who are unfairly evicted, stating that caravan owners had complained that park owners used terms and conditions that allowed park owners to treat them arbitrarily. The Assembly agreed that the Bill's proposer, Welsh Conservative AM for Clwyd West, Darren Millar, could introduce a Bill on Holiday Caravan Parks in Wales.
 

 Mr MrMr
 
 

Musical theatre workshops to be staged in Llan

Professional dance tutor Julie Thomas is staging a two-day musical theatre workshop for children at Llangollen Town Hall during the school summer holidays on July 23 and 24.

Entitled Matilda, the workshops, which run from 10am-4pm each day, take as their theme the popular Roald Dahl book of that name. Cost is £38.
For more details, ring 07944 402474, or 07814 661165.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Shuttle bus idea aired at council meeting

A call for a shuttle bus to serve various parts of the town was made at Llangollen Town Council meeting on Tuesday night.

Town Clerk Gareth Thomas had told members he had received a number of requests from members of the public for the number 64 bus to be re-routed to take in the Maesmawr area.
Cllr Sheena Burrell said: “I think that’s a good idea because we have a bus which already takes in Pengwern, so why not other areas?

“I think it would be wonderful if we could have a shuttle bus service going round all parts of Llangollen, perhaps running once an hour.”
Cllr Phil Thane said it would be a good idea to contact the bus company to ask if they could station a small bus locally to run a service from the town centre to various estates.
Members agreed with a suggestion from the Town Clerk that a representative from the bus company be invited to attend a future council meeting to discuss various aspects of the local service.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

X-Files release sheds new light on local UFO mystery



* Llandrillo where the alleged UFO incident took place in 1974.
 
The release yesterday (Friday) of official Ministry of Defence documents dealing with alleged UFO sightings has thrown fresh light on an a famous incident which took place not too far from Llangollen almost 40 years ago.

The documents, until now subject to government secrecy, have been published on the National Archives website. 

The incident, near Llandrillo between Corwen and Bala, took place on the evening of January 23, 1974, and is said by some to be an “extremely compelling UFO event”. 

According to UFO writer Billy Booth, it began many of the residents of the village heard an extremely loud noise.  

In an account published on the website About.com, he says: “Most of the citizens thought that an explosion had occurred - possibly a plane crash.  

“Those who ventured outside on this cold night were astonished to see blue and orange lights near the Cader Bronwen mountain. 

“There would be many eyewitness accounts of what was seen. The press immediately investigated the occurrence, and interviewed those close to the scene of the lights on the mountain. The first newspaper accounts made this statement: "There was a huge explosion a few minutes after 8:30 PM. From various accounts, this preceded, some say, by up to two or three minutes, a violent shaking of the ground, like a medium-sized earthquake-objects inside houses were knocked off shelves."

“Local police would arrive at the scene first, soon followed by the Royal Air Force. The area in and around the crash site was zoned off, with no one allowed to enter. A search and rescue effort would be ongoing for several days, with no information being related to interested bystanders or press personnel.

“An employee of a hotel in nearby Bala would come forward with a very interesting story. He stated that a group of men had checked into the hotel, and stayed during the search of the mountains.

“They did admit that they were involved in the mission, but could not talk about what they had seen or found at the site.

“Another account was given by a nurse who lived in Llanderfel, also close to the scene of the crash. Local police had asked for the assistance of the nurse at the crash site. She was told a plane had gone down in the area. 

“Being rushed to the scene, and not being able to get a sitter for her teenage daughters, she was forced to take them along. Driving on B4391, at 10:00 PM, the road was deserted. As she reached the foot of the mountain chain, she was shocked at what she saw... a glowing UFO.  

“She and her daughters would later relate their story to the press. They saw a UFO, which was almost intact. It was a large, circular object, and glowed an orange color.  

“They were within a couple of hundred yards of the object, and were certain of what they saw. They also saw emergency personnel, local police and military, close to the object. The nurse was instructed to immediately leave the area. She told the authorities that she was ordered to the site, but was quickly escorted from the area. 

“For several days, all roads leading to the crash area were closed to everyone but authorized personnel. The nurse was told by local shepherds that they were not allowed to tend their flocks during the operation at the mountain.
“Most of the citizens that lived near the area of the mountain crash were convinced by what they saw that a military cover-up was being conducted.

“It is still a mystery as what exactly happened on January 23, 1974 near the Berwyn Mountains of Wales.”
According to a story in the Daily Post on Friday (http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/north-wales-ufo-files-really-4694422) the Ministry of Defence UFO files just released include a request from a film and TV company to the ministry to answer claims it was a spacecraft that crashed with the military removing the wreckage and two aliens, who later died, being taken to the Porton Down research centre.

The MoD is said to have turned down the company’s request.