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Park and Ride service saved

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Saved: 503

ABERYSTWYTH’S Park and Ride service, which is a vital link between the town and Bronglais Hospital, has been saved – for now. 

A County Council press statement confirmed that a new service would start on Thursday (Sept 1), following an eleventh hour deal with Mid Wales Transport to continue running it until the end of December this year.

This new service will serve all stops on what was the 503 Park and Ride Service contract, which ended on Wednesday (Aug 31).

The circular service will run every half an hour from Aberystwyth Bus Interchange, with the first one of the day departing at 9am and the last one at 2.30pm. The service will operate Monday to Saturday except Bank Holidays.

All those wishing to park at the car park located on Boulevard St Brieuc will continue to pay the appropriate charge, which is currently £1.40 a day. Anyone wishing to use the bus services serving the stop adjacent to the car park, including the new 503, will pay the appropriate fare or, where applicable, show their valid concessionary fare pass.

Councillor Alun Williams, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Transport, said: “I’d like to thank council officers who initiated successful discussions with the service provider at the request of the Cabinet and to Mid Wales Travel for their help and co-operation. It’s good to see that locally we can work together to explore alternative, cost-effective ways of maintaining services.”

Information regarding what happens as of January 1, 2017 will be provided in due course.

However, the good news has been tarnished by Aberystwyth councillor Ceredig Davies, claiming that service users had been ‘worrying for months’.

COUNCIL CRITICISED 

The announcement may have been made in the nick of time; however, it is far from the whole story, with claims made by the council regarding the number of service users and the cost of providing the service thrown into doubt.

When The Herald approached the council following a critical meeting of its Cabinet, the local authority – understandably – played things close to its chest – only confirming ‘officers will be meeting with the current service provider very shortly and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage’.

But it is the way the council arrived at that point which has caused concern.

At its meeting on June 28, 2016, the Cabinet agreed to defer the decision relating to the Park and Ride service in Aberystwyth in order to give the Thriving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee an opportunity to consider the matter.

A Special Meeting was held on July 14, 2016, to consider the report and recommendations were then presented to the Cabinet on July 19. That decision was to realise savings by not extending or renewing the contract when it ended on August 31.

However, the matter was called in by Cllrs Dai Mason, Gareth Davies and Paul James, and the Thriving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee met on August 9 to consider the decision of the Cabinet meeting in relation to the Park and Ride Service in Aberystwyth.

The grounds for the call in and subsequent recommendation were startling and bear repeating in full: “It’s possible that councillors have been misled by anecdotal information re the number of people using the Aberystwyth Park and Ride scheme. According to the information presented, very few people use the facility whilst the council’s official figures prove otherwise, with over 60,000 using the service last year, and 15,000 of those using the service to Bronglais hospital.

“This situation needs to be a ‘call in’ based on the fact that the true facts have not been presented. It’s possible that councillors have been misled about the running cost of the Park and Ride scheme in Aberystwyth. No financial accounts re the scheme have been presented to date, and thus no decision can be made based on loss or profit made from the Park and Ride scheme.”

In light of that, the committee recommended that: ‘Should the operator serve notice to the Transport Commissioner to terminate the route, then the council seeks tenders to provide a new service for a period of 12 months>”

FALSE PREMISE 

If the reasons for the call in above were not damning enough, a report from the Health Board regarding the works due to be carried out on Caradog Road show the extent to which the situation had been misunderstood.

Apart from the issue of realising a saving, in June, Cabinet members had been told that changes planned to the access at Bronglais Hospital would render the current route unworkable and usage of the service is modest, as are actual numbers using the service to access Bronglais Hospital.

While the issue of usage numbers was effectively scotched by the Thriving Communities Committee in July, a report from the Health Board has since confirmed that access to Caradog Road would not be continuously obstructed, and that any break in access would be only ‘sporadic’.

The council confirmed that claims Caradog Road would be unavailable for the Park and Ride service were incorrect.

Hywel Dda Health Board confirmed to The Herald that Bronglais Hospital’s Caradog Road entrance would be closed from Monday (Sept 5) to Tuesday, September 13. Other periods when Caradog Road would be inaccessible are dependent on the progress of other works over a period ending in May 2017.

Phil Jones, Hospital Director at Bronglais Hospital, said: “The hospital staff at Bronglais are optimistic that this vital service will be supported for the benefit of our patients who often have a long journey in mid Wales to reach Bronglais hospital. The support of the council in these difficult financial times is appreciated.”

SCRUTINY SYSTEM WORKS 

At the outset of the process leading to the original decision to discontinue the Park and Ride Service, some Cabinet members are noted as expressing concerns about the short period of time before the contract’s end. In addition, reservations were expressed about the paucity of concrete data. Notwithstanding those concerns, the Cabinet was ultimately persuaded to end the service on what turned out to be at least partly fallacious bases: user figures were not as bad as suggested; the access to Bronglais would not be lost for nine months; no revenue figures to back a contention of loss were produced.

However, it is to the Cabinet’s credit that it both recognised the initial problems, remitted it to the Thriving Communities Committee, and were later prepared to take on board the observations and recommendations made by members of that Committee. The effectiveness of the Scrutiny Committee system, in those circumstances, show robust examination of the decision-making process.

Of more concern is how the council reached the point – that it was only two months before the end of a key contract that the matter was brought to Cabinet and, as importantly, how on earth the Council came to rely on information and data that was proven to be no more than anecdotal (at best) and wrong (at worst).

Councillor Alun Williams’ thanks to officers for sorting out a situation of council officers’ own making cannot obscure the failings in the council’s internal processes. While the scrutiny system seems to have worked, the reasons that led to its involvement are certain to be closely examined.

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Education

Wales’ first law department celebrates 120 years at Old Bailey

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Left to right: Lauren Marks, President of Aberystwyth University Old Students’ Association; Ben Lake MP for Ceredigion; The Rt Hon. Elfyn Llwyd, Pro-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University; Dr Emyr Roberts, Chair of Council of Aberystwyth University; The Rt Hon. Lord Lloyd Jones; Meri Huws, Aberystwyth University Council member; The Rt Hon. Lord Thomas of Cwmgïedd, Chancellor of Aberystwyth University; Professor Emyr Lewis, Head of the Department of Law and Criminology, Aberystwyth University; Professor Tim Woods, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning Teaching and Student Experience, Aberystwyth University; and Professor Anwen Jones Pro Vice-Chancellor for Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Aberystwyth University

Wales’ oldest university law department has marked its 120th anniversary with a celebratory event at London’s top criminal court.

Law has been taught at Aberystwyth University since 1901, and in the 120 years that have followed more than 9,000 students from almost one hundred countries have graduated and launched their careers from the department.

The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales provided an illustrious setting for the first of two prestigious events held to mark the 120th anniversary of the longest-established law department in the country.

Alumni of the department include several Ministers of State, politicians and leaders, many who have gone on to develop distinguished legal careers, and those who have achieved success in other professions.

Held at the ‘Old Bailey’ in London, the celebratory event was attended by alumni, staff students and other special guests, including Ceredigion MP Ben Lake. The Guest Speaker was The Rt Hon Lord David Lloyd-Jones FLSW, Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

The special anniversary will be celebrated at a second event to be held at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in Cardiff on the evening of Friday 10 June. Alumni wishing to attend can find more information on the University website: www.aber.ac.uk/en/development/newsandevents/law-anniversary-dinners

Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, The Rt Hon. Lord Thomas of Cwmgïedd, said: “The history of the teaching of law at Aberystwyth is an inspiring story of dogged determination by a small number of indomitable individuals who laid the foundation for the highly-respected department you see today. In 1899 when it became clear that there was widespread support for the ambition to establish a law department in Wales to provide a broad education in legal principles, funding was raised through the generosity of members of the Bar circuits of north and south Wales, and amongst London Welshmen, with many firms of solicitors and individuals making contributions and pledging recurrent annual support.”

Professor Emyr Lewis, Head of Aberystwyth University’s Department of Law and Criminology said: “From its embryonic foundations at the beginning of the twentieth century, the teaching of law at Aberystwyth has flourished.  Today, as well as excellent teaching which has always been a hallmark of the Aberystwyth approach, the department offers numerous opportunities for students to develop practical skills and hands-on experience.  

Students have the chance to undertake casework in our Family Law Clinic, acquire and practise advocacy skills through our Mooting Society, volunteer with ground-breaking research projects such as Dewis/Choice and the Veterans Legal Link Project, and benefit from our new Law in Practice modules which are designed to begin filling the gap between the traditional core knowledge gained through a law degree and practice.”

Louise Jagger, Aberystwyth University’s Director of Development and Alumni Relations, said: “The long tradition of philanthropic giving at Aberystwyth University continues to this day and was also celebrated and promoted at the dinner.  Over recent years we have embarked on our largest ever philanthropic campaign to transform the iconic Old College into a major cultural and creative centre for Wales to mark the University’s 150th anniversary.

“Part of our plans for the Old College include a Law Room and Moot Court to honour and celebrate the rich contribution that the Law department has made to the University through the provision of a space for public engagement and for enhancing the public understanding of the law. The facility will provide a dedicated venue and resource centre for Moots, the Law Society, debates, seminars, exhibitions, public lectures and alumni gatherings.  Students past, present and future will benefit from this excellent facility. We are grateful to the alumni and friends who have already donated towards this goal and will be inviting further contributions right up until the reopening of Old College in 2024.”

Professor Tim Woods, Aberystwyth University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience, said: “It is a pleasure to join alumni and friends from across the country to celebrate the Department of Law and Criminology’s contribution to Aberystwyth University and its impact on the world over the past 120 years.

“The University itself is celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year, and we look forward to reuniting with alumni and supporters at celebratory events in Cardiff, Aberystwyth and London over the coming year to mark this important milestone.”

Aberystwyth University was awarded University of the Year for teaching quality and student experience (Good University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times 2021) and also University of the Year for teaching quality two years consecutively, and Welsh University of the Year (Good University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times 2020).

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Business

New owners at Cenarth Falls Holiday Park in Newcastle Emlyn

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SAVILLS, on behalf of a private client, has completed the sale of Cenarth Falls Holiday Park in Cenarth, Newcastle Emlyn, Wales, to Boutique Resorts Ltd for an undisclosed sum.

The holiday park is set on an attractively landscaped site extending approximately 11.52 acres (4.66 ha) which includes 1.92 acres of woodland. The holiday park has planning permission for 89 static caravan pitches and 30 mixed touring caravan pitches. At the entrance of the park there is a reception, sales office and games room. The property also provides a high quality fitness, hospitality and entertaining space including indoor swimming pool, gym, bar and function room licensed for a maximum of 290 guests, and owner’s accommodation comprising a three bedroom bungalow and adjoining two bedroom cottage.

Cenarth Falls Holiday Park is situated within the historic and picturesque village of Cenarth, Ceredigion, bordering Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. The village is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which attracts numerous visitors to the area. The River Teifi is renowned for excellent salmon and sea trout (sewin) fishing and the town of Cardigan is 10 minutes away with an array of shops and amenities. There are numerous sandy beaches nearby and many other activities on offer in the locality including walking, golf and water sports such as kayaking.

Richard Prestwich, Director in the Leisure and Trade Related team at Savills, says: “It has been a privilege to sell such a good quality holiday park, nurtured to its 5 star status over a 34 year period by the former family owner. The new owners are no strangers to high quality holiday businesses being an award winning holiday brand and they will look to improve the quality of the business further to complement their other holiday parks, with the nearest being Fishguard Bay Holiday Park.”

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Japan looking at the revival of Welsh for help with the endangered Okinawan language

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ONE of the biggest selling newspapers in Japan has urged one of the country’s languages to take inspiration from Welsh in its efforts to revive its fortunes.

The Okinawan language, spoken on one of the islands of the nation’s southern tip, has been the subject of a warning by UNESCO that it is in danger of disappearing.

In its front-page editorial column, the Asahi Shimbun, one of the four largest newspapers in Japan which a circulation of some 5m copies, said that those seeking to revitalise the language could take inspiration from the Welsh language.

It notes that children who spoke Okinawan in classrooms in the 19th century were punished by being forced to wear a ‘hogen fuda’ (dialect tag) – similar to the Welsh Not in some schools in Wales.

The kingdom within which the language was spoken was also forcefully annexed from without, and from then on “offered no benefits with regard to receiving a higher education or seeking employment”.

The column says that the story of Okinawan was a “reminder of how the Welsh language was rehabilitated”.

“In the 16th century, Wales was incorporated into the Kingdom of England. Its language, overpowered by English, was banned,” it said in its editorial.

“It was not until the 20th century that the Welsh language started being used again in education. TV channels that broadcast in Welsh were launched, and it acquired the official language status 11 years ago.

“It was an achievement made possible by Welsh people placing pride in, and passion for, their homeland.

“Let us hope that such a rich language will continue flourishing forever.”

The Okinawan has an estimated 2,000 speakers remaining today. Like Welsh, it has also gained an unexpected foothold in South America, where it is spoken by communities of Okinawan immigrants in Brazil, where there was no historical prohibition on its use.

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