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Ceredigion to be considered priority for next phase of broadband roll-out

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Following the announcement of the next stage of broadband roll out in Wales, Elin Jones AM and Ben Lake MP have urged Ceredigion constituents to come forward so that their lack of broadband can be raised with the Welsh Government and Openreach. After many calls from Elin Jones and Ben Lake, the Welsh Government has indicated that it will put Ceredigion as a priority, following revelations that the county has among the worst broadband connectivity rates in the UK.

The AM and MP have joined forces to put pressure on Openreach to complete the work that came to a halt with the end of the Superfast Cymru contract with the Welsh Government at the end of last year.

To do this, Elin and Ben are collating information on areas and individual premises where broadband is not currently available in Ceredigion.

Elin Jones said:

‘The announcement that Ceredigion will be considered early on in the next Welsh Government broadband project is very welcome news, especially to constituents currently without Superfast Broadband. Ben Lake and I want to bring the attention of the Welsh Government to these cases sooner, rather than later.

‘Up until the end of last year, many communities in Ceredigion saw Openreach workers hanging fibre cables on masts. In many cases these have been left hanging, coiled up, and communities have been left without a superfast connection, which was so close to being installed.

‘The Welsh Government has agreed with Openreach to extend the build phase of Superfast Cymru project so that delayed works to around 2,500 premises throughout Wales can be completed. We want raise more of these cases with Openreach, like we have with Oakford, whose residents are now seeing their homes connected. We want to urge Openreach to do more, and we need the help of our Constituents in order to do this.’

Ben Lake said:

‘Many constituents across the county have approached me over the past few months regarding insufficient broadband speeds and the frustratingly slow Superfast Cymru roll-out to premises in Ceredigion.

‘We have to make sure that the benefits of superfast broadband are available to everyone, and access to fast, reliable broadband is increasingly essential for businesses. It is crucial that both Openreach and the Welsh Government recognise the commitment they have made to so many communities in Ceredigion, and also their responsibility to ensure that we do not see a digital divide emerge in Wales.

‘In response to the Minister’s statement regarding the Superfast Cymru extension, I am urging more constituents to come forward and register their details with us, so we can supply the relevant information to Openreach and the Welsh Government, and ensure that Ceredigion remains a priority during this extension period.

‘Early planning for the next phase is vital, and the Welsh Government has confirmed that properties ‘in scope’ for the next Superfast Cymru project will be agreed upon early in the tendering process. It is vital therefore that we provide the Welsh Government with a comprehensive list of premises and locations across Ceredigion that are not able to access decent broadband speeds.’

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Community

Fund to bring underused buildings in Regeneration Towns back into use bringing results

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A fund to bring underused commercial buildings in Llandysul, Tregaron and Lampeter back into use is helping businesses to expand and support the local economy. The Mid Wales Town Centre Property Investment Fund (TCPIF) is still open and welcoming applications.

After a four year struggle, Mark and Jayne Ludgate of the Arcade in Llandysul can expand their business thanks to a £200,000 grant from the TCPIF. They wanted to develop their family business through online sales, but didn’t have the space to store, process and package stock.

Additional warehouse space was needed to solve the problem, but the cost of building the warehouse space would have been greater than the value of the warehouse when built. This meant that funding through borrowing alone was unrealistic. The grant was crucial in unlocking the Ludgates’ ability to grow their business.

The grant will allow them to use their high street location as a shop floor to greet customers. They had previously been forced to use it as storage space. They will use the money to build a warehouse outside Llandysul to keep stock to allow them to use their high street property for it’s most effective purpose.

Councillor Rhodri Evans is Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Economy and Regeneration. He said: “This is a good example of why the Mid Wales Regional Partnership set up the TCPIF. In towns like Llandysul, the costs of developing property are often greater than the eventual value of the property. It makes investing through borrowing alone very difficult. The TCPIF grants are designed to close that market gap and support the plans of local businesses to expand.

If the cost of renovating an underused building is holding your plans to expand your business, I urge you to speak with your local officer to see if the fund can help you. This is important for local businesses and the broader economy.”

TCPIF is funded by Welsh Government Targeted Regeneration programme money and is available in the towns of Llandysul, Tregaron, Lampeter, Brecon, Llandrindod Wells and Newtown. Applications are welcomed from owners or leaseholders of underused properties. Applicants can get in touch with their local regional officer; Gareth.rowlands@ceredigion.gov.uk in Ceredigion or Alan.davies2@powys.gov.uk in Powys to discuss eligibility.

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Appeal following Aberystwyth assault

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Dyfed-Powys Police is appealing for witnesses following a suspected assault in Aberystwyth on Saturday, February 1.

A 59-year-old man sustained serious injuries and was taken to hospital.

A 22-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of ABH and released under investigation.

The incident occurred at around 9.30pm on the corner of Upper Portland Street and Terrace Road.

Police are aware there were a number of people in the vicinity at the time of the incident and would like to speak to anyone who saw what happened, or may have information that could help the investigation.

Please call 101, visit bit.ly/DPPReportOnline or email contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired you can also text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DPP/1743/01/02/2020/02/C.

Information can also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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Leading the way in managing planning

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A KEY Officer in Ceredigion leads the way in sharing what it’s like to have a career in planning.

Russell Hughes-Pickering is Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration, which involves being the head of planning. He has been part of an informative article in February 2020’s edition of ‘The Planner’, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Russell Hughes-Pickering is one of twelve Corporate Lead Officers who sit on the council’s Leadership Group. He says planners need to “be politically astute and look above plans and policies”. This means understanding the organisation, their role in delivering corporate objectives and thinking strategically “so they see how they fit in across the board and in turn help deliver better services and better places for people.”

Russell left Llandovery College in 1985 to start a degree in planning at the University of Westminster. He started work at the London Borough of Hounslow in 1989 as a planner before becoming the lead officer in development plan work in 1997.

The RTPI’s article delves into the careers of a chief planning officer and is campaigning for heads of planning to be incorporated into local authority senior leadership teams. This is amid fears of a declining profile and diminishing corporate presence of spatial planning.

Russell continues, “The more I’ve been involved in preparing corporate plans or the council’s development programme, the easier it is to see, influence and ensure planning is involved at the right time. This has helped avoid issues when major projects go through their planning stage, whether that’s a town centre development, a change to a care home or a new school. Fortunately, I’m involved in an excellent leadership group where the culture focuses on improvement and helping each other to achieve better services.”

He moved back to Aberystwyth in 2000 when taking up the Principal Forward Planner role at Ceredigion, before becoming the Assistant Director for Planning in 2006. This job evolved from a primarily planning remit to one that also included building control and housing matters. In May 2013, he became Head of Performance and Improvement, then became Head of Performance and Economy in 2015. From 01 April 2018, Russell has been the Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration.

When asked what advice Russell would give younger colleagues, he wants to see more authorities improve arrangements on major development projects by setting up corporate development and project management groups and involve planners in them. He also wants to involve the next generation of planners. He said, “Young planners should get involved in these as much as possible so they’re involved in a wide range of service improvements, embrace projects or new development, seek ways to help progress and improve them, and engage in a positive way.”

Councillor Rhodri Evans is the Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration, which includes planning. He said, “We are grateful to Russell for his vision and strong voice for planning matters in Ceredigion. A planner has a big part to play in helping to develop and deliver corporate priorities. It shapes the future of our county for future generations.”

The council’s decision to prioritise the planning process shows how the council is working to reach its corporate priorities of boosting the economy and Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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