Round-up: Rhigos, Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Pontypridd

CHINA TO RHIGOS

Not so long ago I wrote about the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project, and developer Vattenfall’s use of bribery to win over or silence the local populace. (Click here and scroll down to the section Vattenfall of Money.) Well now I know the route by which the turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be arriving . . . from China. Yes, China.

Because despite what it says on the Pen y Cymoedd website about, “Siemens, our turbine supplier”, they were not made in Germany, or anywhere else in Europe. We have here a Swedish nationalised industry with a German partner importing wind turbines from China! A journey of some 10,000 nautical miles by the quickest route and taking 22 days at 20 knots. Twenty-two days of a huge ship belching smoke, spilling oil, ‘accidentally’ emptying the bilges, and all manner of things falling overboard.

Though in fairness, it is suggested that these turbines, each in three sections (plus blades and spindle), will be shipped from China to Immingham (the major container port just south of Hull) in one consignment, before being broken down into smaller cargoes for trans-shipping to Swansea. The distance from Immingham to Swansea is 606 nautical miles so if, as suggested, coastal vessels are used, each carrying the component parts of a single turbine, this adds up to a further 92,000 nautical miles (counting return trips)!

CLICK TO ENLARGE

With its turbines shipped in from China to Immingham and then shipped on to Swansea, with a total distance covered of some 102,000 nautical miles (plus 532 return lorry trips between Swansea docks and Rhigos), the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project has the environmental credentials of a dozen coal-fired power stations, each run by a thousand spectacularly flatulent cows. Perhaps we might get a comment on this from La Bartolotti or those competing to succeed her as regional mouthpiece for the Green Party of Englandandwales.

Consider this, also . . . The European steel industry is suffering from Chinese steel being ‘dumped’ on the global market at prices with which European producers cannot compete. These Chinese-made turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be landed in Lincolnshire, yet just a few months ago, and not far south of Immingham, it was announced that steel production will cease at Redcar with the loss of 1,700 jobs, and there are to be more redundancies at Scunthorpe. On top of which, the turbines are to be landed at Swansea docks, within sight of Port Talbot steelworks! Insult upon injury.

The turbines for Pen y Cymoedd are built in a country where environmental considerations are laughed at, then lugged across oceans, around coasts, and up steep gradients, before each of them is implanted in a concrete base the size of a football pitch in what had previously been virgin moorland. These turbines will provide no permanent jobs in Wales and the profits they generate will go to Sweden or Germany. All we shall see is the annual bribe, the pretty beads paid to the backward natives while their land is raped, again.

Let’s face it, ‘Green energy’ is a massive con. And few projects are proving to be a bigger, or a more insulting con, than Pen y Cymoedd. The turbines there will probably have to run for about 300 years just to pay off the ‘debt’ to the environment incurred by making and transporting the bloody things.

UPDATE 21:00: On Friday the 4th, a few days before posting this, I sent an e-mail to Vattenfall at Pen y Cymoedd asking where the turbines for the site were made. This afternoon I received a ‘phone call from Emily Faull of Vattenfall, a charming young lady who was able to give me a few more facts.

First, she confirmed that the turbine towers were made in China, but the blades and the spindles were made in Denmark and Germany. When I asked whether the turbines had come in through Immingham Ms Faull said no, and that on November 22nd she was at Swansea docks to see “64 sections” arrive on the good ship Amethyst from China. Though if this is the right ship, then it does not appear to have docked in Swansea on November 22nd, though at that time it was en route from Spain to the Netherlands.

Whatever, 64 sections represents 16 turbines (they come in 4 sections, not 3 as I thought), so there would still need to be another four similar voyages to bring the rest of them from China. Though Ms Faull was able to confirm that the transformers were landed at Immingham, and moved by road to Pen y Cymoedd. I’m not sure where the blades and spindles were landed, or how they reached Pen y Cymoedd if they weren’t landed at Swansea.

In a part of the conversation I had some difficulty following, Ms Faull said that it had been hoped to build the turbines at the Mabey Bridge works in Chepstow, but Mabey Bridge felt it was not worth taking on workers only to lay them off again after the Pen y Cymoedd contract was completed. There was also mention of the ‘Welsh’ Government, but what role those clowns played I have no idea.

I have sent Ms Faull another e-mail (07.12.2015) to clarify the remaining details.

UPDATE 18.12.2016: I received the reply today from Ms Faull. It reads:

“Many thanks for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.

Amesthyst landed on 22nd November and I visited the ship on 24th November. The attached photo was taken at Swansea Docks on 23rd November and 64 tower sections were on board. The remaining tower sections will also come via this route. As I said on the call Mabey Bridge were lined up for the tower manufacture, but subsequently withdrew from the bidding process.

The ship came from China and the only stops required would have been for refuelling and personnel changes.

The blades have not yet been shipped, but 192 of these will come from Denmark, with 26 coming from Canada and will again be off-loaded at Swansea Docks.

The size of the wind farm means that means that the operations and maintenance team of around 30 individuals will be based on-site and early next year the team will make a special effort to recruit skilled individuals locally.

With regards to the transformers, these were manufactured at ABB in Bad Honnef, Germany, each of which weigh in at around 125,000 kg and are around 6 metres wide and 8 metres long.”

Pen y Cymoedd, Amethyst, Swansea docks

So in addition to China, Denmark and Germany, we now have components for Pen y Cymoedd also coming from Canada. The environmental credentials of this project, never good, are now compromised beyond redemption. The jobs referred to “early next year”, for which it is hoped to recruit some locals, is not a “maintenance team” at all, this team is on site solely for the erection and installation of the turbines. Once that’s done there will probably be no jobs at Pen y Cymoedd.

The Pen y Cymoedd wind farm is all about money, it’s not about the environment, or even about the generation of electricity. The hundreds of thousands of miles taken up in transporting the components from around the world, by sea and by land, means that the project’s contribution to the environment is entirely negative even if it were to run at optimum output for centuries. Pen y Cymoedd is the most blatant ‘green energy’ rip-off I have ever encountered.

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ABERYSTWYTH, THE NEXT RHYL?

Some of you may recall reading about five or so years ago that there was a terrible shortage of student accommodation in Aberystwyth, the poor dabs were dossing on the promenade, or else the lack of accommodation had driven them to outlandish places such as Corris where, it was rumoured, locals stared at strangers. Here’s one tale from the BBC in August 2011, and another from Aber Student Media a month later.

To answer this shortage of accommodation there seem to have been three separate responses. One was the university itself embarking on a building programme of ‘student villages’. The second response was that of investors buying up more large properties in the town for student lodgings. Third, local housing associations got in on the act – using public money, of course.

But now I hear that the bubble has burst, leaving the university with under-occupied ‘student villages’ that make 1960s East German architecture look attractive; private investors with Houses of Multiple Occupation suffering a dearth of multiple occupants; and overstretched housing associations . . . for example, the word on the street is that Tai Cantref is already docked up Shit Creek with its crew roistering in local taverns.

Aber student accommodation

What had once been attractive and easy-going Aberystwyth University, three years by the seaside for an undemanding 2:2, started slipping down the league tables a few years ago. In July 2014 the decline was being reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement and by October even the students were getting worried. The continuing decline was reported in May 2015. Inevitably, this resulted in a drop in the numbers of students applying to Aber’ – at the same time as there was more accommodation for them than ever. What to do?

I suggest one doesn’t need to be a soothsayer to predict that with so many properties now available in a Welsh seaside town, properties almost all of which are designed to house single people, it’s only a matter of time before the problems start arriving from over the border. (Thank God there’s still a railway line from Birmingham to Aberystwyth.) I’m thinking now of the drug addicts and the petty criminals, and of course those recently released from prison, because some of the bigger properties in the town will be ideal as ‘halfway houses’ and bail hostels. (See ‘Tragedy in Pontypridd’ below.)

All this results from Wales having a higher education sector that is too big, a higher education sector that has been encouraged to grow irresponsibly, with no reference to the effects of this unwarranted growth on host communities. While the universities willingly played along, adopting a ‘stack ’em high’ philosophy dictated by business models and profit margins that inevitably resulted in falling standards. Leaving Aberystwyth caught in a vicious circle, a refuge for third-rate academics and students who can’t gain admission elsewhere, with this inevitably deterring those who can read walls.

And now there may be a heavy price to pay. Which would be sad, because like most people, I’m very fond of Aberystwyth, I’ve had some good times there, drunk and sober. But if Aber’ is on its way to becoming the Rhyl of Cardigan Bay, in order to protect the investments of local big shots and housing associations, who will dare challenge this development?

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A LETTER FROM CEREDIGION

It’s been a while since this blog visited Cardigan Castle, but Lady Tucker and friends have been busy, and the results will take the project even further from the trust’s stated objectives of preserving the place “for the benefit of the people of Cardigan and the nation”.

The main contractors, Andrew Scott Ltd, have long since departed with their loot, leaving a very long snagging list of botched jobs behind them. A professional painter and decorator who visited recently commented that it was hard to believe from the state of some of the paint and plasterwork that the site had been handed over little more than six months ago.

But the departure of Andrew Scott has not meant that building work has ceased. Tucked away behind the main house and a small cottage is an outbuilding which was renovated by Andrew Scott Ltd to serve as a garage for guests staying in the 5 star self-catering East Wing. This is now being converted into accommodation for disabled visitors, and when it is finished early next year, it will join the three B&B rooms above the usually empty restaurant, the East Wing (sleeps six) and the Gardener’s Cottage (sleeps two).

And there are more exciting developments on the drawing board.

The old stable block which was restored from its ruined state at huge expense to serve educational purposes has been ear-marked by Lady Tucker for conversion into yet more tourist accommodation. This will not come cheap, and expect building work to continue well into 2017.

Also offering exciting potential for reconversion into tourist accommodation is a small house over on the eastern fringe of the castle complex.

Converting these buildings will mean ejecting the current occupants, including a popular cynghanedd class, and the removal of the only locally based groups still using the site to be re-housed well away from the castle by mid-2016.

No longer will well-heeled paying guests have to face the awful prospect of mingling with scruffy locals speaking gibberish, and the Cadwgan Trust can get down to the serious business of marketing the place as luxury tourist accommodation and a venue for weddings and corporate jollies. Or what we locals call a posh hotel.

Paving the way for this is a Wedding Fayre on 6 December, a time of the year when all but the most self-obsessed brides and their mothers will have other things on their mind.

Cultural heritage

The cultural bit will be confined to a few events (Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare, etc.) in the summer, while as a sideline, non-resident visitors willing to part with a fiver will be allowed in to gawp at the large expanse of lawn and spend a few minutes in the couple of rooms containing exhibitions of old tat. “Look Jeremy, a smashed up old 1940s typewriter which once belonged to the old girl who used to live here!”

After an injection of £12 million plus, including all the funds raised locally and countless thousands of hours of unpaid voluntary work, the people of Cardigan will find that just a year after opening, the castle will to all intents and purposes have reverted to being a private fiefdom, this time run by Lady T and her friends from Aberporth.

Spin cycle

Other recent developments include a parting of ways with Equinox, the Cardiff-based firm which tried to steer the castle through the PR catastrophes which dominated much of 2015.

PR is now being handled in-house by Sue Lewis whose portfolio of responsibilities also includes “facilities”.

When not working for Cadwgan, Sue moonlights for the dire Cambrian News, which also employs her hubby to report on local news.

Not long after it ran its notorious “Incomers are Nazis says Plaid candidate” headline, the Cambrian News was at it again with a piece which suggested that Hefin Wyn, the respected local author, journalist and prominent critic of the Cadwgan Trust, had run a campaign of harassment and “virtual persecution” against Glen Johnson, who has resigned from Cadwgan’s board and various committees more often than most of us have had hot dinners.

It subsequently turned out that the newspaper had published these very serious accusations, including a claim that Mr Johnson was having to resign to protect his family, without actually checking the facts or asking the castle’s history man for evidence to back up his claims.

The paper has refused to disclose who wrote the offending article or to hand over to IPSO, the press complaints body, what it says are e-mails citing persecution and harassment it received from Glen Johnson some weeks later.

Whoever wrote the offending article, Sue has clearly been reading a copy of “Teach Yourself PR”, including Lesson One: The Importance of Creating a Narrative because it is now being put about that she feels threatened in Cardigan, and is reluctant even to drive in from Aberporth on her own.

The narrative is that critics of Cadwgan Trust are a bunch of dangerous bigots and fanatics who, we are asked to believe, are lurking behind every lamp post and municipal litter bin between Pendre and Pwllhai in this small market town.

If it’s not the wicked Hefin Wyn and the snipers Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffydd have posted above Siop y Cardi, it’s the stiletto-wielding assassins of Cymdeithas y Chwiorydd and the suicide bombers of Merched y Wawr.

We’ll probably be able to read all about it soon in “Wales’ biggest selling weekly newspaper”.

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TRAGEDY IN PONTYPRIDD

Some of you will have read accounts from the trial of two men recently convicted of murder in Pontypridd. One of the killers, and the victim, were residents at the Morning Star Inn, on Llantrisant Road. (The second killer was said to be of no fixed abode, but I suspect he too has a connection with the Morning Star.) As you might expect, I got to wondering about the Morning Star, and it’s quite a story.

The Morning Star was, until closed after the murder on February 28th, run as both a pub and a bail hostel or halfway house for released criminals. Owned and / or run by “former Egyptian police officer Saad Taha”. Here’s a report from July 2013 of a public meeting organised so that various authorities and local politicians could hear locals voice their concerns about the Morning Star. They relate things they have witnessed first-hand only to be met with a wall of denials and evasions.

According to DePlod despite reports of knife-carrying, discarded needles and bad behaviour in and around the Morning Star “there is little evidence this came directly from the Morning Star”. Of course not, it was pure coincidence. The incredulity increased when I read that Taha wants us to believe that even though these ex-cons are living above a pub, they are not allowed to drink in the pub! I battled through this storm of bullshit and made further enquiries.

In July 2007 there was a planning application (07/1389/10) for a “raised patio / bar extension – beer garden”, and in March 2008 (08/0393/10) for a “rear balcony”. The first application was submitted in the name of a Mr D Watkins and the second in the name of Saad Taha, so is it reasonable to assume that the Morning Star was still being run as a pub in 2007 but the premises changed hands some time in late 2008 or early 2009 and was then run as both a pub and a halfway house? Both applications were withdrawn.

Next, on September 20th 2011, Taha made an application (11/1140/10) for “Conversion of existing bar areas into bedrooms (Change of use).- amended plan received 25/11/11 – reduction in total number of bedrooms from 17 to 16 – amended location plan received on 26/01/12.” With the first floor already being used to house ex-convicts it appears Taha now sought to convert the ground floor (pub) area and even the basement (cellar). This plan was very wisely turned down by RCT council.

But then, on December 14th, 2012, another application (12/1293/09) was lodged, “Application for a Lawful Development Certificate for an Existing use as a public house and hostel.” Which I take to mean that Taha was now asking for retrospective planning consent for a building already being used – without permission – as a hostel. Planning permission was refused.

I find it significant, and rather confusing, that in his rejected planning applications of September 2011 and December 2012 Taha is asking for a “change of use”. Also confusing, is that the earlier of those applications states that there are already 16 bedrooms at the Morning Star, yet according to the WalesOnline report of the July 2013 public meeting the place only has only “seven beds”. Which is right?

Morning Star reviews

So here’s the question. Seeing as retrospective planning permission for a change of use to a hostel was refused in 2011 and 2012, why was the Morning Star allowed to operate as a hostel? Everybody in the area knew what the building was being used for, including the police and the council, so was it somehow allowed to operate as a hostel without the required planning permissions? If not, then perhaps someone at RCT council can direct me to the approval for the Morning Star to be used as a halfway house for criminals.

Another teaser is, who owns the Morning Star? Having checked on the Land Registry website using the correct post code I can find nothing under Morning Star or 59 Llantrisant Road. So we can’t be sure if Taha actually owns the property (as he claims) or if he’s merely an agent for someone else. Presumably Rhondda Cynon Taf council knows who owns this place, and if it is Saad Taha, why doesn’t he register his ownership with the Land Registry? He’s had long enough.

There’s something odd about the Morning Star saga. Not least, how does a former Egyptian copper end up running a halfway house in Ponty? And what checks were done into his background? Where do his ‘clients’ come from? And who supplies them?

Anyway, undeterred by the minor inconvenience of a man being beaten to death on the premises, and before those charged with the murder had been tried, Saad Taha was again thinking of profiting from the Morning Star when, on August 26th this year, he submitted a planning application (15/1170/10) that reads, “Proposed change of use from existing public house and bedrooms to 6 no. self contained flats”. Wording that raises yet more questions.

For example, why does it describe a home for ex-cons as “bedrooms”? Or is this more evidence that no permission was ever granted for the property to be used as a hostel? Though a bigger worry for the local residents should be, who is going to live in these flats? Given the record of Saad Taha, Rhondda Cynon Taf council, and the pooh-pooh police, locals have every reason to be concerned.

33 thoughts on “Round-up: Rhigos, Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Pontypridd

  1. Re turbines. In the 1980’s there was a small company based at the Llandegai industrial estate called Cambrian Engineering. It was a start up company producing the towers for wind turbines. Cambrian Engineering cloesed due to lack of support from local authorities and the WDA (remember that quango?). The situation hasn’t improvred since then.

    1. I’m saying this all the time. Welsh companies are at a disadvantage even when those giving out the contracts are in Wales.

      Everybody makes a fuss over Dŵr Cymru, how it’s ‘an example to follow’. Yet Dŵr Cymru’s contractors are Morrison Utility Services and O’Connor Utilities Ltd. So we pay our bills to Dŵr Cymru and then our money ends up over the border in what DC pays to its contractors.

      But this is how a colony is expected to operate.

      1. Red Flag

        Indeed.

        Horizon Nuclear up on Ynys Mon (Anglesey) are likewise openly discriminating against Welsh companies from bidding for contracts through a policy of making them to big for Welsh companies to bid for, refusing to break the contracts into smaller chunks and using a ‘national pricing’ policy including their other site in Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

        Because it is classed as ‘UK Strategic’ and as such beyond even the interference of Parliament, the Welsh government is powerless to intervene (not that Labour’s branch office in Wales would go against London anyway, and Plaid for all it’s protestations over contracts is routinely ignored by Horizon anyway)

  2. Jac, you have written a good article on Pen y Cymoedd wind energy. Last week the Paris Climate Change Conference was news headlines the other Monday when it opened. As in all the media, the main BBC TV news carried coverage of the event and in the very same breath, as part of the BBC’s main lead story, they said that under discussion was a proposal to place Wind Turbines up into the atmospheric JET STREAM to generate renewable electricity for world use. Firstly that sounded a bit crazy – how many wind turbines would be needed to power the world? Then I did a WEB Search on the Jet Stream to get some facts – which are – the Jet Stream is about fifteen kilometres up into the atmosphere – or ten miles up in the sky. So we would need wind turbines ten miles high. Remember the world’s tallest building is a freak 880 metres tall (soon to be a 1,000metres) and the Eiffel Tower is 300 metres high. These loony “green fundamentalists” and loony politicians want to cover the planet with Wind Turbines 15,000 kilometres high. Seemingly the Jet Stream travels at about 150mph and Wind Turbines at present are shut down in Winds over 45mph or they break up. The Jet Stream travels on a general but meandering path that the ten mile high Turbines would have to track. The air up there is only about one third as dense as it is at ground level – remember – kinetic energy = mass X velocity. Unbelievable? Well our main BBC TV Attenborough type News believed it and propogated it. Anyway, no need to worry about the non-feasibility of all this hyped garbage coming out of the greatest bun fight of all – the Climate Conference in Paris, as there is a place in western UK called “Wales”, where many communities welcome all sorts of foreign renewable energy projects for a few bangles and beads money to renovate their former Miners’ Clubs. Not only that, an appointment has been made of a “Landscape Czar” for Wales who is none other than Wind Turbine Gung Ho Lord Tippety Toes Dafydd Elis Thomas of Plaid Cymru. Pen y Cymoedd is only the start. Next in line will be all of the Cambrian Mountains and Snowdonia and the Beacons and off shore Cardigan Bay. Lastly, let’s remember that the Siop Siarad in Cardfiff Bay sent a delegate to the Paris Bunfight. Who was he / she? Has a Welsh voice been heard there offering our country up for rape. Freedom of Information Questions need to be asked of WAG as to the cost of sending a delegate(s) to Paris.

    1. I can’t believe that about harnessing the jet stream, surely nobody’s that stupid, have you got a link? Though with the withdrawal of grants for onshore turbines I think the worst may be over.

      1. Mrs Llwyd

        Talking of links, where’s your link to one shred of evidence that these turbines are coming from China?

        1. I had a telephone call this afternoon from Emily Faull of Vattenfall, responding to an e-mail I sent last Friday asking her where the turbines were made.

          She confirmed that the 76 turbine towers have been made in and transported from China. The hubs and the blades were made in Denmark and Germany.

          All this will be in an update later tonight.

  3. Colin

    Power from bloody China? Why in God’s name don’t they use construction companies from “Britain” at least if they’re going to deface our land with these monstrosities? How many tons of fuel do they use shipping them about like that? I’m all for nuclear power, provided the installation is properly designed, built and managed they provide the greatest amount of electricity for the least impact on the environment. Then look at Wylfa B, where’s the funding from that coming from? China, should we be worried? Everything in this country is about profit for some person or organisation from over the border at best, it’s about time we started looking after ourselves and our interests as a nation and fuck the UK off. Fingers crossed if Scotland manage it we might get there one day.

    I never go to Aberystwyth, the last time I went was in 1997, nice town as I remember. I can see similarities from your post with Bangor, over the last few years student accommodation has gone up everywhere, maybe 4 or 5 large halls of residence I’m aware of. Watkin Jones have been involved with some of them (the same company that are building the tallest building in Wales, another student block in Cardiff). The same company who have recently announced they are to stop building in Gwynedd because the council are being unreasonable not letting them build high value homes for incomers instead of affordable accommodation which is the rule.They are at least a Welsh company! Bangor, once a thriving city is now looking a bit depressed, most of the high street is aimed at students, cafes, bars, gaming shops, in fact everything but an academic bookshop. I’m curious what the drop out rate is for university students in Wales in comparison to England. It seems that university is seen as more of a scive these days than a centre for achievement. I did a second degree in computer science 2003 – 2006 in Bangor, 70 joined the course, 7 of us actually graduated

    1. The drop-out rate might be worthy of investigating. I shall look into it, though I anticipate a great reluctance to co-operate.

    2. Red Flag

      The thing about the massive expansion of student ha;;s in Bangor is that they intention is that they will accommodate the students right through their 3 years. This in turn then ‘frees up’ the huge amounts of local housing currently being used by private landlords to charge students stupid money. This housing will have to be rented to locals at local rents (around £400pcm for a two bed house as opposed to around £1,000 for students to share). It will also reduce the amount of properties would-be landlords are buying (in fact it will lead to them off-loading) thus leading to houses dropping in price and becoming affordable again to the local people.

      Bizarrely, it also reduces the amount the students will be paying in rent as the Halls charge less and include utilities. That means the students will have more disposable income to spend in the local area.

      So really iot’s win/win. Cheaper rents for the locals, cheaper houses for the locals, more spending power for the students.

      1. Colin

        Absolutely, the exploitation of incomer students by largely Welsh landlords is appalling, the best thing is to take away that income into the Welsh economy and channel it away again. Which of course is way off base but the issue is to me the sheer amount of students most of which will drop out and a large percentage of the rest unable to exploit their new 2.2 degree because there’s no work out there. In my mind it would be better to restrict the uptake of new students to the more academically capable and create more vocational training in Wales. At least new English or Chinese businesses setting up shop here could make use of the local pool of trained labour force.

      2. dafis

        R.F you said ……”So really it’s win/win. Cheaper rents for the locals, cheaper houses for the locals, more spending power for the students ”

        I seriously hope you are right, but I suspect that the outcome will be more arrivals in the form of displaced dysfunctionals from the far end of A55, A5 and beyond. Landlords will either sell to 3rd sector operators or will be subcontracted by them to house the newcomers. Then the fun really starts, if you are living there get your siege mentality into gear !

  4. Keith Parry

    90 percent of students from Ulster and Scotland go to university in their home country. English students are make up a small number of students in these countries. Time we in Wales stopped funding students to go outside Wales and limited number of students from England in Wales.

    1. I agree, Keith, but higher education now is seen as a business. When it comes to students this means the more the merrier, and it applies from Bangor down to Cardiff. (How many students are there in Cardiff?) Anyone arguing to reduce numbers to something more manageable, to serve Welsh interests, will have the local business community down on their neck. Also the local council, Rotary, Masons, Landlord associations, etc., etc. We – or someone – has created a monster.

  5. Dai Drudwen

    It’s not all gloom and doom in Aber. Christmas has come early for the town and the university with an announcement from Vice Chancellor April McMahon that she will stand down in July 2016. McMahon ‘s high-handed management style managed to piss just about everybody off, and her 5 year tenure saw the university’s reputation nosedive.

    Let’s just hope that nobody gets the bright idea of asking Leighton Andrews to take over.

    1. dafis

      be careful what you wish for, even in jest !

      As I have written elsewhere, the record of the preceding Welsh incumbents of the V.C role is nothing to applaud, having done not a lot to foster the uni’s Welsh identity. The town and surrounding environs have been sharply Anglicised through the uni’s dominant influence for decades. There was much chatter about “international vision” etc etc while slipping into an inferior rating in the anglo academic sphere with token participation in Welsh medium activities.

    2. Here’s a snippet from an e-mail I received last week, from someone born and bred in Aber’, living nearby, and with very good contacts.

      “Incidentally I hear the college is totally dysfunctional, the Vice-Chancellor’s contract unlikely to be renewed in March. (Mind you, her battle with the local Masons and their fifth column on campus was to her credit. Free cars were being showered on staff and their wives, though to what purpose, I’m not sure.)”

      1. Dai Drudwen

        Strangely enough, that’s the second time I’ve heard about Masonic influence in Welsh universities in the last week. The other concerned the new Swansea campus of UWTSD where having a Masonic sponsor can apparently get you a job as a chef with no qualifications or previous experience.

  6. The real culprit is the UK Government who believe that everyone should go to university, and that they will get a “good” job. As an example my neighbour’s daughter went to university and after a long period of unemployment took a job as a clerk. Employers are now employing graduates for jobs that only need experience.

    1. I agree. Not only that, but the obsession of the UK and ‘Welsh’ Governments with academic education, even for those that will not benefit, comes at the cost of ignoring vocational training and apprenticeships, which Germany and other successful and better balanced economies support without branding them as options for those too thick to go to university.

      1. Colin

        Which is to me at the root of many problems today. De-skilling is a massive problem that affects all walks of life. Years ago the likes of me left school at 16 and went out to work and if we were lucky we did an apprenticeship for four years to learn a skill on the job. Not an academic qualification that meant nothing in the real world but a skill that meant we could actually do something. These days the best you’re likely to get is a few weeks doing an NVQ whatever that is supposed to mean in day to day life. We need more people who can do things, farmers, welders, electricians ……. people who can rebuild a screwed up country and be proud of the work they do and put their name to it

        1. I agree entirely, and it’s not just the loss of apprenticeships. The world I grew up in back in Swansea in the 50s and 60s still had plenty of well-paid work for unskilled men like my father, who worked at a titanium plant. Next to it, where I worked for a few years, was an aluminium plant. Another place I worked for a while (for contractors) was the Mond Nickel refinery. Then there were the docks, with the many quaint customs and things ‘falling off ships’. 20,000 men worked at ‘Treasure Island’, aka Port Talbot steelworks, a few thousand more at the Velindre and Trostre tinplate works, and countless other factories in the area. There were still coal mines up the Swansea and Neath valleys, and at places like Llangennech and out into the Gwendraeth.

          The Swansea region had in excess of 100,000 well paid jobs for unskilled men that were never replaced by service industries.

          1. Colin

            That’s a frightening figure, 100,000 jobs lost. The big industries are unlikely to come back or at least not in the near future, I honestly believe though that if we all as a nation supported small (Welsh) enterprise, employed local people/craftsmen, bought local food and stopped using Tesco or the like the quality of local community life could be improved. Not just financially but morally too and bring back some Welshness that has waned over the years. I appreciate that is only small scale and will never replace the closure of larger industry but it’s a start that could be built on, where there’s a local need there will be a local to do the job, keep the money in Wales and slowly we will grow strong again.

            Back to education and something that Gwilym was saying a couple of weeks ago. Teach relevant topics, woodwork, metalwork, technical drawing, local history, the 3 “R”s, numeracy is beyond belief these days, children can’t count to ten without a calculator. Education these days seems to be more about ticking boxes that children learning anything that will be of any use to them in the future. It’s no wonder so many students fail in university and your 100% right that bums on seats means income for the universities. Yes the universities need to be there but take students that are of the right calibre and let the others do something else. I don’t mean to imply that other vocations are inferior, all types of workers are equally valuable and essential in a balanced society.

            We’re racing ahead as a society, getting more and more dependent on technology, we don’t go shopping any more we buy it at Amazon or Ebay. Children sit inside playing computer games instead of playing outside. The time will come when we can no longer sustain this rate of “progress” and it will implode, there’ll be no one left who is able to hang a door or fix a bike. Agriculture will be completely industrialised and GM crops will rule. Respect will be gone and we’ll border on anarchy and no one will remember what life was like when we were children. I think there’s a lot to be said for returning to some old fashioned values and lifestyle, the trick will be to balance it with progress.

            Far from being a technophobe (I’m currently a systems administrator, an old one admittedly) but I see real value in the local bakery, a corner shop that sells local bacon cut on a slicer and potatoes grown down the road and are still dirty; communities where skills are important and respected more than an unemployed graduate.

            1. Wait, I’m not saying 100,000 jobs have been lost, but certainly most of them are gone. Even those that remain – like Port Talbot steelworks, Trostre tinplate, Swansea docks, the Mond – operate with greatly reduced workforces.

  7. A comment on windmills.. Port Talbot, where I used to work, only produces steel for cans, cars, roofing sheets and similar applications. It stopped making light plate many years ago, and the modern works has never made anything else.

    1. I take your point, but if the political will had been there, then I’m sure Wales could have benefited more from all the money dished out on ‘Green’ energy.

  8. Colin

    I’m surprised no one has commented on the latest events at “Venue Cardigan”. I wonder how much of our cash went into the restoration of that stable block? It asks the question of whether the trust actually know what they are doing at all. To spend that money to create an educational centre in the first place then to change their minds and create holiday accommodation for the significantly more prosperous than thou! So not only have they wasted that money, they are quite happy to fuck the local populous who make use of those facilities off without a second thought in the name of greed, sorry profit or worse pure spite at the level of local ill feeling towards the corruption within those walls.

    Never mind though, I’m sure they will use a local contractor to do the work! Sorry did I hear someone call me an idiot for thinking that? Christ, they’ve made that castle more of an English stronghold than any of Longshanks’s ever were!

  9. Cantref HR consultant Heather Cooper Swansea – see Carms Herald story last week – £200,000 bill ? No wonder our Chairman has fallen on his Sais sword! More heads rolled today – about time most of us think

  10. Hefin Wyn

    It appears matters have sunk to a new low or a new high at Castell Aberteifi depending on your viewpoint. Whichever might be your viewpoint they are diametrically opposed. Witness the event featured on the Castle facebook to be held on January 30. I will not reveal details. Suffice to say it has nothing to do with the heritage aspects of the castle project. It is further proof of the deliberate denouncing of all possibilities of enhancing aspects of Welsh culture. It is a dereliction of duty as far as the basic aims of the project are concerned.

    The overall project aim is :

    ‘to conserve the Castle walls and to restore the complex of buildings and gardens of Cardigan Castle, the stronghold of the Lord Rhys and the Princes of Deheubarth and the site of the first Eisteddfod, to create a significant and sustainable heritage attraction and multi functional cultural, community, tourism, recreational and learning facility which will attract visitors, create jobs, enhance historic building skills through training and bring wider economic benefit to Cardigan and the surrounding area.’

    4. Our project objectives, which are needed to achieve our aim, are:

    * restore an outstanding cultural heritage asset of international significance and bring it back into meaningful use

    * create a multiuse facility which generates 19.5 FTE jobs (sustaining or creating a further 19 FTE jobs) and stimulates over £800,000 per annum into the local community bringing significant economic benefit to Cardigan and South Ceredigion through tourism and community regeneration

    * undertake the sensitive restoration of the natural and historic environment reflecting its unique blend of historical, cultural and environmental features

    * present the story of the Eisteddfod, the castle, the river and the town through innovative and inspirational bilingual interpretation

    * offer unique opportunities to attract visitors who are seeking leisure learning activities related to the Welsh language, culture, crafts, environment and horticulture

    * significantly increase visitors to Cardigan from the surrounding area by contributing to the critical mass of tourism facilities in the town including events and activities

    * ensure parts of the complex are freely available to the local community involving them in running the site on a voluntary basis

    * provide opportunities for heritage skills and conservation management training in close cooperation with Coleg Ceredigion, Ceredigion Training, Canolfan Twyi Centre and other training providers

    * use the Welsh language, and the cultural traditions of the Eisteddfodau, as a tool for tourism development and regeneration

    * become a ‘hub’ and visitor information point for the Wales Coast Path, a ‘gateway’ for the Cadw Princes of Deheubarth Heritage Tourism Project, a starting point for cycling and walking routes along the Teifi Valley and other environmental, heritage and tourism initiatives developed under past and present EU programmes.

    No mention of Highgrove Mansion type soirees and such entertainment enamoured by Jonathan Timms, the Kent based secretary of the Cadwgan Trustees. I focus on the last but one bullet point. O why, o why do they not adopt a thoroughly Welsh creative imagination? What would that entail I hear the cry of a chorus of wailing trustees who denounce Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffudd as ‘bigots’..

    It would mean organising a Noson Santes Dwynwen (the Welsh equivalent of Saint Valentine). It would mean organising and resurrecting the Mari Lwyd tradition. It would mean organising a Talwrn Mawreddog of local and invited national poets around Christmas time to celebrate the first ever Eisteddfod held at the castle in 1176. An annual celebration would then be forged. It would mean organising a mediaeval banquet with the James Sisters and Friends as entertainers and Dewi Pws as the court jester. There is no end to the creativity once the shawl of colonial mind-set has been shed. S4C could be taken on board.

    It isn’t as if there is a shortage of talent. The language has survived in the area. The Eisteddfod tradition is strong. It appears that Cadwgan Trustees have no intention of harnessing such qualities though they are the prime heritage reasons for the castle £12m project. O why, o why, o why?

    The YouTube satirical song ‘English Heritage Castle’ appears more apt than ever on considering the January 30 event. Satire often reaches parts of the brain that pertinent criticism finds impenetrable.

  11. dafis

    Hefin above has listed the original mandate of the Castell Aberteifi venture, its aims and objectives, yet those in control have diverted the project and therefore its funds to other unrelated purposes.

    Whether they have personally gained from such diversions remains to be seen, but it is evident that they have been seriously delinquent in their serial activities that have no relevance to that mandate restated above. It appears that there is no interest in getting the project back onto its original concept, therefore these people should be removed from their posts and at earliest possible date held accountable.

    At that stage the appropriate bodies can decide whether their conduct merits prosecution under criminal law or some other procedure under civil law. It would probably be foolish to expect any recovery of funds wasted on this folly.

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