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Monday, March 31, 2014

Overeas tour operators sample delights of Dee Valley



* The tour group board the heritage Wickham railcar at the start of their visit.


* The group arrives at Carrog station.


* The visitors on the horse and carriage.

A group of tour operators from Germany, Holland, Sweden and Belgium stopped off in the Dee Valley during a familiarisation visit to North Wales last week.

After breakfast in Llangollen, they boarded the heritage Wickham railcar at the station, which took them along the line to Carrog.   

There the group boarded a waiting horse and carriage on which they rode to Rug Chapel where they were given lunch before continuing on to Corwen.

Before heading off on the next leg of their trip they called at the Caer Drewyn Hillfort, had the chance to sample the view from Pen Y Pigyn and enjoyed afternoon tea.

The visit was arranged by Visit Wales and the Tourism and Leisure Group in Corwen.  

Dee Valley Blue Badge Guide Sarah Jones, who accompanied the group, said: “The visitors from overseas had a busy and very enjoyable day with many highlights, including a ride on the Llangollen Railway and a horse and cart, walks to the Caer Drewyn Hillfort and Pen y Pigyn and a visit to Rhug Chapel. 

“This helped to ensure that visiting the beautiful Dee Valley was a memorable day for them which was certainly evidenced in the positive comments that were received.”

George Jones of Llangollen Railway said: "We were pleased to be able to provide the heritage diesel railcar train which gave the visitors an uninterrupted view of the Dee Valley as an area of outstanding natural beauty whilst various features were pointed out to them.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Second Plas Madoc public meeting planned

A second public meeting has been announced as plans for a community takeover of Plas Madoc Leisure Centre take shape.

The Plas Madoc Community Group – formed after the first public meeting on March 13 – is calling on residents to turn out in force and once again show their support for the volunteer-led rescue bid.

The next meeting will take place at Air Products Social Club in Acrefair from 7.30pm on Tuesday, April 8, when committee members will update the public on their ‘rapid’ progress.

Chairman Darrell Wright, who lives in Trevor, said: “We had a fantastic turn-out of between 150 and 200 people at the first and we’re hoping for even more this time – we need as many as possible to show their support.

“We’re feeling positive and we’ve got some really good momentum going, so we need people to show their enthusiasm again and show that they want this. 

“We’re making huge strides and the experts we have on board are helping us get through what should take months in a few weeks, so there’s plenty to update the public on. We’ll also be collecting donations on the night as our fundraising begins in earnest.”

The PMCG also includes John Gallanders, an expert in community-run enterprises; residents including Alison Roberts, one of the founders of the original Save Plas Madoc campaign and Clwyd South AM Ken Skates.

Darrell added: “We’re also asking people to take a few minutes to complete a short questionnaire, which could help future funding applications and will also be key in helping us keep people updated as our rapid progress continues.” To complete the survey visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PMFUTURE

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Three events planned by prostate support group

Llangollen Prostate Support Group has a number of awareness events scheduled over the next few weeks.

On Thursday, April 3, the Man Van, a large touring display and information unit will be parked in Market Street car park from 10am-4pm. 

It has an all-male staff and can be viewed as well as used to provide literature and advice. 

There will be entertainment available at some points in the day, members of the support group will be there to talk informally about their own experiences of prostate conditions, both malign and benign, and a wide range of local businesses and organisations have been invited to see the facility. 

Funding is joint from Tenovus, ProstateCancerUK  and Macmillans Cancer Support.

Support group organiser Mike Law says the event should be of use to local employers, who have male workers, as well as to men in their late forties and beyond.

On Wednesday, April 9, at the Hand Hotel, at 7.30pm, there will be an event specifically to answer the three basic questions about prostate problems – where is the prostate; how do I know that I have a problem; if I have, what treatment do I need? 

The first part of the evening will be a presentation by a special team from Mawddach Rotary Club, based on the experiences of members who have had prostate cancer. 

The second part will be an informal discussion in which members of the support group talk about their experiences and try to answer questions about procedures and treatments. 

All who attend will be offered a free glass of wine and savouries.

Finally, on Wednesday, April 16, again in the Hand Hotel, but at 2pm., in the Lounge, the support group will hold its usual monthly meeting. 

Guest speaker will be Sandie Jones, Head Urology Nurse from the Maelor Hospital. 

Mike Law added: "Tea and coffee will be provided and everyone is welcome to what may prove to be a very valuable session."

* Giving his support to the Man Van's visit to Llangollen, Clwyd South Assembly Member ken Skates said: "The Man Van is a converted 38ft American-style motorhome which will travel to deprived and hard-to-reach areas across Wales to help men living with, and affected by, prostate and testicular cancer by offering counselling, group support and welfare rights advice.

“Almost 3,000 men are diagnosed with prostate or testicular cancer every year in Wales. As Wales’ leading cancer charity, Tenovus has years of experience delivering cancer care to the heart of communities and supporting people affected by cancer, whenever and wherever they need it most.

“The Man Van will be operated along with Prostate Cancer UK and will visit every local authority area in Wales, and will mark the beginning of a new era of cancer care. The charity has identified that men aren’t always comfortable talking about their worries, so has designed a place specifically with them in mind.

“I would urge men in Clwyd South to book an appointment for when the Man Van comes to Llangollen. I understand there will be more North Wales dates in the summer, but for now this is the only one in our area so I would expect the slots to full up quickly.”

To book an appointment, text MANVAN to 66777, call 0808 8081010 or visit www.tenovus.org.uk/manvan


Friday, March 28, 2014

Local bus service to be axed, says paper

The Denbighshire Free Press is reporting that a Llangollen bus service will be axed due to “inconsiderate” parking costing more in repairs than the service’s income.

For the full story see: http://m.denbighshirefreepress.co.uk/mobile/mnews/132340/-inconsiderate-motorists-cause-bus-service-loss.aspx

Full report of annual Town Meeting


* Andrew Mearns presents the mayor, Cllr Bob Lube, with the lead snail,
emblem of the Cittaslow movement of which Llangollen is now part.
 
The Mayor of Llangollen, Cllr Bob Lube, gave a round-up of the work of the Town Council to an audience of around 30 residents who turned up for the annual town meeting at the Town Hall yesterday (Thursday) evening.

Also present was the Town Clerk, Gareth Thomas, and town councillors.

Cllr Lube began by saying it had been a “varied and interesting” year.
One of the major changes to affect the council had been the resignation of Cllr Tim Palmer ahead of his move abroad with his family. This had created a vacancy which was advertised to the local community.

Cllr Lube described how only two residents had put themselves forward to fill it but one of them, Lynda Slater, was eventually elected to the position.
Another change to the operation of council business during the year had been giving members of the public the chance to speak briefly on topics of interest to them in a 15-minute period set aside at the start of monthly council meetings. Local county councillors were also now invited to meetings to brief town councillors on local matters of concern.

The mayor explained how the council had powers to make comments and observations on planning matters going before the county council. However, he added: “Our recommendations are not always accepted by the county council.”
He went on to welcome a number of new businesses which had opened in the town over the past year, mentioning specifically the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in Castle Street and Fizzywigs sweet shop in Oak Street.

His next topic was the Town Hall, which he said “continues to attract more people and revenue” for the Town Council which owns and runs the building on behalf of the community. Minor changes were currently being made to the gents’ toilets on the upper floor, he added.
Cllr Lube explained how the council was still committed to the CCTV system sited in the town centre although he did describe this as “an expensive hobby” which needs continual maintenance and upgrading.

“We intend to continue with it because we believe it has a deterrent effect,” he pointed out.
The participatory budgeting scheme, in which local organisations are awarded small amounts of cash towards their running costs and development, had again been a success with all projects put forward this year obtaining funding.

The mayor reported that Llangollen had been successful in becoming designated as a Cittaslow town, an international movement which allows a community to grow in a thoughtful and sustainable way.
This, he said, this would bring plenty of challenges and opportunities for the town.

Cllr Lube said the council was still looking to refurbish the Chain Bridge in partnership with Llantysilio Community Council.
During the year, he said, there had been a setback to the scheme when all eight of the tenders put out by the council to specialist companies to undertake the work had come back with estimates there were above the budget.

He explained the council was now going back out to tender to different companies.
Some good news with the project, he said, was that the Town Clerk had managed to secure extra funding of £78,000 within the past couple of weeks.

On another subject, the mayor said that among the council’s responsibilities was the maintenance of a number of gardens, hanging baskets and planters in the town centre.
A partnership arrangement with Derwen College in Gobowen had meant that students had planted a number of floral displays in the area last summer and Cllr Lube said the council was looking forward to making further arrangements of this type with the college.

Cllr Lube had praise for the volunteers of the Tidy Town Team which maintains a number of grassed areas and open spaces in the area. He described the work is does as “very impressive”.
The Town Council, he said, was continuing with its support for the Shop Front Scheme, a countywide project to award grants to businesses to upgrade the frontages of their premises.     

The annual Remembrance Day ceremony, organised by the council with the help of other local organisations, had once again reflected well on the community, said Cllr Lube who added that the High Sherriff had been very impressed with the area’s community spirit.
The Town Council, he explained, had continued with its support for events such as the Food Festival, the Christmas Festival and the Eisteddfod which all “add to the cultural tapestry” of the town as well as contributing to its economic success.

Turning to council finances, the mayor said that financial constraints meant that keeping to the budget over the next year would be a priority.
For the year ahead it had been necessary to increase the precept – the portion of the council tax bill which goes to pay for the Town Council – by 3.65%.

The mayor said: “We accept that this is above inflation but only marginally so.”
He added the town council was also well of the financial cuts which the county council would be facing.

Turning to the controversial subject of the town’s Christmas lights, he said that although these represented a “significant investment” for the council, there had been an approach by a group of residents keen to see the lights enhanced.
He explained: “We have therefore agreed to purchase our existing lights from the company from which we have had the lights on lease and add to these with those purchased from the group who contacted us.”

Summing up, the mayor said: “We have and will continue to listen to the comments of local residents. There are a lot of opportunities for groups to get involved.”
He said he had enjoyed his year in office and was very proud to be the town’s mayor.

The floor was then thrown open to questions from residents in the audience.
One person asked how far short the £78,000 recently acquired by the Town Clerk left the council of the total amount needed to finance the Chain Bridge facelift.

The mayor replied: “We have another chance to go back in June for more money from the Lottery. However, this is a very difficult site. It is a conservation area and a tightly regulated stretch of waterway, although I’m hoping we’ll get there in the end and I’m sure we will.”
He added that the gap in the Chain Bridge budget was now between £20,000 and £30,000 which, he said, could be bridged with the help of the Lottery.

Another resident said the road to the cemetery off Abbey Road was a disgrace and asked what the Town Council could do about it.
The mayor replied that approaches had been made to people with land nearby, including the church and the railway, and none had been revealed as responsible for the road.

However, he said the county council would now be asked for its assistance in tracking down whoever was responsible for making necessary repairs.
After a number of other questions were taken and answered, the meeting ended.

Cllr Sheena Burrell then gave a presentation on the benefits of Cittaslow membership to the town. This was followed by a similar presentation from Andrea Mearns, a member of the Cittaslow group in Mold and a member of the national Cittaslow board.
In Mold’s case, she said, among the many benefits had been the winning of grants totalling £73,000 towards various projects over the past year.

It was then explained by Cllr Phil Thane, who led Llangollen’s successful Cittaslow bid group, that, with its work now done, the group had been disbanded and a new committee was being set up to steer things forward from now on.
A call for at least 10 volunteers to become committee members was only partially heeded when half that number of people in the audience put their names forward.

The mayor said there would be further calls made for members at a later date.

At the end of the evening Andrea Mearns presented the mayor with a lead snail, representing the "slow" emblem of Cittaslow.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

BBC radio team records programme at Llan Railway



* The BBC team with Ros Stockdale (right) and the driver of
the heritage railcar which provided the off-peak service to Carrog.

Recordings for a BBC Radio Wales programme were made at Llangollen Railway on Tuesday.
A presenter and producer from the Country Focus series travelled aboard the 1pm railcar service from Llangollen Station through the Dee Valley to Carrog and also viewed the new extension of the line to Corwen which is due to open later this year.
 
Countryside warden Ros Stockdale was on hand to represent and promote the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Dee Valley.
 
The radio programme is due to be aired in May.
 
 

People urged to attend tonight's Town Meeting

Campaigner and local resident Martin Crumpton has sent this message to llanblogger urging people to attend tonight's annual Town Meeting:

On Thursday, 27th March, the Llangollen Annual Town Meeting takes place between 7pm and 9pm in the Town Hall, and I strongly recommend everyone to come along to what will be a very lively affair.
Mayor Lube has followed former-mayor Jon Haddy in devoting most of the meeting to questions and answers from residents, unlike the previous and highly contentious practice of filling most of the time with guest speakers.

Make no mistake, these meetings aren’t sleepy, quiet affairs for half-a-dozen residents raising concerns over trees and dog mess anymore – they’ve been standing-room only in recent years.
There’s much to be questioned in a year that’s seen the closure of the Cottage Hospital, HSBC, the disappointment of the Christmas lighting, jobs at Dobson & Crowther, the cost of reinstating the chain bridge, the development of Cilmedw, the ongoing cost of the CCTV, the purchase of the garden opposite the Royal Hotel, the state and cost of the Town Hall, the new Health Centre and integrating its parking space, and the Town Council’s view on Plas Madoc and other campaigns.

You may not know, but Llangollen is in a very exclusive club of UK towns accredited by Cittaslow, the organisation that began as the slow food movement in Europe.
It acknowledges that Llangollen is among the best for business and community. With this accreditation, doors are open to funding, and we can all give ourselves a pat on the back for this recognition that Llangollen is a great town, and great place to live and work.

Immediately following the Annual Town Meeting, the Cittaslow team will be holding its inaugural public meeting to elect a committee. How any funding obtained is spent is crucial, and ideas are needed to help draw people into buying local. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Llan event aims to boost businesses

Promoting Denbighshire as a great place to do business and giving local companies the chance to shine, grow and flourish in this economic climate is the aim of an event being hosted in the county next week.

The Open for Business event, being hosted by Denbighshire County Council at Llangollen Pavilion on Thursday, April 3 between 5pm and 8.30pm, will allow representatives of local businesses to make vital contacts from a wide range of council services, other external organisations and the business community.

The event will also offer businesses some food for thought on how they can develop their businesses and maximise the opportunities available to them.

Keynote speaker for the event will be Richard Staniszewski, a North Wales-based entrepreneur, public speaker and business mentor who has a wealth of experience from wide ranging career both in the UK and America.

During the event, the Council will launch a brand new video promoting the county as a great place to do business.  People attending will also be able to record their own short promotional pitches for their own marketing purposes.

The evening will also include the launch of the county’s Economic and Community Ambition Strategy, ‘Developing Opportunities, Creating Confidence’.

Leader of Denbighshire, Councillor Hugh Evans OBE, who is also the Lead Member for Economic Development, said: “We want Denbighshire businesses to have a clearer understanding of how the council will support business growth and development, as well as learning more about the range of services they can access from the Council.

“We also want businesses in the county to be more confident about their future prospects and to work with the Council to develop the local economy, as well as encouraging local people to think local, do business local.

“This is a great way of showing that Denbighshire is open for business.”

To register, please contact Kirsty Hutton Davies on 01824 706701 or e-mail: kirsty.huttondavies@denbighshire.gv.uk

The event has been sponsored by BT’s Superfast Programme.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Health board appoints new chief executive

Professor Trevor Purt has become the new chief executive of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. 
 
He is currently chief executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board, a post he has held since 2009. 
 
He has over 11 years experience as an NHS chief executive, with earlier equivalent experience within the private sector. 
 
The details of when Prof Purt will take up his new post are being worked through. In the interim Geoff Lang will continue as acting chief executive.
 
Prof Purt's appointment follows an extensive recruitment and selection exercise, which attracted candidates from across the globe. 
 
The BCUHB says work will now progress on the appointment of a new director of finance, for which interviews are planned in early May.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru North Wales AM, said of Prod Purt's appointment: “I’m pleased a decision has been made and I hope Mr Purt brings some stability to the top of Betsi Cadwaladr.

"I look forward to forming a good working relationship with him over the coming months. I look forward to meeting with him as soon as possible and I will continue to speak up for constituents’ concerns about the Welsh health service and how we can improve it.”
 

AM completes Sport Relief challenge


* Ken Skates AM receives his participant's medal from the Mayor of Wrexham, Cllr David Bithell.

ASSEMBLY Member Ken Skates was among the first across the finishing line after tackling a six-mile run in aid of Sport Relief.

Mr Skates, the Labour AM for Clwyd South, completed the challenge at Ty Mawr Country Park in Cefn Mawr on Sunday in just under 42 minutes.

He said: “It was a fantastic occasion. People were in great spirits and I was delighted to be a part of it, especially as the event was in my own constituency, and there was a really good turn-out.

“The run was tough, but thousands of pounds were raised and I’m proud that I was able to play a very small part in the most successful Sport Relief campaign ever.”

The biennial charity event, run in association with the BBC, brings together the worlds of sport and entertainment to raise money for people in need in the UK and the world's poorest countries. Friday night’s live TV broadcast generated more than £51m.

Mr Skates added: “I’d like to thank everyone who sponsored me – your money really will a make a difference to people’s lives.”

Anyone who still wants to donate can sponsor Mr Skates by visiting his Sport Relief page – my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/kenskates.

Soldier's family allowed to seek new inquest into her death

The father of a soldier who died at Deepcut barracks 18 years ago hopes the decision to allow him to seek a new inquest will bring "closure", according to a BBC report.

The attorney general is allowing the family of Pte Cheryl James, who grew up in Llangollen, to ask the High Court for a new inquest.

Pte James, 18, was found dead at the barracks in Surrey in 1995 and an inquest recorded an open verdict.

For the full story see:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-26720962

Dinas Bran's Shannon wins Battle of the Bands


* Emily Bolwell, Catrin Jones, Sherrie Paterson, Shannon Robertson, Catrin Lawson,
Brannon Liston-Smith, Sarah Baines, Cari Miles, Martha Peters.
A GIRL from Ysgol Dinas Bran in Llangollen took first place in a talent competition staged in Ruthin, winning herself a recording session.

Theatre John Ambrose played host to the county's first Battle of the Bands 2014 competition last week as nine bands and acts took to the stage for the chance to win a half day session in a recording studio.

The audience was treated to a mix of performances from solo singers, duets, bands and orchestral groups with all participants ranging from 12 to 18 years of age (school year 7-13) from a number of Denbighshire secondary schools including Dinas Bran, Ysgol Glan Clwyd, Blessed Edward Jones CHS and St Brigid’s.

Pupils from Ysgol Brynhyfryd volunteered to help out for the evening to ensure everything ran smoothly.

The event was organised by Sherrie Paterson, Denbighshire's 14-19 Network Development Officer, with the aim of raising funds for the School Council Forum and charity.

Shannon Robertson from Ysgol Dinas Bran took first place gaining a half day recording session on behalf of TAPE Community Music and Film, Colwyn Bay.

River, a duet from St Brigid’s, took second place and Di-Enw, a band from Ysgol Glan Clwyd was third.

Sherrie said: "The event was really well attended and £386 was raised towards Barnardo's and the School Council Forum, which helps young people make valuable decisions and to share best practice in order to improve their schools for future generations."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Two taxis prohibited after roadside checks

Roadside checks have been carried out on cars and taxis in south Denbighshire, in the interest of road safety.

The detailed roadworthiness safety checks were carried out by officers from Denbighshire County Council's Licensing and Community Safety section,  North Wales Police and Driver Vehicle Standards Agency.


A total of six taxis were examined during the course of the operation and subjected to stringent inspections in pursuance of road safety.  The checks resulted in two taxis being immediately prohibited and suspended by DVSA officers and Council Licensing/ Community Safety Enforcement Officers for two defective tyres and lighting defects.  Councillor David Smith, Denbighshire Cabinet Lead Member for Environment, said: "These operations must send a clear message that the Police, DVSA and Denbighshire County Council are jointly committed to a course of action that will seek out any vehicles that are not fit for purpose.

"This activity is also designed to gain the confidence of both public public who use taxis/ private hire vehicles and all those persons who use the roads of Denbighshire.

"In order to further public safety, North Wales Police, DVSA and Denbighshire County Council Licensing/Community Safety Enforcement Officers will continue to work in partnership in carrying out taxi, private hire vehicle roadworthiness checks and other motor vehicle checks and take appropriate action where necessary."


“Local officers took part in the day,” said Sergeant Beth Jones who is based in Ruthin.

“Members of the public can be reassured that we will continue with this work to ensure the safety of all who use the road and that of any passengers that are carried in such vehicles.”

Peace and harmony for eisteddfod performers

 
* Krasnoyarsk City Children’s Choir from Siberia in Russia.
 

* Barvinochok dancers from the Ukraine.
 
UKRAINIAN and Russian performers heading for this summer’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod say the current political rift between their two countries won’t stop them enjoying the big annual festival.
Despite international tensions running high after Russia moved into the Crimea, leaders of the Barvinochok folk dance group from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and the Krasnoyarsk City Children’s Choir from Siberia in Russia have both confirmed their attendance at the Eisteddfod, which runs from July 8-13, and both have said how much they are looking forward to it.

Eisteddfod chairman Gethin Davies stressed the spirit of international peace and co-operation on which the Eisteddfod was founded in 1947 and promised there would be an equally warm welcome for the Ukrainians and the Russians.
The Barvinochok folk dance group was founded in 1976 and today has over 500 children and young people aged from three to 23 in its ranks.

Barvinochok have been to Llangollen before, in 2009 when they won a certificate of merit for taking second place to a group from Slovakia in the choreographed folk dance competition.
Speaking from her home in Kiev one of Barvinochok’s leaders, Okasana Cherkas, said: “Despite what is happening on the political front at the moment we are going to take part in the Llangollen festival this summer as planned.

“Our big hope at the moment is that there will be peace in our country by that time.
“Members of our group have not been personally affected by what has been happening, although we did all see the recent demonstrations going on in our own city of Kiev, which were of course of concern to us.

“We will be bringing about 40 members of the group with us to Llangollen and are looking forward very much to performing there.”
The Russian performers coming to Llangollen are members of the City Children’s Choir from the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk who will be making their debut in the festival.

From her home in Krasnoyarsk, which she explained is in the very centre of Russia on the border between Europe and Asia, choir founder and chief conductor Ludmilla Stebenkova said: “We are certainly going to take part in this year’s festival and are looking forward to competing in Llangollen for the first time.
“The current political situation certainly won’t stop us coming.

“I know there will be a group from the Ukraine also at the festival but I think everything will be fine with us and them. There is no problem between people only between the authorities.
“Llangollen is all about international co-operation and peace, and in that way is very much like the Olympic Games.”
Eisteddfod chairman Gethin Davies said: “The whole ethos of our festival is about creating harmony between different nations and helping to heal wounds.

“The festival certainly has nothing to do with politics and is a way of bringing people together regardless of their politics or ethnic background.
“Both these groups, from the Ukraine and Russia, will be very welcome at Llangollen. When they get on stage here everyone is equal.”

Barvinochok are due to make two appearances at the festival, in the Cultural Showcase competition on Wednesday, July 9, and in the Children’s Folk Dance Group on the Thursday.
Dance styles the group specialises in include classical, traditional Ukrainian, modern and global culture and more than 100 of its graduates have so far graduated to become professional ballet dancers in the Ukraine and abroad.

Over the years Barvinochok has received recognition and won awards at a host of international festivals and competitions in countries such as Russia, Hungary, Germany, Greece, France, Spain, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Italy and Cuba.
The City Children’s Choir are bringing a 46-strong ensemble, who will be accompanied by six adults, and they will be competing in two competitions, the Senior Children’s Choir and Children’s Folk Song Choir, both on Wednesday.

Founded in the 1970s, the choir regularly tours the Russia, the Czech Republic, Mongolia,Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Ukraine. It has also visited the USA as part of a project called Friendship Ambassadors and co-operates with the Krasnoyarsk State Academic Symphony Orchestra.
Ludmilla said the aim of the choir was to unite children of their own city through singing and their wide repertoire includes sacred and secular music by Russian and foreign classical composers, and Russian folk songs.

Meanwhile, the curtain raiser for this year's Eisteddfod will mark the return of opera superstar Bryn Terfel to Llangollen.
The acclaimed bass baritone will be playing the lead in a special English-language production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street featuring an all-Welsh cast.

This year's will also feature concerts by Dutch jazz sensation Caro Emerald and veteran British rockers Status Quo as well as a world premiere of a new work, Adiemus Colores, by top composer Karl Jenkins.
He will conduct his Latin American themed work with American tenor Noah Stewart, Venezuelan trumpeter Pacho Flores and Latvian accordion player Ksenija Sidorova to the accompaniment of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod Orchestra.
The Friday night concert, Spirit of Unity, will feature the Cape Town Opera, Africa’s premiere opera company, famed for their "vibrant vocalism and high-octane stage performances".

Appearing with them will be Wales’ representative in Cardiff Singer of the World, Gary Griffiths, the Wales Millennium Centre Only Kidz Aloud Chorus under the baton of celebrity conductor Tim Rhys Evans and British Sinfonietta, one of the UK's leading independent professional orchestras.
The Choir of the World competition for the Pavarotti Trophy on the Saturday night is the blue riband event of the week-long festival which will close with a Sunday night concert by Status Quo.

To book tickets and for more information about this year’s Eisteddfod go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Etape Cymru route to be revised due to residents' concerns

The Daily Post online is reporting this afternoon (Sunday) that the route of this year's Etape Cymru cycling event is to change to take into account the concerns of residents.

For the full story see:

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/etape-cymru-cycle-event-change-6866660

Two events of local interest

Two things which may be of interest to llanblogger readers are: 


Monday 24 March

More4 TV 9.00 pm


Great Canal Journeys

Actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales travel by narrowboat along the Llangollen Canal to Llangollen, where they spent their honeymoon 50 years ago.

Third in a four part series where Timothy and Prunella navigate Britain's canals.
Tuesday 25th March

Bus Users Cymru is hosting Your Bus Matters events in 
Llangollen, on a bus in Parade Street from 9.30am – 11.30am, and in Corwen, in the Library from 12.30pm – 2.30pm.

Come and talk to representatives from principal bus operator and Local Authority staff together with TrawsCymru Network Manager about your bus services. They are particularly interested in your views on Service X94.

Mike completes his epic Sports Relief swim


* Mike after his epic swim with his
grandchildren James, Katie and Lucy.
 
Llangollen man Mike Edwards has splashed his way through a tough physical challenge to raise cash for Sports Relief.
 
Mike, former chair of community group Keep Llangollen Special, likes to keep himself fit with regular swimming and cycling sessions.
 
And he had to call on all his reserves of stamina when he took part in a swimathon in aid of Sports Relief in the pool at Wrexham’s Waterworld yesterday (Saturday).
 
Joined by his eldest son Christian, Mike managed to complete 60 x 25m lengths of the pool in 48 minutes, which is a total distance of 1500m or one mile.
 
He said: “This was good training for the Chirk Sprint I’m doing on April 13 where the swim is only 400m, but you also have to cycle 20k and run 5k after the swim!
 
“So far I've raised £60 for Sport Relief, but am hoping for other donations to bring it up to my target of £100. Every little helps!”
 
Today (Sunday) Mike is going along to Ty Mawr Country Park where his grandchildren, James, Katie and Lucy, Christian's wife Alison and his wife Lis are all running the mile event together.

To sponsor Mike’s swimathon efforts online go to:
https://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/michaeledwards
 
 

Cheina Tom talk to be held at museum



A talk at Llangollen Independent Museum of Local History on Wednesday, March 26, will give people a chance to see the video taken of the one-night-only play The Life and Times of Cheina Tom (or Eight Down, One to Go).

The event was a re-enactment of some of the memories shared in the Your Town Your Story project and was performed by local schoolchildren and groups.

Held at the early time of 6pm, admission to the talk is £3 for adults, to include tea/coffee/soft drink. Children’s admission is free.

 

Leisure Centre launches fitness sale

Llangollen Leisure Centre has sent llanblogger the following leaflet about its latest fitness sale ...


Saturday, March 22, 2014

£2 million boost for Chirk station

CLWYD South AM Ken Skates has welcomed the news that Chirk Railway Station will get a £2m Welsh Government cash boost.

Transport Minister Edwina Hart confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that Chirk is one of five stations across Wales which will share £12m to improve access – and Labour Assembly Member Mr Skates said the announcement was ‘fantastic news’ for the town.

The £2m will deliver a ramped footbridge – providing an accessible route to platform one (for south-bound trains) for the first time. 

The project will also provide an accessible drop-off point, disabled car park spaces and improved station signage.

Mr Skates said: “I understand work will start in May and is expected to be completed by end of 2014 – this is fantastic news for Chirk and will make a real difference to the lives of the many passengers who use this award-winning station.

“Hard-working campaigners have for years called for improved access at the station, and – like them – I am glad that these long-awaited plans are now able to get off the ground thanks to major investment from the Welsh Labour Government.”

The £12m programme is funded by £7m from the Welsh Government and £5m from the Department for Transport. Network Rail will be carrying out the work.

Mr Skates said he hoped the improvements at Chirk could also have a positive effect on tourism in the area with the expected increase in footfall.

He added: “I would like to congratulate those who have lobbied for this, particularly the Friends of Chirk Station, and I am delighted their hard work and dedication to improving the town is to be rewarded."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Intrepid Mike and Co. to splash out for Sports Relief




*Mike Edwards at the Cheshire Sprint Tri last June
when he swam 400m, cycled 20k and ran 5k.

An intrepid Llangollen man is taking on a daunting physical challenge this weekend to raise cash for Sports Relief.

Mike Edwards, former chair of community group Keep Llangollen Special, likes to keep himself fit with regular swimming and cycling sessions.


And he’ll be needing all his stamina to stay ahead of the game tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon when he makes a big splash in the swimathon being staged in aid Sports Relief in the pool at Wrexham’s Waterworld.


Joined by his eldest son Christian, Mike aims to stroke his way through 1,500 metres or 60 lengths of the pool.

Christian’s target is a more ambitious 5,000 but, as Mike says: “I’m giving him too many years.”

Swimming alongside the dynamic Edwards duo will be their friends Rachael and Andy Bennion and their son Joss, plus Richard and Nerys Bennion.

Mike added: “We are all also going along to Ty Mawr Country Park on Sunday where my grandchildren, James, Katie and Lucy, Christian's wife Alison and my wife Lis are running the mile event together.

“If anyone wishes to sponsor my swimathon efforts they can at: https://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/michaeledwards
 

UPDATE ...

 
Sport Relief: Will Swimming the Pontcsyllte Aqueduct be Mike’s next greatest challenge?
 
Mike’s boundless energy and indomitable spirit are well-known to fellow members of Keep Llangollen Special Community Group. I’m going to convert my envy into £10 cash to be put in his hand in return for a handshake the very next time we meet, and I challenge Wrexham County councillors to do the same as some sort of gesture of  apology for their counter-productive and myopic decisions to close leisure centres like Waterworld and Plas Madoc. The irony of them praising their constituents’ magnificent efforts to support Sport Relief while voting to close publicly-owned leisure centres will not be lost on the rest of us. Neither will it be forgotten nor forgiven, so please at least match my pledge at https://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/michaeledwards.
 
Swim like The Man from Atlantis, Mike – we’re immensely proud of you!
 
Martin Crumpton

Chair ╬×Keep Llangollen Special╬×
 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Second public meeting planned to save Plas Madoc

Residents are being urged to again turn out in force to a second public meeting over the future of Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, as work to save the facility continues.

A meeting of the newly formed Plas Madoc Community Group on Sunday (March 16) was this week hailed a success by chairman Darrell Wright, from Trevor.

Darrell 67, said: “Several new sub-committees were formed to look at different aspects, both of acquiring the centre and of running it.

“With the offers of help we had after the public meeting we’ve now got about 20 people in the group and we seem to have everything covered. There are some really positive vibes.”

The first public meeting at Air Products Social Club in Acrefair on March 13 was attended by 150-200 people and it was decided that the working group including Clwyd South AM Ken Skates and John Gallanders, an expert in community-run enterprises, should merge with the residents’ action group Save Plas Madoc Leisure Centre. 

Darrell and the rest of the team are holding another committee meeting next Thursday (March 27) and are finalising plans for a second public meeting, which they hoping will attract another big crowd.

Darrell said: “We’re all feeling really positive and we’ve got some good momentum going, so we need people to show their enthusiasm again and show that they want this. 

“Word-of-mouth is as good an advert as anything, so we’re hoping people who went away from the first meeting feeling positive will tell their friends and neighbours and we’ll have even more people next time. As we said at the meeting at Air Products, the people are the key to the success of this plan.”

AM welcomes clamp down on PPI market

Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Social Justice Peter Black has welcomed moves by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to clamp down on poor practice in the selling of all kinds of protection insurance.
 
His comments come after the FCA announced plans earlier this month to improve competition and consumer protection in this sector after an eight-month investigation found poor competition, low levels of claims, and people potentially being overcharged by up to £200 million a year for products that they neither need nor use.
 
Mr Black said: “You would have thought that after the miss-selling of PPI for which financial institutions are still being forced to pay out compensation to customer, the industry would have learned its lesson. You would clearly be wrong.
 
“Far too many people still complain to me about things like pre-ticked boxes on websites, overpriced travel insurance from travel agents and tour companies, add-on personal accident insurance, and expensive stand-alone insurance for items like mobile phones and tablets.
 
“That is why I support the FCA in seeking to ban pre-ticked boxes, to insist on the industry providing cooling-off periods so that people can change their minds, and to force companies to come clean about the number of successful claims up front so that customers can judge if an insurance really is value for money or just another rip-off.
 
“As fat-cat financial institutions won’t reform on their own, they must be forced to do so.”

AM ready for Sport Relief challenge

CLWYD South AM Ken Skates will take on a six-mile run in Cefn Mawr this weekend to raise money for Sport Relief 2014.

Labour Assembly Member Mr Skates will tackle the challenge at Ty Mawr Country Park on Sunday (March 23) as part of the biennial charity event run in association with the BBC.

Sport Relief brings together the worlds of sport and entertainment to raise money to help vulnerable people both in the UK and the world's poorest countries, and last time out the total donated on the night of the live TV broadcast topped £50m.

Mr Skates (pictured left) said: “I am really looking forward to the event, and the fact I can take part in my own constituency makes it even better. I know a few other people who are taking part, and it promises to be a great day which will raise thousands of pounds for a wonderful cause.”

Mr Skates has his own sponsorship page and says anyone who wants to donate to Sport Relief still has time to do so.

He added: “My initial fundraising target was £100, but thanks to people’s amazing generosity I’ve managed to get past the £200 mark and I’m now hoping I can push it up even more in the next few days.

“Fifteen pounds could buy vaccines that help protect three children against deadly diseases, every £25 could provide a therapy session for a young person living with HIV and £50 could help a mother living in poverty in Bangladesh set up her own small business and provide for her family.

“I would be extremely grateful for any donations – whatever people can afford will make a difference to someone’s life.”

To sponsor Mr Skates visit my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/kenskates

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

KLS chair comments on Sainsbury's sales dip

Martin Crumpton, chair of Keep Llangollen Special, comments on the recent announcement of a 3.1% dip in like-for-like sales for Sainsbury's, which is due to open a new supermarket in the town.


"Sainsbury’s shareholders may finally steer the company away from Big Box, local economy devouring formats, given the disappointing results announced yesterday – over 3% down.

It’s also been bad news for Tesco, Morrisons, and tipped the balance to the German discounters such as Aldi and Lidl. As the BBC’s Robert Peston points out, none of them can blame the economy: Shoppers are changing how they shop.

There’s no conceit or smugness in stating that Keep Llangollen Special has played a part in re-introducing shoppers to value of the little bit of extra time involved in buying local for better quality, better service, better value for money and a slower, more enjoyable and healthier experience. The major supermarkets are starting to pay for perpetuating the myth they created of being
cheaper.

KLS was one of the first pioneers of Buy Local, now in its third year since we started it here, thriving and still growing. Saturdays in Llangollen used to be tranquil, shopper-free days. Visit our butchers on a Saturday and they’re humming with customers, and Saturdays aren’t Buy Local days! Twitter and Facebook are buzzing with converts, and both me and Mike Edwards’ messages are reaching millions, alongside so many others promoting this change of lifestyle.

So much so that April 14th has been dedicated nationally to Buy Local. That means a one-off change of day for us – we usually organise these events for the second Friday of each month – and it’s so rewarding to see how many have tried Buy Local and then kept it up.

See you in Town on Saturday!"

Llan's Royal British Legion branch saved from closure


* Llangollen RBL branch plays a key role in the annual Remembrance Day parade. 


LLANGOLLEN’S Royal British Legion branch has been saved from closure after one of its members agreed to take on three key positions.

But John Lawton, who will now become chairman and secretary on top of his current role as treasurer, says he can’t continue to do all the jobs indefinitely and has put out the call to members for more support to keep the branch going.

The branch, which was founded in 1923 as a gathering point for men who had served in World War One, thrived for years but has recently suffered from falling attendances at meetings.

Crisis point came when the man who had served as both chairman and secretary, Bob Davidson, had to stand down because of ill-health.

Seeing that there was a real possibility that the branch might fold, treasurer Mr Lawson decided it was time to step into the breach.

He said: “The good news now is that our branch can keep open.

“Since after Christmas, I have been holding meetings with both RBL area officials and headquarters regarding the viability of the branch.
 
“In order for it to remain active, I have had to agree to take on the jobs which Bob Davidson used to do, chairman and secretary, as well as my own job as treasurer. 

“I did this reluctantly and only agreed that I would do it firstly to keep the branch open and secondly only until such time as Bob recovers his health and returns to lead us again.
 
“However, the committee of five members cannot continue to do this alone. We need the support of the 47 members of the branch.”
 
Mr Lawton added: “If attendance at the meetings does not improve, then reluctantly I will not continue and will allow the branch to close.
 
“It is up to the members to pull together now and support the branch.
 
“This year is the anniversary of the First World War, which was the catalyst for the formation of the Royal British Legion, and it would be a shame to allow the branch to close in this important year.
 
“At the moment we are meeting in The Hand Hotel in Llangollen at 12.15pm on the first Tuesday of the month.
 
“Once more members attend, we may be able to return to meeting in the evening of the first Tuesday of the month at The Hand 7.30 for 8pm, so it is now up to the members to show their willingness to keep the branch active.”
 
Llangollen RBL was formed 91 years ago in time to consecrate the town’s cenotaph in November, 1923.
 
Mr Lawton has previously been secretary of the Historic Warships in Birkenhead, a Petty Officer in the Sea Cadet Corps and treasurer of Llangollen Royal Naval Association.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Meet Denbighshire's new chief inspector

Jason Devonport has been appointed as the new chief inspector for Denbighshire by North Wales Police.
 
The officer, who previously held the post as inspector for the Denbighshire Coastal and the Abergele area based in Rhyl, was successful in recent promotions board along with three other officers stationed across the force.
 
“I am very pleased to remain within Denbighshire, my time as an Inspector here has been challenging and extremely rewarding, I am looking forward to the future and the challenges that we face,” said Chief Insp Devonport (pictured left).
 
It was in Rhyl that the officer first started his career with North Wales Police, having transferred from West Midlands Police in 2001.
 
After being promoted to sergeant, the officer left the coastal town for more investigative type roles.  Some of this work included helping to tackle burglaries and before coming to Rhyl as an inspector he headed Flintshire CID as the detective inspector based in Mold.
 
“What I am keen to build on is the relationship with our partners and the communities to continue to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour within the county, for a safer North Wales. Problem solving and hot spot policing has worked well in coastal area of Denbighshire, I am keen to develop these further and to build on the work that is being undertaken with rural crime in the southern part of the county.”

Council warns landlords over maintenance issues

Denbighshire County Council is warning property landlords that it will take court action against those who fail to maintain their properties and not license them as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

The warning follows two recent successful prosecutions brought by the council.

In one case, a landlord was served with an Improvement Notice under the Housing Act 2004, for his property in Rhyl.  

The notice included works to be carried out to resolve complex dampness issues, being rising damp, condensation and penetrating dampness, electrical repairs, insulation and repairs to the rear door.

Following numerous emails and communication with the tenants, the council concluded that no works had been carried out to remedy the problems.

At Llandudno Magistrates Court, the landlord pleaded guilty to the offence of non-compliance and he was fined £200, with costs of £400.

In the second case, two co-owners of a property were fined for offences under the Housing Act.  One was fined £2,250 for two offences, the other fined £1,500.

Councillor David Smith, Cabinet Lead Member for Public Protection, said: "Although the fine is disappointing and is a matter for the courts, it is again an important conviction for us and sends a message out to other negligent landlords that if they have an improvement notice served on them to require works to be completed, we will prosecute them if they choose to ignore it.


"The majority of landlords are responsible and take the health and safety of their tenants seriously, but  not maintaining their properties properly simply will not be tolerated. The Council is there to provide advice and information for landlords and is offered with a view to landlords protecting the welfare of tenants, but ignoring that advice and guidance could result in action being taken against the landlords.

"I must commend the housing enforcement staff responsible for bringing these matters to the courts for their due diligence and perserverance in their efforts to protect the welfare of tenants."

Denbighshire County Council says it supports landlords and tenants through providing advice, responding to complaints, arranging landlord forums twice a year and producing information newsletters.

Special event aims to help grow businesses

Denbighshire County Council is holding a free special event at Llangollen Pavilion early next month designed to help businesses grow and flourish.

Entitled Denbighshire Open for Business, it will take place on Thursday, April 3, from 5pm to 8.30pm.

People attending will get an insight into how to develop your business in the current climate, learn new skills and ideas from motivational speakers, make vital new contacts from the council and other businesses and have the chance to record their  own 30 second promotional video for free.

On the night you will be entered into a free raffle draw. Prizes include four VIP tickets to a concert at the International Eisteddfod and two Denbighshire Leisure annual memberships. A buffet will be provided.

Attendance at this event is free of charge.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Paper examines town's parking issue

The Denbighshire Fee Press online has a story today about the thorny issue of car parking in Llangollen.

See the full story at: http://m.denbighshirefreepress.co.uk/mobile/mnews/131948/parking-is-a-problem-in-town-that-attracts-100-000-tourists.aspx

UPDATE ...

We have received the following letter on the parking issue from reader Mike Edwards, together with a picture of the "pinch point" on Mill Street he refers to:

Firstly at a Town Council Meeting last year Councillor Davies made it clear that the County Council's main driver was income generation. The main problem with weekend parking at the Medical Centre is the lack of safe pedestrian footpaths between the site and the Town Centre. As the photograph shows there is a pinch point (pictured below) on Mill Street which cannot be removed without demolishing property.

The County Council is failing again to take the local Communities views into consideration and has now allowed two out of town developments ignoring Planning Policy Wales on protection of the vibrancy and viability of Town Centres and Sustainability by permitting developments which will increase vehicle movements in Llangollen.

The construction of these out of town buildings will have a adverse affect on Llangollen detrimentally pulling traffic and pedestrian flow away from the town centre.

Why does Denbighshire so strongly support Corporate interests which extract money out of the Local Economy to HQs outside Wales and  fail to support our own local independent businesses who encourage money to be re-circulated in the Dee Valley Economy?

Mike Edwards
  

AM's ideas to tackle housing shortage

Shadow Housing Minister Mark Isherwood AM has spoken of the need for the Welsh Government to work with Housing Associations to maximise the supply of housing and help tackle the housing supply crisis in Wales.
 
Mr Isherwood raised the matter when questioning the Housing Minister in the Assembly Chamber this week on the Code of Governance the Minister is developing with Community Housing Cymru (CHC), the representative body for housing associations and community mutuals in Wales.
 
He said: “To what extent will the Code of Governance that you referred to, being developed by you and Community Housing Cymru, impact on the Housing Pact for Supply with Community Housing Cymru, and to what extent, under the Code, is the Welsh Government willing to give Housing Associations in Wales the same freedom as those available to Housing Associations in England and Scotland to manage increased levels of risk?”
 
The Minister replied: “We are in discussion with CHC and interested stakeholders in terms of what that Pact will consist of. I am very flexible on my approach to risk-based assessment. We have changed the way that that is operating, and there is still a little bit of improvement to go. However, it works both ways. There is an expectation that I will release risk in terms of giving autonomy to RSLs in the way that they operate, providing that they can show to me that there is good governance in place. Good governance means equity across board membership, not just male-dominated boards.”
 
Mr Isherwood added: “Where gender imbalance exists in the make up of boards, positive action is required to equip people of both genders and all backgrounds with the skills required. However, my question focused on the need for the Minister to work with Housing Associations to maximise the supply of housing and help tackle the housing supply crisis in Wales created by the Labour Welsh Government.”