ON SATURDAY (May 28), supporters of Frack Free West Wales gathered outside Barclays in Aberystwyth to protest against the bank’s support for fracking in the UK. Fracking is shorthand for the hydraulic fracturing of shale rock to extract methane (natural gas).
The action outside Barclays was a show of solidarity with the residents of North Yorkshire.
North Yorkshire Council recently approved a fracking development outside Kirby Misperton, a village in Ryedale near the North York Moors national park. The Aberystwyth protest was one of a number of similar actions taking place across Britain.
Nicki Wilkins of Frack Free West Wales said, ‘We support communities around the world who are fighting governments and companies that put profit before people or the planet. We organised this gathering in solidarity with those people in Yorkshire who continue to try to safeguard their community from Third Energy, which is owned by Barclays Bank, and the Conservative government, who are intent on profiting from the exploitation of fossil fuels. We have to leave fossil fuels in the ground if we are to protect future generations from runaway climate change, it’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, our current government doesn’t take our future into consideration when making their deals so it’s up to us, the people, to stand up to them.’
In 2015 Frack Free West Wales successfully lobbied Ceredigion Council to declare the county ‘frack free’. Ceredigion was the first local authority in Wales to take this step, empowering other councils to follow suit.
RIDING ROUGHSHOD OVER RYEDALE
North Yorkshire Council’s decision to approve Third Energy’s proposal to frack for gas at Kirby Misperton was made despite thousands of objections from residents and campaigners.
Over 32,000 people signed a petition condemning the Council’s decision. The petition also challenged the UK Government to ‘develop a balanced long term energy policy that will achieve our globally agreed climate change targets’.
The Frack Free Ryedale campaign group are currently considering whether they can take legal action to stop the fracking at Kirby Misperton.
No new fracking developments have been approved in Britain since 2011 when the process was found to be responsible for two earthquakes near Blackpool. Since then, campaigners have successfully countered proposed developments, notably Cuadrilla’s schemes in Sussex and Lancashire. Communities and campaigns across Britain are concerned that the North Yorkshire decision will set a precedent that leads to more fracking sites being approved.
The UK government seems set on the promotion of fracking. In 2014 David Cameron stated ‘We’re going all out for shale’. Opponents argue that such a policy directly contradicts the UK’s commitment to curb climate change.
Although it is ‘cleaner’ than coal or oil, shale gas is still a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide when burned to produce energy. There is also evidence that leakages of methane associated with the fracking process could mean that the overall impact of shale gas on the climate is worse that of other fossil fuels.
Measure for measure over a 100 year period methane causes around 25 times more atmospheric warming than carbon dioxide.
In 2015 Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said the UK is ‘absolutely committed’ to the Paris climate deal and will be ‘making sure we deliver on it’. Opponents claim that Rudd and Cameron’s statements are contradictory.
Scotland has imposed a moratorium on fracking.
New SNP Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said it would not be permitted unless it could be proved ‘beyond doubt that there is no risk to health, communities or the environment.’
FRACK FREE WALES?
Wales does not have a moratorium on fracking. In 2015, the then Natural Resources and Planning Minister Carl Sargeant assumed the power to stop councils from approving applications for fracking.
In a letter to the 25 planning authorities in Wales he wrote that where a local planning authority ‘do not propose to refuse an application for unconventional oil and gas development, the authority must notify the Welsh ministers.’
That directive followed a Senedd vote instigated by Plaid Cymru proposing that the Welsh government to do everything in its power to prevent fracking in Wales.
Nobody has yet applied for fracking in Wales. There are two sites with all the necessary permits to carry out test drilling, Pontrhydyfen and Llandow. However, there is no sign of work beginning any time soon.
A spokesperson for Frack Free Wales, Keith Ross, told the Herald: “The main concern about the North Yorks decision is that it will pave the way for more fracking applications and give the whole industry renewed impetus.
Despite the so-called ‘moratorium’ in Wales we can expect the UK Government to do everything in its power to undermine opposition in Wales, so we need to focus hard on preventing this industry from gaining a foothold. Anything that can done to slow progress and to put obstacles in the way of the industry will contribute to this aim – including action against those who are funding the industry.
“The fight in Wales goes on until we have a complete ban on Unconventional Gas Development and are well on the path to generating all our energy from renewable resources.”
‘YOU WON’T BE FRACKING LONG!’
There are legitimate public concerns about fracking.
Including excessive water use, earthquakes, well-head and transportation accidents leading to groundwater contamination, landscape degradation and an increase in heavy road traffic because the gas is usually transported by tanker.
In the longer term the major concern must be that burning any fossil fuel drives climate change and fracking comes with the extra risk of methane leakage.
Opponents of fracking consistently argue the need to develop sources of renewable energy.
In common with protesters around Britain, Frack Free West Wales shared photos and video footage of the Barclays action on social media. Groups opposed to fracking across the UK are calling on customers to lobby Barclays and switch their accounts from a bank with a notoriously unethical history that includes supporting the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The solidarity action in west Wales was much appreciated by the Frack Free Ryedale group who tweeted in response: ‘We love this! Thank you Aberystwyth – each & every one of you!’
Protesters in Aberystwyth sang ‘You won’t be fracking long’ to the tune of The Laughing Policeman.
As the evidence against the process increases and public opposition grows, they may indeed have the last laugh.
It’s About Time
THIS January, Ceredigion Museum are proud to exhibit artwork by the portrait painter Seren Morgan Jones, originally from Aberystwyth and the third generation of women artists in her family.
Jones follows in the footsteps of her grandmother Margaret Jones, whose work forms part of the Ceredigion Museum collection. The exhibition will be followed in January 2019 by a retrospective show of work by her grandmother Margaret Jones who celebrates her 100th birthday this December.
It’s About Time is an amalgamation of two distinct bodies of work created by Seren Morgan Jones; ‘History’s Eyes’ documenting Welsh women from the 19th century and ‘Portraits of Protesters’ a collection of paintings documenting Welsh suffragists at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Drawing inspiration from historical aesthetics and references, but expanding the scope of traditional portraiture, Jones redefines and re-imagines the historical narrative, and through this creating a place for women within the Welsh visual story. The paintings take on an additional layer of importance and meaning when shown in the context of Ceredigion Museum; which houses a large collection of items representing the culture and history of the county. The collection is home to many items that have been donated by women, but we too often don’t have the narrative of those women’s lives. Jones used the Ceredigion Museum collection of welsh costume as research for her paintings depicting women in welsh traditional garb; the women largely remain nameless and faceless in our displays and yet here, in Jones’ work those women’s histories are now brought to life.
The portraits are powerful and direct; the eyes gaze unswerving to create an utterly distraction-free moment between viewer and painting which seeks to challenge and question. The portraits are imagined and shaped from stories and photographs of women rather than actual bygone figures. In the creation of these false portraits, in a style that references that of the tradition of Welsh Masters; Jones places her and the women whom she is portraying within this cultural narrative.
Of her work, Jones says: “I create an alternative image of Welsh women to counter the representation often seen in tourist shops. Some would argue that this is the only ubiquitous presence of women from Wales’ past. It is important that the viewer can relate to these women and for this they must seem to have once lived.”
Join Ceredigion Museum for the official opening of the exhibition on 27 January at 2pm. The exhibition will be opened by the renowned artist William Wilkins.
The exhibition is a partnership project with TEN gallery Cardiff and will run from 20 January until 16 April 2018 at Ceredigion Museum. For more information please contact Assistant Curator Alice Briggs, email@example.com or 01970633086.
Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’
FOUR men have been arrested after a man was hospitalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 14).
19-year-old Ifan Richards Owen is in hospital in critical condition after the attack.
The incident took place in High Street, Aberystwyth, at approximately 2:20am.
Four men, aged 19, 20, 23 and 25 have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.
They are in police custody.
Police are now appealing for witnesses to contact them as a matter of urgency.
DCI Anthony Evans, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal for witnesses to the assault on Ifan Richards Owens, aged 19, which occurred on High Street, Aberystwyth at around 2.20am on Sunday, January 14.
“In particular we would like to speak to anyone who gave first aid to Mr Owens before emergency services arrived.
“Mr Owens remains in hospital in a critical condition.
“We would urge anyone with any information that could assist in our investigation any witnesses to the incident or anyone who may have any CCTV or video footage of the incident to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 402 of January 14. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
“Four men, aged 25, 23, 20 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and remain in police custody at this time.”
Ifan’s family said in a statement: “Ifan is a kind and gentle person, and we have been overwhelmed with messages of support from family, friends, as well as Ifan’s school friends, teachers, university friends, and sports teams, who are all sending their best wishes for Ifan, who is desperately ill following this incident in Aberystwyth.
“Ifan’s only choice for university was Aberystwyth, he had no interest in any other university and absolutely loves the town. He plays football and rugby for the Geltaidd Football and Rugby Clubs and is enjoying his second year studying Criminology at Aberystwyth University.”
Ceredigion MP welcomes 7-year Lottery investment in Llandysul
RURAL FUTURES, a new 7 year programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund, will be rolled out in 10 communities across Wales, including Llandysul in Ceredigion.
Professional advice will be available to help the town create effective long-term solutions to the challenging issues they face.
Rural Futures is delivered by Severn Wye Energy Agency and the BRO Partnership. Llandysul was chosen following a period of research into local economic and social statistics, and liaising with local councillors and staff in numerous community support organisations and community groups.
The decision was finalised following the public meeting held by Ben Lake MP and Elin Jones AM in Llandysul on November 3 whereby over 150 local people came to discuss the town’s future. This meeting helped the Rural Futures team identify that Llandysul would greatly benefit from support to address a number of local and rural issues.
Ben Lake, MP for Ceredigion said: “I am delighted that the successful public meeting held in November played a part in securing this substantial investment. Rural communities such as Llandysul are currently facing enormous challenges and I’m confident that this innovative programme will provide valuable guidance and support to the community as it seeks to come up with ambitious, creative and practical solutions that will regenerate the town.”
Elin Jones, AM for Ceredigion said: “This is excellent news for Llandysul. This programme will give the community the opportunity to take ownership of future plans and projects and implement vital improvements to the town on their own terms.”
The Rural Futures team will work with the community of Llandysul and will also work in partnership with public bodies and local organisations, who are already operating in the area, to add value where possible to their efforts.
Keith Evans, County Councillor for Llandysul said: “Having worked closely with the Rural Futures team over the past few months, I’m extremely pleased that Llandysul has been chosen as one of the 10 communities across Wales to benefit from this programme. I look forward to further collaboration over the next 7 years as we seek to regenerate and invigorate the town.”
Ruth Bates, the Big Lottery Fund’s Communications Officer commented: “This is a new approach for the BLF and in keeping with our aim of putting people in the lead, we see the Rural Futures programme as a fantastic opportunity to deliver real benefits to communities, as well as informing future policy and funding in Wales.”
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