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Friday, February 27, 2015

Councillor welcomes "decline" in illegal off-roading

LLANGOLLEN county councillor Stuart Davies says he is pleased to see that electronic monitoring shows illegal off-roading in the hills above the town is “declining”.

Cllr Davies based his comments on a report from a county council officer which gives an update on data taken from a vehicle logger placed on the Allt y Badi, which has been at the centre of many complaints about unlawful off-roader use.   
The report says: “The Allt y Badi logger show signs of a continuing reduction of use by recreational vehicles on this popular road over the autumn and early winter especially with motorcycles.

“Whilst this may be a reflection on the wetter or icier weather conditions, as we do not yet have a full year’s data, we do not yet know if this reduction is unusual or typical.
“However, at each reading it is apparent that the combined average numbers of users declines each time it is calculated and in addition the number of days on which no vehicles at all using the route is increasing as a percentage of measured days.

“We are now aware that average weekly use is now 40 vehicles as week compared to nearly 60 during last spring, for 31% of the days so far logged there were no vehicles on the road that day.

“We will shortly have completed a year of monitoring and we will continue to monitor the levels of traffic to help determine the most appropriate management for the route.”
The report adds: “Two police action days this winter have seen a number of notices being issued, punative fines issued and bikes impounded.

“The reduction in use illustrates that the exercise is having a successful impact by reducing these riders confidence that they can break the law and evade being caught with the penalties of being caught are significant.
“Other evidence from the patterns of vehicle activity the loggers reveal means the police have better information on when it is most likely they can intercept and stop riders avoiding the need for unproductive operations when these riders will not likely be present.”

Cllr Davies said: “I am pleased to see that illegal off-road riding use is declining.
“This comes after a joint meeting of stakeholders and authorities where the issues identified by the community were brought to the table by elected representatives.

“Issues were identified and outcomes agreed by the relevant authorities.”
He added: “I would like to thank the officers involved as well as North Wales Police for their swift reaction and firm dealings with people caught riding and driving illegally.
“County officers along with their colleagues are continuing to make sure that illegal use of green roads etc is punished.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Demolition proceeds on former D&C factory

 
Pictures taken this afternoon (Thursday) by llanblogger show how demolition work is proceeding on the former Dobson & Crowther factory on the A5.

The site is earmarked for the construction of a new Sainsbury's supermarket but the store chain is yet to reveal how the scheme is affected by its current review of new store openings.


Traffic survey appeal deadline speeds closer



* Busy Castle Street in Llangollen.

The clock is ticking on a public appeal for cash to help pay for a survey into traffic conditions in the centre of Llangollen.

The local Cittaslow group is backing a plan to take on traffic management specialists Hamilton Baillie Associates to carry out a study into how best to the handle conflicting traffic needs in the town – parkers, shopkeepers and pedestrians.

While a full blown survey by the firm which created a ground-breaking scheme for Poynton in Cheshire would be £10,000, Cittaslow has opted for a brief one-day appraisal costing just £1,000.

Town councillor Phil Thane is fronting a public appeal to raise the cash and he revealed that with just five days left to the deadline, there’s still £350 to be raised.

He said: “We are not doing a public opinion survey that carries no weight, we're getting a professional opinion.

“We have been backed by AXA Insurance' Roadsafe scheme which has pledged £250.

“One of our Castle Street shopkeepers has pledged £50, and another £20, so how about a few quid from the others?

“With just a few days left to the Tuesday, March 3 deadline to find the extra £350 we really need support.”

He added: “Everyone grumbles about Castle Street.

“Drivers in a hurry to get through would like all parking banned, pedestrians would like safe crossings, shopkeepers need to load and unload and want more parking for their customers, tourists want a pleasant place to stroll.

“At the moment we have the worst of all possible solutions, some legal parking, some illegal parking, double yellows down one side giving motorists the illusion of a clear road - until they meet a large vehicle coming the other way, and pedestrians running the gauntlet.

“The only good thing is that it's so chaotic the traffic is usually slow and there haven't been any serious accidents.

“We think it could be better, but it needs a new vision not just the county council putting down some more paint and harrassing shopkeepers.

“Poynton's problems were much worse than ours in Llangollen, and they've been fixed.

“The town council budget is tiny, and tight, so we're asking the community to get behind this.”
To find out more, go to: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/people-traffic-in-llan/

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Susan Elan Jones repeats call for MPs' second jobs ban

Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones has repeated her call her call for MPs to be banned from having second jobs.
Ms Jones, who spent 15 years working for charities before she became an MP, said: "I spoke out on this subject last October in the House of Commons, when I was actually boo-ed by some Conservative MPs from the other side of the Chamber.

"These are the very same people that won't legislate to stop abuses of zero hours contracts, a practice that is making a life a misery for so many families in our area. 

"I am glad that the Labour Party is leading a proper debate on the issue today and that there will be a vote too."

Today's Labour motion states: “That this House believes that, as part of a wider regulatory framework for second jobs, from the start of the next Parliament no hon. Members should be permitted to hold paid directorships or consultancies.”

Council tax bills set to rise by 3.09%

Denbighshire County Council has confirmed its budget for the 2015/16 financial year, meaning that council tax bills will increase by 3.09% in total.

This means that the average council tax bill for a Band D property will be £1,422.40, compared with £1,379.73 in 2014/5.

The Council Tax bill comprises three elements; the county council; the city, town and community councils and the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales. The increase set for the County Council was 2.75%.

Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, Cabinet Lead Member for Finance, said: "We have tried to keep council tax increases as low as possible, as Denbighshire residents tell us regularly that is what they would like to see happen.

"We have set and agreed this budget at a time of severe financial constraints, with protection for education, substantially protecting funding levels to social services and putting additional funding in to the corporate plan.

"This budget is set at a time of unprecedented change for the organisation. However, we are pleased that we have been able to agree a budget that sets clearly how we are going to manage our finances over the next 12 months.

"We can also reassure residents that despite the cuts being implemented, we are fully committed to providing the best possible service for the people of Denbighshire."

Bumper half-term bodes well for Splash Magic

‘Fantastic’ half-term figures have been reported at a former council leisure centre taken over by the community.

Last week saw thousands go through the doors at Splash Magic in Acrefair, providing precious income which will be key to the venture’s long-term viability.

It was recently reported that the popular facility, formerly known as Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, was operating at a £400,000-a-year loss under the council’s ownership, but the future looks brighter under the social enterprise model.

And with uncertainty over the future of council-run Waterworld centre in Wrexham, Splash Magic could soon be the only not-for-profit facility of its kind in the county borough.

Splash Community Trust chairman Darrell Wright said the team of volunteers still ‘can’t get carried away’ despite a successful first three months since the centre reopened on December 6.

He said: “We’re thrilled to have had some really busy weekends and to have had such fantastic numbers during half-term, and it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

“But we can’t get carried away, because we will need many more bumper weeks and months if we’re going to make sure Splash stays open.

“We’re still short of the 600 monthly memberships we need to tick over, but we’re certainly in a much better position than we were a year ago and than many thought we would be in.”

Darrell, who lives in Trevor, said the Trust owes ‘another huge thank you’ to Coleg Cambria students, who have agreed to undertake a variety of maintenance jobs at Splash including tiling, welding and joinery.

“The college’s support has been brilliant, invaluable really. Any work the students have done has been completed to a very high standard and they have saved us a lot of money, which is vital when every penny counts.”

Volunteers are still needed to help out at Splash. If you are interested, call Darrell on 07882 947804 or the centre on 01978 821600.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Calls for safe standing at the Racecourse ground

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for North Wales, Aled Roberts, has today called on the First Minister to support calls for safe standing areas in football grounds and to engage in talks with Wrexham FC and Glyndwr University to secure safe standing areas at The Racecourse ground.
 
Commenting after raising the issue in the Siambr today, he said: “Current UK legislation means that all football grounds in England and Wales are on a seating only basis. Additionally, UEFA and FIFA require any club holding an international match to have an all-seating stadium.
 
“However, safe standing areas are becoming a hugely popular idea for fans at domestic matches and would be welcomed in many town and cities should this legislation change.
 
“Fans have been calling for safe standing areas in grounds for some time now. Should UK legislation change, there is no reason why the new, adaptable seating and standing arra ngements already in place in Germany can’t be put in place at grounds like The Racecourse.
 
“The First Minister agrees with me that having international matches in north Wales again would be a fantastic boost, and appropriate investment coupled with representation from the Welsh Government could see the changes being made.
 
“It is now crucial that the First Minister works with the relevant bodies to ensure that Welsh calls for safe standing areas are heard, and that any future investment at The Racecourse ground should accommodate scope for safe standing areas."

New Wrexham prison will be operated by HMPS

North Wrexham prison plans in 3D

* An artist's impression of the new Wrexham Prison.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous has today (Tuesday) announced that the new prison in Wrexham will be operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS).

The prison, which is due to open in 2017, will be run by an innovative new approach that will see the best of the public, voluntary and private sectors working together.

HMPS will take overall ownership of the prison but with 34% of service provision outsourced – including a large industrial workshop complex.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said: "I am pleased to announce that the new prison in North Wales will be operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service as part of an innovative new approach to running prisons.

"Our combination of benchmarking and outsourcing services is saving taxpayers around £300 million a year and now it will allow us to deliver a truly efficient prison in Wrexham that is based on best practice from the opening of previous prisons.

"This prison reflects the true success of our reforms in helping to create a modern low-cost prison estate, and is proving a real boost to the North Wales economy with £1.1 million already committed to local companies – well ahead of the £250,000 target for 2014.

"The £212 million investment will provide good quality prison accommodation that delivers value for the taxpayer by reducing the cost per prisoner place. Recent reforms have already saved significant sums for taxpayers, and continuing to create a modern low cost prison estate is essential to further reduce the overall cost of the prison system.

"Once operational the North Wales prison will also bring a huge benefit to the area, boosting the regional economy by around £23 million a year and create up to 1,000 jobs."

Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb said: "The new prison in Wrexham will provide a massive boost to North Wales by generating opportunities for local businesses and creating hundreds of jobs in the area.

"This is all part of our long term plan to help rebalance the economy and invest in world class infrastructure across the whole country."

The prison will provide around 2,100 Category C places for male offenders from North Wales and North West England, including a small remand function serving the courts in North Wales.

It will include places for education, 12 large workshop spaces, and resettlement functions, helping offenders who will be held closer to home reintegrate into their communities on release.

The Ministry of Justice has also been working closely with Welsh devolved health and education services to develop suitable models for the prison and will continue to work with the Welsh government and other partners to agree the necessary resourcing as delivery requirements are finalised.

Construction is currently underway in Wrexham and the first houseblock is due to start taking prisoners from early 2017.

Welcoming the news, North Wales Assembly Member Aled Roberts said: "A prison run by the public sector with support from the voluntary and private sectors offers the best solution to the questions some critics have raised” commented Aled Roberts AM.
 
“I think this solution has the potential to offer a new way forward by bringing together the voluntary and private sectors under the leadership of the Westminster Government’s Prison Service.
 
“This will make the running of the prison directly accountable to Government.  But at the same time it will offer the innovation of the private sector and the enthusiasm of the voluntary sector to the running of specialist services such as the large industrial workshop complex that is being planned.
 
“When I was Wrexham Council leader I actively supported the development of a new prison in Wrexham for the jobs that it would bring and for the improved support local prisoners could  receive from their families nearer home. 
 
“Over the years councillors from all parties and none have worked together in Wrexham to make the building of a new prison in Wrexham a reality. My only concern now is that politicians in Cardiff and London work together to make sure that transport, police, health and other public services are allocated extra investment so they can cope with the extra demands the prison will make.”

Social care chief welcomes new legislation


* Mario Kreft.
 
A social care leader has welcomed new legislation to beef up regulation of the sector but warns it will not work unless there is a "fundamental change of culture".
 
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, it was vital to "change the DNA in Wales to ensure everybody involved in worked together in collaboration.
 
Care Forum Wales are also calling for the people from local authorities and health boards who commission social care services to be regulated so that their decisions are based on quality not price.
 
The new law to strengthen the regulation and inspection of the social care sector was announced by Health Minister Professor Mark Drakeford.
 
According to the Welsh Government, care home owners will become more accountable for the services they provide to protect children and adults.
 
Prof Drakeford said the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill, would put delivering success at the heart of a "revised and streamlined legal framework".
 
Mr Kreft said: "“Care Forum Wales would want to support the overall thrust of the legislation.
 
"It is some time since the current regulations and legal system were put in place and, as the minister said, we’ve got many more people with complex needs receiving services at home.
 
"The people living in care homes have very complex needs, much more so than 20 years ago.
 
"It is therefore absolutely the right time on the back of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which has created this new framework, that we now match that with a new regulatory framework, and there are certain aspects that we would certainly welcome.
 
"But there are also areas of concern. The reality is that in Wales today we have a struggling health and social care system.
 
"It's struggling because of demand and because we are not harnessing the resources that we already have at our disposal.
 
"People in Wales are not working in partnership in the way that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown in other parts of the UK makes a real difference in terms of efficiency of resources, quality of service delivery through what we call relationship centred care.
 
"Unfortunately, this new legislation will change little unless we really harness all the resources at our disposal and particularly recognise that social care is a fundamental cornerstone of the NHS in Wales.
 
"Independent social care in Wales is being decimated by flawed commissioning practices which put price before quality.
 
"As a result, morale in the sector among providers and the workforce is very low.
 
"It means we cannot attract enough of the right quality of people, because the economic model that most local authorities are using does not make it possible to make this a career to be proud of with all the things that you would expect for those skills.
 
"While the big stick will always be what you require when things go terribly wrong, we’ve really got to have a new approach.
 
"We are calling for the commissioners from local authorities and health boards to be regulated in their commissioning strategies and procedures.
 
"At the moment, the way social care is commissioned does not support quality services and this is backed up by the findings of the recent report by the Commissioner for Older People.
 
"We’re really talking about what the Commissioner for Older People also wants - that’s a better quality of life. It has to be about support, it has to be about, building for the future, and particularly respecting and valuing social care workers who provide those services.
 
“The most important thing that we can do in Wales is to change within our DNA so that we work collaboratively and see social care as a great positive, as a part of our community in the way that it underpins the economy and the NHS - and underpins indeed our society.
 
"We’ve had now nearly 20 years whereby social care funding for independent sector organisations has been held within local authorities.
 
"The progress that we’ve made is lamentable. Yes there are pockets of good practice, but that’s not good enough for a small nation of three million people. We should have got this right by now.
 
"This new law will go some way, but if we don’t fundamentally change the way we do business, if we don’t fundamentally change the way we work collaboratively, if we don’t fundamentally value providers and their workforce and just hit them when it goes wrong, then quite frankly this will not make the progress and provide the framework that the minister wants it to do."    

County launches new online service

Denbighshire County Council's Revenues and Benefits Department have launched a new on-line service offering customers secure online access to their benefit claims, Council Tax accounts and Business Rates accounts via the internet.

Among the many features available, customers will be able to log in and:

• view their own benefit claim details
• view their own account balances and payments
• report changes in their circumstances
• make payment arrangements and apply for discounts
• view notification letters and bills that we have issued to them
• choose to receive email notifications instead of paper bills and letters

A council spokesman said: "This is a huge step forward in our continuing efforts to keep improving services for our customers, who can now access their details at their own convenience and make use of the new online services listed above, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

To register for any of these services, click register here|.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Brave Rowan aims to sing at eisteddfod

 
 
* Rowan Gillard with one of his singing trophies.
 
A TEENAGER who suffers from a life-threatening form of asthma may be one of the first children in the UK to try a new drug, to make sure he is well enough to perform at this year's Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
 
Chorister Rowan Gillard's family say singing is helping to keep him alive, as the deep breathing involved alleviates the symptoms of the 'brittle asthma' which has landed him in hospital many times, including a spell on a life support machine as a small child.
 
Last year Rowan had to be hospitalised after a severe attack, and his family agreed for him to be injected daily with high doses of steroids, to make sure he was strong enough to perform at the 2014 International Eisteddfod in Llangollen.
 
Now doctors are investigating whether he can be approved to try high doses of a drug called Ciclesonide, which has just been licensed for children with asthma in the UK, to ensure he is strong enough to make the journey to North Wales again this July for the Eisteddfod which takes place from Tuesday, July 7, to Sunday, July 12. 
 
Schoolboy Rowan, aged 15, sings with the Highcliffe Junior Choir in Dorset, and says he looks forward to his week in Llangollen each year.
 
He said: “It would be really disappointing if I couldn't go to the Eisteddfod, because it's a really fun week. It's such a great opportunity.
 
“I've been singing for years but Llangollen is about the only time that I get nervous. The scale of it, you never realise how big it is until you get there The audience is about 5,000 people and it's a significant part of my life to be able to do it.”
 
In a piece for his school newsletter after the 2014 event, Rowan's fourth International Eisteddfod, he wrote: “Eistedfodd day, is (for me) the highlight of the week, I love the feeling of being on stage, especially in Llangollen, the sheer size of it is a daunting prospect but the adrenalin rush that you get from it is second only to being on a roller coaster!”
 
Rowan, who has two brothers, Callum, 20, and Aiman, 13, has been singing with the choir since he was eleven. He said: “Singing has been part of my life for a very long time. And I can only compare not doing it to when I don't have a lot of medication, my breathing gets worse. 
 
“I don't know how it helps because I'm not a scientist. All I know is that singing does alleviate the symptoms.”
 
Mum Alison, a nurse, said the deep breathing that comes with singing helps Rowan to expel carbon dioxide-filled air from his lungs.
 
She said: “Singing is so good for his lungs.
 
“Rowan has brittle asthma. It means that his condition is very unstable and it's very difficult to control. For the first seven years of his life he was in and out of hospital, and he did have to be taken into intensive care at one point and that was really scary because we thought he might not survive.
 
“Then he had a seven year gap where it eased up, but when he was 14 it flared up again and he was very ill indeed last year.
 
“He had to be taken into hospital to have massive doses of steroids through a drip, for three days, every 28 days, for four months. We timed it with the doctors to make sure he could go to the Eisteddfod.
 
“When it's bad it's very serious. He becomes totally debilitated because he can't breathe, he has disturbed sleep, he can't do exercise. It’s awful to see him struggling like that because he literally can't get enough air.”
 
Eilir Owen Griffiths, Musical Director of the Eisteddfod, said: “This is a really uplifting story about the tremendous bravery of this young man and what singing does for him.
 
“It is a joyful thing and it is good for you and we so hope to welcome Rowan and his family here again this year – and for many years to come.”
 
Alison was concerned Rowan would have to have the same course of hospital treatment this year, to ensure his condition was stable enough and he was strong enough to spend a week away from home. One of the side effects of taking the steroids is that it makes Rowan appear “puffed up”.
 
But doctors have now said they want to see if they can instead try him on a strong inhaler using a steroid called Ciclesonide, which has only recently been licensed for children with asthma in the UK, as it can cause stunted growth. He would have to take four puffs of a high dose, twice a day and monitor his condition.
 
Both Alison and Rowan are keen to let other children with asthma know about the benefits of singing – and that even if they are very ill it can actually help rather than be another thing they can’t do.
 
Alison said: “Most people don't appreciate its not getting the air in that's the problem, it's getting the tainted air out, which is full of carbon dioxide. When you are singing you have to control your breathing and it helps push that contaminated air out.”
 
“He generally just gets on with life because he's never known any different, but he does get fed up when he's not well.
 
“Last week he couldn't go to practise because he was so ill. He texted me to say he felt awful and he couldn't make the walk from school to choir and I had to go and pick him up.
 
“He hates missing it, because aside from enjoying it, he knows it does him good.
 
“Singing is his passion, and the Eisteddfod is the thing he looks forward to all year.”
 
Despite his asthma Rowan had a very successful 2014, picking up the Vocal Cup for Most Promising Boy Singer at the Southampton Festival of Music and Dance and his own choir awarded him the Amada Ditt trophy for the Most Expressive Singer in the Christchurch area.
 
Mary Denniss (corr) who runs the Highcliffe Junior Choir, which has 30 members, aged between 12 and 18, is also a vice-president of the Eisteddfod and has been bringing the choir to Llangollen since 1978.
 
She said: “Rowan is one of the keenest choir members, he always turns up full of beans and works really hard to make sure he's included in everything. It's incredible the effort he puts in and it's a pleasure to work with him.”
 
If Rowan is one of the stars of this year’s Eisteddfod then there are many others including American song-writing legend Burt Bacharach who will open the concert programme on Monday night, July 6.
 
There is also top UK tenor Alfie Boe, who will sing songs from the Musicals at the Thursday evening concert, one of the highlights of another packed week which will begin on Tuesday with Children’s Day and the Parade of Nations, led by Eisteddfod President Terry Waite before the evening Heart of Llangollen concert featuring a galaxy of international talent.
 
Wednesday’s programme will include a new competition for the International Young Musician of the Year as well as the Children’s Choir of the World while Thursday’s competitions will see another first, the International Voice of Musical Theatre Trophy.
 
Friday’s Open Category for choirs will showcase styles like gospel, barbershop, jazz, pop and glee styles and will also see the International Voice of the Future decided with the prize including the chance to sing at one of the evening concerts the following year.
 
The Blue Riband event, the Choir of the World for the Pavarotti Trophy, is decided on Saturday night as well as the Open Dance competition and Sunday sees the Eisteddfod let its hair down for Llanfest before the climactic final concert.
 
The feelgood atmosphere spreads out to the Eisteddfod field through the week as hundreds of competitors and thousands of visitors mingle with spontaneous performances breaking out.
 
Visitors can enjoy live music at the 200-seat S4C Stage, join in with dance workshops or just soak up the heady atmosphere throughout the week world-class competitors perform in a spectacular celebration of cultures with stunning choral music and lively traditional dance, especially on Folk Friday when the outdoor stages will feature world-class music and dance.
 
To book tickets and for more details on the 2015 festival go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk
 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

No cash for new footbridge says health chief

NO cash is currently available for a new footbridge over the River Dee making it easier for pedestrians to reach Llangollen’s new health centre.

That is the word from Geoff Lang, director of strategy for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board which is building the £5m facility on the site of the old River Lodge on the A539.
Campaigners have been complaining since plans for the centre were first drawn up as a replacement for the town’s closed-down Cottage Hospital that pedestrians would find it difficult to reach the building because of its location on a busy road with restricted pavement access.

Then last September it was revealed by Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates that health chiefs are seeking European cash to fund the building of a footbridge.
Mr Skates said at the time that he had also asked the Welsh Government to examine the feasibility of a road bridge over the Dee to further enhance access to the site.

Now, in a message from Mr Lang to North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood, a copy of which has been sent to local health campaigner Martin Crumpton and seen by llanblogger, hopes for a bridge appear to have suffered a setback. 

Mr Lang tells Mr Isherwood: “We have pursued the potential for European funding, and received a response from the Welsh European Funding Office indicating that such a proposal would not be considered as a priority for European Regional Development Funding. 
“In addition the Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council has explored the possibility of charitable funding and have established that there is no suitable fund to bid against at this time. 

“On this basis there doesn’t appear to be a realistic prospect of progressing with a footbridge at this time.  The DVSC will, however, monitor the situation through their grant finder software and will let us know if any opportunities arise in the future.”
Mr Lang also gives his response to discussions with Mr Isherwood about the issue of roadworks on the A539 in connection with the construction of the health centre.

He says: “The current A539 lane closure will run until the completion of the Dee Valley water main installation – which is on programme to complete on the 25th of February 2015.
“The road will then re-open between 25 February 2015 and 23 March 2015 - which will allow the locomotive movements to and from the gala events scheduled for the weekends of 7/8 March 2015 and 14/15 March 2015.

“A lane closure will then come back into operation from 23 March 2015 until 21 May 2015 to allow further Highway works to be undertaken.
“However there will be two ‘embargo’s’ during this period where the A539 will open again without any traffic management in place - these being Easter, from 2 April 2015 to 13 April 2015 inclusive and May Day Bank Holiday 30 April 2015 to 6 May 2015 inclusive.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Campaigner slams hospital redevelopment plan


* The empty and derelict Cottage Hospital.

A PLAN to tear down Llangollen Cottage Hospital and replace it with a dozen affordable new homes has been branded as a “disgrace and a scandal” by a campaigner.

Martin Crumpton, who opposed the closure of the Victorian hospital in Abbey Road two years ago, made the comments after learning that an application for the development by a housing association could finally be considered by Denbighshire’s planning committee at its March meeting.

The scheme involves the redevelopment of the old hospital site after the demolition of existing buildings and the erection of six social housing units with associated access and parking provision.

Also involved in the scheme is the development of an ancillary car park opposite the hospital and the erection of a further six social housing units with associated access and parking provision.

Mr Crumpton said: “I have just learned from the county’s principal planning officer Ian Weaver that the application could go before the committee next month, which means that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s plans for the hospital appear to be in disarray as it was originally due to be considered last December.

“The pressure to demolish this Llangollen heritage building has never made any sense. It can’t be the need to housing since that isn’t in the health board’s province, and the land reserved in the long-delayed Local Development Plan hasn’t even been looked at, so we can eliminate that as a source of pressure.
 
“The need for beds is far more urgent – desperate, in fact – and campaigns are still running to re-open those closed.
 
“It is a scandal. It is a disgrace.

“I have no hesitation in levelling the accusation that the board of Betsi Cadwaladr and the Welsh Health Minister of knowingly and wilfully exposing the inhabitants of Llangollen to harm.”
* Details of the planning application can be found on the county council’s website at:  http://planning.denbighshire.gov.uk. Its reference number is 03/2014/0472.

llanblogger reader Derek Foster commented:

"I totally agree that it should be retained and put back as a hospital, certainly for minor injuries especially with the railway workshops close by. There is also the consideration of bats which live there.

"The main complaint of visitors to the railway is the lack of parking space and now the little car park that was the hospital's will be lost."

Friday, February 20, 2015

County council statement on school transport

Denbighshire County Council consulted with parents during the summer of 2014 regarding a review of home to school transport and subsequently revised the School Transport Policy.

Cabinet members agreed at that time to move to central pick up points for secondary school pupils from September 2015 onwards.

Therefore, commencing September 2015, secondary school transport will be from a designated pick-up point in the mornings and pupils will be returned to the pick up point in the afternoons.

A council statement says: "Denbighshire County Council will not provide feeder taxis to pick-up points and therefore if a child has been used to a feeder taxi to the bus, or a taxi direct to school, they should be made aware that the arrangements are changing from September 2015.

"It will be a parental responsibility to ensure that the child safely reaches the pick up point in a timely manner in the mornings and safely reaches home after disembarking from school transport in the afternoons. Please note that school transport will not be able to wait at pick up points if parents are late arriving, either in the mornings or the afternoons.

"During the summer term we will write to parents of all pupils currently receiving free school transport to give details of designated pick up point and times of collection and drop off.

"The pick-up point will be no more than 3 miles from the pupils home address and for many pupils it will be considerably closer.

"It will be up to the parent/guardian to decide the most appropriate method for the child to travel to the pick-up point, as well as whether or not they need to be accompanied by a responsible adult. We reserve the right to review these pick up points, and we will give appropriate notice of any planned changes to pick-up points.

"There may be exceptional circumstances for some individuals where no suitable pick up point is identified within 3 miles of the home address, in which case a home pick up may be agreed.

"Transport requirements for pupils with additional learning needs will continue to be assessed individually."

Backroom team well ahead with eisteddfod planning


* Behind the scenes team, from left, Sue McEvoy,
Keith Potts, Peter Budd, Miles Hall and Christie Gerrard.

Six months before the curtain goes up on this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, a dedicated team of backroom staff are already well ahead with preparations to ensure the great festival goes as smoothly as ever.
And getting an early start on the myriad arrangements is always absolutely vital to the success of the event according to Eisteddfod company secretary Sian Eagar.
Sian, now in her third year in the post, said: “There’s quite a long planning process so that we can secure all the competitors from around the world for the week of the Eisteddfod and put together a programme of concerts which will have the widest possible appeal to our visitors, and naturally all this takes time to arrange.
“We’re thinking about the next one almost as soon as one year’s festival is finished in July and we start getting down to actual detailed planning from September or October onwards.”
The Eisteddfod has just six paid employees based at its headquarters in the Royal International Pavilion and, assisted by a small number of volunteers, they have all been hard at work on arrangements for Llangollen 2015 since the autumn.
One of the most important roles is that of events co-ordinator, a job done by Sue McEvoy since 2011.
Sue and fellow events team members Christie Gerrard and Peter Budd have a range of important tasks, from ensuring a broad and varied selection of entrants in the famous choral and dance competitions to the detailed planning of when and where they will take to the famous pavilion stage once they arrive for this year’s festival, which takes place from July 7-12.
Sue said: “I actually started work on detailed planning for this year as long ago as September, contacting likely choral and dance competitors from the UK and around the world.
“We have our own database of groups which have previously appeared or have expressed a desire to come to Llangollen and we send out letters to all these organisations and we also go out to see them perform at events like the North Wales Choral Festival which was in Llandudno last November.
“We made the final selection of competitors before Christmas and we are currently sending our confirmation letters to all the groups chosen.
“A total of 109 choirs and dance groups will be competing this year, including 62 from the UK and 47 from countries including China, Australia and the USA.”
Sue said that it’s not uncommon for representatives of some of the groups selected to visit the Eisteddfod headquarters to cast an eye over the venue where they will eventually perform.
In fact, earlier this week, one of the leaders of the St Paul’s Co-ed Primary School in Hong Kong, Kelvin Suen, was at the pavilion to meet Sue and her team to see for himself the legendary stage on which stars from Pavarotti to Bryn Terfel and from Lulu to Status Quo have performed and where his singers will make their own Llangollen debut.
Sue’s team also handle the applications for the Eisteddfod’s own bursaries – a pool of cash built from fundraising and on which accepted competitors can draw to help cover the cost of their accommodation, food and travel.
They are also busy putting the final touches to the programming of the event, painstakingly working out precisely when competing groups will appear on the stage during the preliminary rounds of competition and the finals.
Another vital job has been working on the contracts for artists who will appear at the concerts throughout the week and also helping to arrange hotel accommodation for the performers and adjudicators.
Sue added: “The arrangements for this year are now well in hand and I must say that everything is looking good for another great festival.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Eisteddfod office at the pavilion, pressing ahead with the gargantuan job of ensuring that everyone visiting the festival has the correct tickets to hand when they turn up at the field is long-time Llangollen volunteer Keith Potts.
Keith, who lives in the town, has been helping out at the eisteddfod since he was a little lad of four and for the past decade or so has held the highly responsible position as chairman of the tickets committee.
He said: “I usually start making the preparations in November and at the moment I am in the process of sending out letters to all our season ticket holders and Friends of the Eisteddfod.
“I’ll eventually send out about 1,000 of these, which takes myself and a few helpers about three days of work.
“I’ve also been making sure that our box office computer system is set up and ready to go, which I’m pleased to say it is.
“When I first started volunteering it was a case of putting the money in wooden drawers at the turnstiles and dishing out the tickets.
“But over the past 20 years it’s has all been computerised and we’re now on to our third or fourth generation system.”
It’s essential that the all-important ticketing process is handled as speedily and efficiently as possible as last year, for instance, Keith’s committee sold a staggering 30,000 of them amounting to about £1.2 million.
However, it’s not all down to computers and over the week of the festival a small army of around 35 volunteers will be on hand to help at the turnstiles at both ends of the Eisteddfod field.
“I’m looking forward to this year’s festival and thanks to all the work beforehand and during the week I’m sure we’re going to have another great event,” said Keith.
Sian Eagar added: “We’re all very excited about Llangollen 2015 and we’re looking forward very much to the public launch of our 2015 programme in early February.”
Chairman Gethin Davies said: “We’re very fortunate in having a tremendous team here at the Eisteddfod who do a fantastic job in tying everything together ahead of the event.
“When they’re added to the wonderful volunteers who are the lifeblood of the Eisteddfod it makes for something very special but without all the work done months in advance that week in July just wouldn’t happen.”
For more information on this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk or go to the Facebook page www.facebook.com/llangollen

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Information request reveals more details of traffic study

A Llangollen resident is complaining that there were no wider consultations for a survey commissioned by Denbighshire County Council about parking and traffic management in the town.

The study was mentioned in a llanblogger story last month when it came under fire from local county councillor Stuart Davies.
He disagreed with a number of the suggestions it made about the traffic situation and also complained that neither county or town councillors were consulted during its preparation.

After reading the story, local resident Mike Edwards put in a Freedom of Information request for more details about the study.
He has now received a detailed reply from the county council.

In response to his question on which company had been employed to carry out the exercise and their qualifications and experience for the job, the county said: “Mott MacDonald. They are one of the top five engineering consultancies in the UK. The study was county wide and covered ten Denbighshire towns, including Llangollen.
 
“The aim of the study was to look at what parking and traffic management interventions could increase footfall for Denbighshire town centre retailers.

“The Mott MacDonald staff who worked on the study have 20-25 years’ experience in transport planning, traffic engineering and social research.”
 
Mr Edwards also asked what public consultations had the company carried out and which user groups and community groups and bodies were consulted.

The reply said: “20,000 residents across Denbighshire and surrounding areas were sent a questionnaire by post. 3,700 responses were received.
 
“An on-line business survey was also conducted where 300 businesses were invited to contribute and 80 responded. Three residents' focus groups were also held: one in Rhyl, one in Denbigh and one in Llangollen.

“All county councillors were also made aware of the study.”
 
Finally, Mr Edwards asked about the fees charged by the consultants for carrying out the study and received the reply that it was £37,000.

Mr Edwards said: “I am surprised this is the first time we've heard of the focus groups.
“I’d like to know who was invited and exactly where and when this took place?

“I would also like to know how many independent businesses from Llangollen were actually consulted and if the consultants examined the modern concept of shared space on Castle Street which Councillor Phil Thane is promoting.
 
“Another question is why has the consultant's report not been made available to the public to examine the data, arguments and proposals actually submitted bearing in mind the excessive cost of the exercise.

“Denbighshire County Council is in my view being arrogant in taking decisions on these issues without properly taking the community's views into consideration.
 
“Once again they are dictating what they think is good for our town.

“These types of issues were recently highlighted in the white paper on local government reorganisation and councils are failing in their responsibility to properly represent the views of their council taxpayers and electors.”
 
Mr Edwards added: “I've submitted a supplementary FoI request asking amongst other things why the Town Council and also the Chamber of Trade and Tourism were not consulted.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bulldozers move in on former Dobson & Crowther factory



* Bulldozers begin the demolition of the former Dobson & Crowther printworks. 

llanblogger reader Jude Williams has kindly sent us her picture showing demolition work going ahead today 9Wednesday) on the former Dobson & Crowther printworks on the A5.

The company recently moved to a purpose-built factory at nearby Cilmedw, allowing their original site to be redeveloped with a new Sainsbury's store.

However, a question mark hangs over whether the supermarket giant will ever move in after its bosses revealed recently that the future of their whole new store programme was being re-thought.

* On their respective websites developers J-Ross and builders Pickstocks both say work has started on the new Sainsbury's store.

The J-Ross news item says:

"J-Ross Developments Ltd has started construction on the next phase of its development in Llangollen, and will be working with its associated construction company Pickstock Construction to build a brand new Sainsbury’s food store.

"Two years ago J-Ross Developments gained permission from Denbighshire Council to relocate local employer Dobson & Crowther Ltd to a brand new purpose built printing facility at Climedw on the outskirts of Llangollen, and construct a new Sainsbury’s food store and car park on the old print works site.


* A picture which accompanies the news item on the J-Ross website. 
"Nick Scott, CEO of J-Ross Developments commented “We are delighted to be starting construction of the new food store for Sainsbury’s following the successful relocation of Dobson and Crowther to its new home a short distance away.”

"Dobson and Crowther moved from their old print works to their brand new facility half a mile away in October of last year.  

"Pickstock Construction intend to demolish their old premises during February with a view to starting construction of the new 3,205sqm Sainsbury’s food store next month.

"The riverside footpath which links the store to the town will also be improved to provide a safe and convenient pedestrian route to the town centre.

"Pickstock Construction has worked closely with Sainsbury’s new development team to plan the build programme, handing the new store over to Sainsbury’s at the end of the summer 2015."

UPDATE ...

Comment from Keep Llangollen Special (KLS) ...

It’s remarkable they’ve pointedly avoided pre-announcing Sainsbury’s decision whether to open or not here in Llangollen. Following a highly successful experiment in Home Shopping and Delivery – nearly £69’s worth of shopping costing just over £44 with a introductory offer - KLS is promoting this as a far superior alternative to the mediocre and spiritless experience of large-shed supermarkets.
 
It is inevitable that large-format supermarkets has reached their evolutionary dead-end and the leading chains will do as the banks has done and force customers to the Internet, leaving Express-type convenience stores in town centres for those who can’t access their websites.
 
We reiterate, whether Sainsbury’s do or don’t proceed, KLS remains focused and dedicated to making Sainsbury’s edge-of-town monstrosity unprofitable.
to the point where that to will be abandoned. Everything in our power will be done to support our local shops. J Ross is no friend of Llangollen, and neither is Sainsbury;s – they;re just hard-nosed business people determined to steal market share from small traders instead of generating new demand.
 
Martin Crumpton

Chair ╬×Keep Llangollen Special╬×

Former Dinas Bran pupil's work set for premiere


* Composer Owain Llwyd.

A new work by a talented composer who orchestrated the music used in a trailer for the latest Hobbit movie blockbuster will be unveiled at a top music festival.

Owain Llwyd, 30, a former pupil of Ysgol Dinas Bran, Llangollen, who's also composed for the X-Factor, Top Gear and Big Brother, is looking forward to the premiere at Bangor Music Festival, which starts on March 4.

He's "really excited" about the commission which he has written specifically for North Wales Camerata – an ensemble of more than 20 young musicians, under the direction of Patrick Rimes.

The concert will be at Capel Penrallt, Bangor on Saturday, March 7, at 7:30pm.

Owain, a Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol lecturer at Bangor University, said: “It’s quite a change from what I would normally compose. It’s based upon a traditional Welsh tune called Y Deryn Pur but in my piece you don’t hear the full melody until the last few bars. Before that the melody is stretched.

“The whole piece, which is in three movements, is quite a change for me as a composer.

"I wrote the first and last movements over Christmas and the work is quite spiritual. I think it happened subconsciously but I lost four or five good friends and acquaintances, all of whom had strong North Wales connections, during that time.

“The result is Gentle Dove which is a piece for strings and trumpet. The first and last movements are almost in a memorial style while the second movement is more joyful and celebrates life.”

Owain, who’s post is funded at Bangor University by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, which works with universities across Wales to develop Welsh language medium opportunities for students, says as soon as he heard North Wales Camerata play he knew he wanted to write something specifically with them in mind.

He said: “That’s why I was so delighted to be commissioned by the Bangor Music Festival. As soon as I saw the Camerata play I was excited about the prospect.

“Gentle Dove is a piece for strings and trumpet. Gwyn Owen will play the trumpet but all the musicians have connections to North Wales and all are studying at UK music colleges.

Owain hails from Glyndyfrdwy, between Llangollen and Corwen, and attended Llangollen’s Ysgol Dinas Bran before completing his sixth form studies at Ysgol Y Berwyn, Bala. He studied music at Bangor University.

During the course of his three years as an undergraduate he won all five Eisteddfod composition medals in both the Urdd National Eisteddfod and the National Eisteddfod of Wales – the only composer to have ever achieved this.

He then completed his PhD in composition writing music for film and TV at Bangor before becoming a Welsh-medium music lecturer under the auspices of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.

As well as lecturing in music at Bangor University and composing his own music, Owain is kept busy orchestrating the work of other composers.

He said: “I do a lot of orchestration work for the British composer Tom Player. Basically I notate the score for his music. Tom specialises in writing music for film trailers and TV adverts.

“It’s very common he will write the music and I score it up for the orchestra. Orchestration is an important part of the writing process. It has meant I have worked on some wonderful projects such as the last Hobbit film and TV adverts for companies such as Ikea.

“And I have also composed my own original music that has been included on such programmes as The X-Factor, Top Gear, the US Open, Masterchef and Big Brother to name just a few.”

Dr Guto Pryderi Puw, the festival’s artistic director and a renowned composer in his own right, is thrilled to have been able to feature a new work by Owain Llwyd within the 5 day long festival.

He said: “Owain’s reputation as a fine composer is growing very fast, not only in the film and TV industries but also within the concert halls. His music is direct and often full of rhythmic energy and will be greatly anticipated as part of a thrilling programme during the Saturday evening concert."

The life and work of music legend Frank Zappa will be celebrated at the festival where fans can talk to his widow, Gail, via a live link from California.
 
The iconic American bandleader, songwriter, composer and film director will be remembered in a series of events.
 
The theme this year is ‘Crossover and Multimedia’ with each concert having a connected educational project that will involve a number of local schools as well as the city’s university students.
 
The Apollo Saxophone Quartet will open the festival with a concert of crossover music influenced by jazz and minimalism together with the quartet’s own scores to short silent films in Reichel, Ffriddoedd Road, Bangor.
 
The festival will close with the awarding of the William Mathias Composition Prize for a piece for flute, clarinet, piano and electronics during the Rees/Roche/Pestova evening concert on Sunday, March 8.
 
For more information on Bangor Music Festival and for ticket information visit www.bangormusicfestival.org.uk