Monthly Archives: April 2009

‘Britain’s Best Local Businesses’

Support for local businesses has today come from unlikely quarters – The Sun, in partnership with Barclay’s Bank, has launched a new campaign, BRITAIN’S BEST LOCAL BUSINESSES. Calling local businesses, ‘the backbone of Britain,’ they’ve launched a competition to find Britain’s Best Local Business – with a £20,000 prize. Despite the recession , one small business starts up every minute of every working day, and the Federation of Small Businesses say that small businesses have increased from four million in 2003 to 4.7m today.

As we all know, small businesses are vital to every community; they employ six out of ten people in the private sector workforce, contribute more than 50% of the UK turnover and are more likley to employ local people.

In addition, every five pounds spent in the local community is actually worth £25.oo as that money circulates five times around local businesses, and the environmental benefits include reduced transport costs and a smaller carbon footprint.

By visiting The Sun’s website, not only can everyone nominate their favourite local business but there’s a brilliant opportunity to pledge your support by using the site’s Pledgeometer – an exciting interactive visual map of Britain that vividly shows the number of pledges made in support of every town.

Cadw Calon Aberystwyth believe that small local businesses can happily co-exist with and compliment major retailers, providing a rich variety of choices for the modern consumer, so support Cadw Calon and MAKE YOUR PLEDGE!

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Cadw Calon celebrate: CPOs are OFF the agenda!

Members of Cadw Calon Aberystwyth celebrated last night as they heard the excellent news that Compulsory Purchase Orders will not be on the agenda at next week’s County Council meeting on April30th. Cadw Calon Aberystwyth Poster

Ceredigion County Council, who had been due to receive a report on the development proposal at the meeting, confirmed that both they, and the Welsh Assembly Government had requested that the private sector developer, newly-formed company Cityheart Wales, should reassess all their options and

“bring forward a proposed development scheme that will recognise as much as possible the concerns expressed.”

The document continues:

“… the private sector developer has been invited to undertake public consultation on any proposals before the County Council can consider the value of a development scheme and any actions for Ceredigion to pursue.

The CPO issue is placed aside pending the outcome of considerations by the private developer.”

It seems that the power of grassroots pressure groups like Cadw Calon Aberystwyth should not be under-estimated, and that well-planned campaigning combined with political lobbying are tactics that not only raise public awareness of the machinations of local governemnt but also effect real and tangible change.

Cadw Calon Aberystwyth – who now have full cross-party support – will continue to campaign for sympathetic, sustainable and workable solutions to the question of how Aberystwyth town centre will be developed; as an organisation we continue to support the Aberystwyth Masterplan and believe that regeneration is necessary for the town to flourish and prosper, and will be continuing to lobby for a speedy resolution to the current situation and confirmation from the County Council that the current threat of CPOs will be totally abandoned, freeing property owners and occupiers from the blight that currently lingers, rendering properties (some of them potentially profitable business premises)  in Great Darkgate Street, Chalybeate Street and Queen Street unattractive to potential buyers or tenants.

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Denials and misinformation

Anyone who has read this week’s Cambrian News will be aware that Cityheart Wales, the company behind the new extended retail plans are claiming that there was never a plan to acquire and demolish homes and businesses in either Chalybeate Street or Great Darkgate Street. Anyone who has read the Report of the Assistant Chief Executive on Aberystwyth Town Centre Development Opportunity, the document which kick-started the recent controversy will be aware that these claims are blatantly untrue.

The report (which is available for download here – scroll down and click ‘Aberystwyth Town Centre’) makes the developers intentions brutally clear:

[I]t will be necessary for the developer to acquire adjoining properties to assemble a larger site. The larger site is identified within the red line on the attached plan and the properties to be acquired are coloured light brown. (Page 2)

The plan referred to is reproduced here.

Post Office Site Plans (Click for enlargement)

Post Office Site Plans (Click for enlargement)

As the report states, the larger site comprises all the buildings shown in brown – a vast amount of property earmarked for acquisition and clearly not just the  ‘one or two properties’ the developer claims might need to be demolished. The developer goes on to state that Ceredigion County Council were never asked to put Compuslory Purchase Orders on ‘all those shops.’ This statement is also at odds with the above report, which concludes:

It is recommended that Cabinet recommends to Council the use of CPO powers to achieve the aforementioned proposals should private treaty negotiations prove unsuccessful.

The developer goes on to say there is ‘no plan’ , when there clearly is a plan, a plan which was presented to the County Council in February, and a plan which was clearly calling upon the County Council to consider the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders to acquire the properties shaded light brown in the plan above – namely businesses and homes in Great Darkgate Street, Queen Street and Chalybeate Street.

So the developer has been asked to come up with new plans, and conduct a public consultation exercise. Whether or not they are qualified to do this is another question entirely, and one that continues to be debated. But let’s not forget that  massive public consultation has taken place, namely the consultation that informed the Aberystwyth MasterPlan. The Landscape Institute, which commended the original MasterPlan, described the consultation as follows:

Meetings, workshops and public exhibitions were held to ensure the local community and stakeholders were fully engaged in the process and that proposals reflected their desires and aspirations for the town.

The result of all this intensive – and no doubt costly –  research was the Aberystwyth MasterPlan (not to be confused with the new, revised and unconsulted plans) – a creative, sustainable and highly workable scheme for the long-term regeneration of the town, and one which the local traders potentially affected by the new plans actively support. The MasterPlan advocated the use of the Post Office site as a department store, using the space behind and thus retaining  the existing shops and houses. Fraser Ozment, one of LDA’s award-winning town planners who has been working alongside Cerdedigion County Council since the MasterPlan was in its conceptual stage, this week confirmed that the site could easily accommodate a department store totalling over 35,000 square feet over three or four storeys.

As we can see, viable options exist;  in fact, viable solutions  – in the form of the MasterPlan – to the question of how the town centre is redeveloped have already attracted public support from traders and residents alike. And on a last note, it’s important to remember that the new revised plans and the threat of CPOs are already blighting the lives of not just traders but also town centre residents. As one resident states,

People seem to be forgetting the people that live in the flats and houses on Queen Street that will have to be evicted to make way for new development. I fully support the original plan, but not the new additions. To some people it may be drab and dreary but to me Queen Street is my home.

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Campaign makes front page news

Cllr Eurfyl Evans accepts petition from Polly Leonard

Cllr Eurfyl Evans accepts petition from Polly Leonard (Cambrian News 10/04/09)

The leading front page story in this week’s Cambrian News confirms the results of last week’s successful protest at the council’s closed briefing, with the county council’s economic development officer, Eurfyl Evans, calling on the developers, CityHeart, to rethink the plans in the light of public opposition, and carry out full public consultation regarding their new proposals.

In an interview with ITV last week, before the council meeting, Mark McNamee of CityHeart acknowledged that Compulsory Purchase Orders are ‘a very emotive subject,’ adding that the Aberystwyth development was the fourth occasion in his professional career that he had been involved in what he described as ‘a compulsory purchase exercise.’ McNamee went on to say that as developers they had ‘not only a legal, but a moral obligation.’

Nick Bourne, AM

Nick Bourne, AM

Conservative AM, Nick Bourne, will be meeting members of Cadw Calon Aberystwyth this evening to discuss their concerns. In his column in today’s Cambrian News, Bourne confirms that the Welsh Assembly Government have yet to commit to supporting the revised plans. Leighton Andrews, Deputy Minister for Regeneration said,

‘Whilst discussions have been held, it is too early to determine other than in principle whether financial or other support from the Welsh Assembly Government would be appropriate.’

Nick Bourne will also be visiting traders on Aberystwyth’s Chalybeate Street, Great Darkgate Street and Owain Glyndwr Square on Thursday April 16th to listen to their reactions to the proposed revised plans.

10-year-old Katya Hawker at the protest

10-year-old Katya Hawker at the protest

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Market research mysteries…

Shortly after yesterday’s protest – which received lots of publicity – a source close to the county council told me that a prominent senior councillor from the south of the county has recently carried out a little market research of his own into the proposed new development plans. This unnamed councillor apparently spoke to many businesses in Terrace Road, and many members of the public. He claimed that he hadn’t found a single person who had any objections to the new, extended plans at all.

Terrace Road

Terrace Road

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Apparently he feels that the only people who object to the plans are those people immediately affected by them. Obviously he wasn’t taking into account the 2100 people who signed the petition that was handed to Eurfyl Evans yesterday or the 1600 members of the Facebook group, not to mention the people who have written to the local press.

Naturally, without knowing the nature of the questions asked of people in this fact-finding exercise it’s difficult to take the results seriously. The prospect of redevelopment is an emotive issue, and posing pertinent questions will  elicit strong responses: asking people if they feel Aberystwyth needs town centre regeneration will inevitably garner support that could be used – much as support for the original Masterplan was used –  to suggest that there is widespread public support for the new plans. Asking people if they feel the use of heavy-handed legal threats is fair or appropriate is never going to achieve the same result.

Anyway, this topic arose a few hours before Ceredigion County Council (CCC) announced that they would be asking the ‘private sector developer’ to not only reassess the devlopment scheme in line with public concern but also for full public consultation to take place – an excellent result from the public briefing. Whether or not the county council had many other options is debatable. With the debacle surrounding the way in which they released the revised plans now being hailed as a ‘public relations disaster’, it’s unlikely.

How the developer chooses to conduct its research and consultation will be interesting. We can only hope they canvass public opinion using better methods than those used by the market research company that surveyed local people in February this year. Questionnaires were left with various town centre businesses and residents with no clear indication given who had commissioned the survey or for what purpose. Bizarrely, amidst questions about parking and local facilities, the question, ‘Would you be prepared to relocate your business?’ had been slipped in.

One of the people surveyed said,

‘There was a form several pages thick. I answered a few before I had to assist a customer.’

He was gone for just a few minutes.

‘When I got back to her […] I noticed she had filled in at least two pages of questions for me without even consulting me or going back to the ones I had missed… I could see she was in a hurry to finish.’

Let’s hope the developers try a little bit harder than either our unnamed councillor or this mystery market researcher when the public consultation finally starts.

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Councillors agree to public consultation

Press release from Ceredigion County Council:

ABERYSTWYTH TOWN  CENTRE DEVELOPMENT

This morning, 9 April 2009, the Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Regeneration, Tourism, Training and European Matters, Councillor Eurfyl Evans, welcomed Ceredigion County Councillors representing wards within Aberystwyth and surrounding areas to a briefing session where officers of Ceredigion County Council’s Regeneration Unit were able to brief Councillors of recent consultation meetings held with various interested parties in Aberystwyth in regard to matters involving proposals for redevelopment of the town centre.

Speaking after the  session , Councillor Eurfyl Evans said: “This morning’s briefing session given to fellow County Councillors from north Ceredigion went very well. Being the responsible Cabinet Member, I am now going to ensure that the representations and comments received by Ceredigion County Council are to be placed with the private sector developer and with the relevant officers of the Welsh Assembly Government.

I have asked my officers to invite the private sector developer to reassess all the options and to bring forward a development scheme recognising as much as possible the concerns which have been expressed. I am also going to ask for there to be public consultation on this scheme, to be undertaken by the private sector developer, before Ceredigion County Council can consider the value of any redevelopment scheme.

The Chief Executive’s Department, Ceredigion County Council,
Neuadd Cyngor Ceredigion, Penmorfa, Aberaeron,
Ceredigion, Wales. SA46 0PA

DATBLYGU CANOL TREF ABERYSTWYTH

Fore  heddiw , 9 Ebrill 2009, croesawodd Aelod Cabinet Ceredigion a chanddo gyfrifoldeb dros Adfywio, Twristiaeth, Hyfforddiant a Materion Ewropeaidd, y Cynghorwr Eurfyl Evans, ei gyd-Gynghorwyr Sirol o dref Aberystwyth ac ardaloedd cyfagos yng ngogledd Ceredigion, i sesiwn a gynhaliwyd yn Aberystwyth i’w diweddaru ar ganlyniadau ymgynghori rh w ng y Cyngor Sir a nifer o gyrff perthnasol ynghylch cynnig i ailddatblygu canol tref Aberystwyth.

Yn siarad ar ôl y sesiwn, dywedodd y Cynghorwr Eurfyl Evans: “Aeth y sesiwn ar gyfer fy nghyd-Gynghorwyr o ogledd Ceredigion yn dda iawn y bore ‘ma. Gan mai fi yw’r Aelod Cabinet cyfrifol, ‘rwy nawr wedi penderfynu sicrhau bod fy swyddogion i’n pasio at y datblygwr sector breifat yr ymatebion a sylwadau a dderbyniwyd gan y Cyngor Sir ar y mater hwn gyda chopïau hefyd yn cael eu pasio at y swyddogion priodol ar ran Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru. ‘Rwy wedi gofyn i’m swyddogion i wahodd y datblygwr sector breifat i edrycha eto ar yr holl opsiynau ac i gyflwyno cynllun datblygu fydd yn cymryd i ystyriaeth cymaint ag sy’n bosibl o’r gofidion sydd wedi eu lleisio. ‘Rwy hefyd yn mynd i ofyn bod ymgynghori cyhoeddus gan y datblygwr sector breifat ar y cynllun hwn cyn medrith Cyngor Sir Ceredigion bwyso a mesur gwerth unrhyw gynllun datblygu.”

Adran y Prif Weithredwr, Cyngor Sir Ceredigion,
Neuadd Cyngor Ceredigion, Penmorfa, Aberaeron,
Ceredigion, Cymru. SA46 0PA

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Fantastic Protest at Arad Goch

Over 70 people congregated in Bath Street this morning to protest about the as-yet unconsulted revised retail development plans. Councillors entering the closed briefing were met with chants of ‘Say NO to CPOs’ and ‘What do we want? CONSULTATION! When do we want it? NOW!’  Campaigners were armed with colourful placards in Welsh and English and large copies of the new Cadw Calon Aberystwyth posters.

The councillors entrance was further impeded by the automatic doors’ failure to open – effectively leaving them trapped amidst the protesters who regaled them with continued chants until the doors eventually opened.

Protesters outside Arad Goch

Protesters outside Arad Goch

A petition with over 2,100 signatures was handed to Eurfyl Evans of Ceredigion County Council. Councillors from North Ceredigion were meeting to be briefed about the new revised development plans; at the time of writing we have yet to hear what was discussed in the meeting which was closed to the public and the press on the grounds that it was ‘not a formal meeting’ and ‘no decisions were being made.’

The protest went peacefully, although one of the policeman present was overheard singing the chorus from the Kaiser Chiefs’ song, I Predict a Riot, to the great amusement of the young people present!

Once the meeting was under way the assembled crowd marched down Terrace Road and congregated for further press photos at the junction of Great Darkgate Street and Chalybeate Street.

The morning’s events were documented by two film crews, one from ITV, and the story will be covered tonight (Thurs April 9th) on Wales Tonight on ITV Wales at 6.00pm.

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