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.
Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian
NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.
The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.
High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).
NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.
24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.
NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.
Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.
“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.
“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”
Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.
Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.
Major bequests for Aber research
TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.
The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.
Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.
The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.
The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.
“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”
Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.
The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.
“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”
In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.
Driving Wales to international skills success
AS SKILLS CHAMPION for Wales, Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles is at the forefront of aspiring young people to develop high quality, world-class skills.
The vehicle used to drive this ambition are skills competitions, which are held on a Welsh, UK and international level.
Competitions in Wales begin with regional Welsh Government supported competitions which are events that culminate to find Wales’ top competitors who progress to take part in UKSkills national and WorldSkills international events.
This year, 36 competitors from the UK are competing at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi, four of which are from Wales, two of which represent Coleg Sir Gâr, which is an impressive percentage of UK representation. These competitors have undergone a rigorous training process by WorldSkills UK, supported by training providers and employers.
Coleg Sir Gâr students have been selected for Team UK since 2009 when carpentry student Cliff Williams made the team in 2009 competing in WorldSkills Calgary. He was followed by web designer David Bowen who competed for in WorldSkills London, 2011. Carpenter Gareth Jones won gold in EuroSkills in 2012 followed by Simon McCall and Eleni Constantinou who won two silvers at EuroSkills in 2014 for hairdressing and carpentry with Eleni progressing to represent the UK and Coleg Sir Gâr in hairdressing at WorldSkills, Sao Paulo in 2015.
Last year, the college was ranked joint third place in the UK for its medal success in the Skills Show – the UK final, for achieving three golds, one silver and one bronze award. The show, held at Birmingham’s NEC every year, brings together medal winners from all nations to compete and showcase their skills and to hopefully continue their journey to the international arena, representing the UK in Worldskills which brings over 50 competing countries together and is likened to the Olympic games.
Barry Liles, Skills Champion for Wales said: “To have an impact on the economy and raise Wales and UK’s GVA, we must raise the skills of the UK population and we’re trying to do this from a young age and we’re significantly targeting industries that are important to Wales’ economy.
“The anticipated result is hoped to impact on young people and help them raise their ambitions and to find highly skilled work.”
In Wales, to help achieve this ambition, is a Welsh-Government funded project called Inspiring Skills Excellence (ISE), which is providing a supportive infrastructure to enable competitors from Wales to achieve success at national and international level.
“Much of our work is supporting competitors across Wales in their participation, training and mentoring to help them achieve excellence in skills relevant to economic growth and delivering medal winning success at national and international competitions,” said Paul Evans, ISE pan-coordinator for Wales.
“Using state of the art equipment we also engage with schools, providing hands-on and exciting experiences for young people to raise awareness of careers and the pathways available to them.”
Barry Liles added: “Being Skills Champion for Wales is a long-held ambition perhaps because I came from a vocational engineering background, I am very passionate about it.
“Industry skills are vital in our economy and I don’t want Wales to be left behind, in fact in the last seven years we have helped drive the nation forward to being one of the leading and successful nations in UK skills competitions.”
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