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Rights of way review launched

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screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-12-24-57CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL has started its first review of the Rights of Way Improvement Plan.

Establishing such a plan was a requirement under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 – it is also required that the plan is reviewed every 10 years.

The network of public paths in Ceredigion – which total some 2,500km in length – provides one of the main means by which people can access and enjoy the countryside. Rights of way are an essential part of the rural tourism product in Ceredigion and they also have a key role to play in health and well-being. At the same time, the rights of way network is part of the local travel infrastructure, providing paths from people’s homes to local facilities and places of work.

ACCESS ALL AREAS

Ceredigion also has a large number of access and wildlife sites managed by a number of national, regional and local organisations.

Many woodlands managed by the NRW offer access opportunities for walkers, horse rides and cyclists; some sites have car parking and other facilities (such as way-marked trails) and guided walks. Information is also available for some woodlands. The most important recreational sites in Ceredigion are Nant yr Arian and Hafod.

The NRW has dedicated many of its woodlands for public access under the CROW Act 2000. In these areas, the public can enjoy the same statutory rights of access as on other ‘access land’.

There are seven National Nature Reserves wholly or partly in Ceredigion, managed by NRW and other conservation organisations. These sites provide an opportunity to enjoy their special wildlife interest. Improvements at Cors Caron NNR (Tregaron) carried out several years ago included the development of an all-ability trail across the reserve.

The council manages Local Nature Reserves in the Aberystwyth area, at Parc Natur Penglais, Pendinas and Traeth Tan y Bwlch and Coed y Cwm, together with other countryside sites that meet access and conservation objectives. There are a number of other sites that are available to the public, managed by organisations including the National Trust, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, the Woodland Trust and others.

Access opportunities have been provided through Tir Gofal permissive access agreements; arrangements for identifying permissive access through the Glastir scheme are currently under consideration.

IMPROVEMENT PLAN’S PURPOSE

The Rights of Way Improvement Plan is the main plan used by local authorities to identify, prioritise and plan for improvements to their local rights of way network – and in doing so make better provision for walkers, cyclists, equestrians, carriage drivers, off road motorists and people with mobility problems. The Plan also takes account of the significant amount of access land that was made available in Wales under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

The review plans to set out a timeline for the completion of the review to the Ceredigion County Council Cabinet – which has been completed – and also to carry out the review addressing the statutory and supplementary matters.

Statutory matters include considering the extent to which the Rights of Way meet the present and future needs of the public; the opportunities provided by our rights of way for exercise and other forms of open air recreation and enjoyment; and also consider the accessibility of rights of way to blind or partially sighted people and others with mobility problems.

Supplementary matters also review the extent to which the previous Rights of Way Improvement Plan has been delivered, an evaluation of the present condition of the network and its record and review opportunities to contribute to Active Travel objectives, well-being objectives and delivery of other plans and priorities.

TOURISM IMPACT

The Rights of Way Improvement Plan is part of a raft of legislation, both primary and secondary, which sets out a series of aims which the council is supposed to meet when considering the provision of rights of way, their management, and their maintenance.

A key issue touching upon Ceredigion’s rights of way is the considerable boost they give to tourism across the county and the economic benefits that flow from visitors to Ceredigion, particularly for walking or cycling holidays.

The provision of the rights of way has not been untouched by controversy, with one landowner, Lyn Jenkins of Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park, fighting a seemingly interminable and increasingly vituperative legal battle with the local authority to divert the Ceredigion Coast Path, now part of the Wales Coastal Path, away from his property.

In addition, farmers have expressed concern regarding biosecurity and disturbance to livestock by the extension of public access to private land.

Cllr Gareth Lloyd, the Cabinet Member with responsibility for Economic and Community Development Services, said: “Maintaining and reviewing the Rights of Way is important to ensure their enjoyment by the residents of Ceredigion. The Rights of Way Improvement Plan will give us the information needed to achieve this.”

Based on the information in the assessments, a decision will be made on whether to amend the Plan. The review will produce a draft plan and ancillary delivery plans and proceed through the consultation process to publication.

Following the review, a decision whether or not to publish a new Rights of Way Improvement Plan needs to be reached within 10 years of the date of publication of the original plan. This leaves the Authority until September 2018 to make that decision, which will be based on statutory assessments and stakeholder consultations.

WHAT IS A RIGHT OF WAY?

The categories of rights of way and their legal uses on public rights of way are as follows:

Public Footpaths:

A footpath is a highway over which the public have a right of way on foot. §

Bridleways:

A bridleway is a highway over which there is a right of way on foot, riding or leading a horse or cycling.

Restricted Byways:

A restricted byway allows a right of way on foot, on horseback, or leading a horse, cycling and for any vehicles other than mechanically propelled vehicles (formerly Roads Used as Public Paths).

Byways Open to all Traffic (BOAT):

A byway is a right of way which is open to all types of users, (including use by horse drawn and motor vehicles) but which is used mainly for the purposes for which footpaths and bridleways are used.

There are also 830km of Unclassified Road Network (UCRs) in Ceredigion, of which approximately 40km (4.8%) are unsurfaced: these are identified as ‘ORPAs’ on Ordnance Survey maps. These routes provide valuable recreational opportunities and whilst the council has a clear maintenance liability, public access rights may not be definitively known.

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Schools and Businesses in Ceredigion close following a rise in coronavirus cases

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THE rise in cases of coronavirus in Ceredigion is a result of people mixing with other households and socially says council.

A spokesperson said that the number of contacts for each positive coronavirus case is increasing, which shows people are mixing more socially.

Seven schools have already closed and several businesses have been issued with closure orders.

The number of daily cases now stand at the highest since the pandemic began.

A number of businesses have already been served with closure notices for breaking regulations.

Seven schools have closed for a two week period starting Monday, November 27 and are due to re-open on December 7.

Schools which are closed ofr two week period are: Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi, Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi, Ysgol Gynradd Penparc, Ysgol Gynradd Aberporth, Ysgol Gynradd T.Llew Jones, Ysgol Gynradd Llechryd and Ysgol Gynradd Cenarth.

A small number of pupils at Ysgol Gyfun Penglais, Aberystwyth have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days following the confirmation of a further COVID-19 case at the school.

All confirmed contacts of the positive case must remain at home for 14 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community. The pupils will be taught remotely for this period.

A council spokesperson said: “We are now seeing the virus spreading in our communities, several of which can be traced back to super spreader events such as parties and social gatherings.

“This kind of behaviour is totally irresponsible and is putting the health of our loved ones at risk, is having a direct impact on the education of our children and is putting pressure on the NHS.

“Contact tracing has identified that the number of contacts for each positive case has increased, which tells us that people are mixing households and are mixing socially.

“The council has taken action and has served several businesses with improvement and closure notices where they have been breaking coronavirus regulations.

“The council will continue to issue notice where we become aware of concerns or breaches.

“Members of the public are urged to inform us if they have any concerns that a business in Ceredigion does not have adequate measures in place to operate safely.

Stay apart to play your part. By doing this, we will be protecting the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable, including care services for the elderley and those whose medical conditions make them particularly at risk from Covid-19.

“We will be protecting the education provision within schools, colleges and universities. We will enable the local economy to survive the winter months.

“Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.”

The council have issued the following guidance to residents:

  • Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about – indoors and outdoors;
  • Wash your hands regularly;
  • Limit your social contact;
  • Work from home wherever possible;
  • Households are able to form a ‘bubble’ with one other – that bubble arrangement cannot be swapped, changed, or extended further than one household;
  • People are allowed to meet with others from outside that bubble in a regulated venue, such as a pub or restaurant where there are strict safety protocols in place, but the maximum number of people that can meet is four and even then social distancing should be maintained wherever possible;
  • Wear a face mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport;
  • Self-isolate immediately at the first sign of any COVID-19 symptoms and arrange a test immediately, only leaving home to get tested. A test needs to be booked online or by phoning 119.

Chief Education Officer for Ceredigion County Council said: “We are extremely concerned about the spread of coronavirus in the Cardigan area.

“A significant number of recent positive cases has resulted in a very high number of people being classed as contacts to a positive case.

“Many of these contacts now have coronavirus symptoms and we are awaiting the test results.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the speed of the virus in the Cardigan area means that immediate action is needed.”

The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:

  •         a high temperature
  •         a new continuous cough
  •         a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

You can apply for a test on https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.

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Lib Dems urge Chancellor to ‘level the playing field’ for small local shops over Christmas

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CEREDIGION’S Liberal Democrats have called on the UK Government to “level the playing field” to help the county’s high streets compete with internet giants in the run up to Christmas.

The Liberal Democrats fear local shops hit by decreased footfall during the coronavirus pandemic will continue to struggle, and have therefore proposed a new scheme similar to how the Eat Out to Help Out scheme helped local restaurants.

To encourage people to support their local high streets while shopping from home, the Lib Dems want to see the UK Government cover postage costs. Lib Dem Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to adopt the idea.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the idea to help firms survive. Mike Cherry, UK Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This is the type of creative idea that would boost small businesses and balance out the playing field.”

Cadan ap Tomos, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for Ceredigion, said:
“Small businesses across Ceredigion have been worried for months about staying afloat. For so many, Christmas is their most lucrative time of year but coronavirus restrictions mean our town centres are quieter than ever.

“When people turn online to do their Christmas shopping, free postage offers from online shopping giants are very tempting. That makes it even harder for small businesses in Ceredigion to compete, putting our high streets and local economy at further risk.

“The UK Government need to step in and level the playing field, to protect the vibrant array of small businesses that are the backbone of our local economy in Ceredigion.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds added:

“In the Summer, the Chancellor launched a campaign to support the hospitality sector. We now need to see the UK Government go the extra mile to support small business in the festive period.

“We want the Chancellor to pay the postage on online purchases from small local independent shops to make them a more viable option for people hunting for Christmas presents and encourage people to shop small from home.”

Mike Cherry, UK Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“This is the type of creative idea that would boost small businesses and balance out the playing field.

“We must do everything we can to help our small, independent stores.

“This is going to be the most important festive season our economy has ever seen and could be make-or-break for some of our small businesses. That’s why we must pull out all the stops to help them survive the end of 2020 and beyond.”

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Self Assessment customers warned about scammers posing as HMRC

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SELF ASSESSMENT customers should be alert to criminals claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

As the department issues thousands of SMS messages and emails as part of its annual Self Assessment tax return push, HMRC is warning customers completing their returns to take care to avoid being caught out by scammers. The annual tax return deadline is on 31 January 2021.

The department knows that fraudsters use calls, emails or texts to contact customers. In the last 12 months, HMRC has responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public, and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down. Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public offered bogus tax rebates.

Many scams target customers to inform them of a fake ‘tax rebate’ or ‘tax refund’ they are due. The imposters use language intended to convince them to hand over personal information, including bank details, in order to claim the ‘refund’. Criminals will use this information to access customers’ bank accounts, trick them into paying fictitious tax bills, or sell on their personal information to other criminals.

HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, Karl Khan, said: “We know that criminals take advantage of the Self Assessment deadline to panic customers into sharing their personal or financial details and even paying bogus ‘tax due’.

“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam. Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust. We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels. This information is crucial in disrupting criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent websites being used to facilitate fraud.

“It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone purporting to be from HMRC asking for your personal or financial details, or offering you a tax rebate, grant or refund, this could be a scam. Do not respond, hang up the phone, and take care not to click on any links in unexpected emails or text messages. You should contact HMRC directly using a phone number you’ve used before to check if the communication you have received is genuine.

“If you’ve been the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and please report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.”

Customers can report suspicious activity to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599. They can also report phone scams online on GOV.UK.

HMRC is also warning the public to be aware of websites that charge for government services – such as call connection sites – that are in fact free or charged at local call rates. Other companies charge people for help getting ‘tax refunds’. One way to safely claim a tax refund for free is to log into your Personal Tax Account.

HMRC has a dedicated Customer Protection team that identifies and closes down scams but asks the public to recognise the signs to avoid becoming a victim. HMRC regularly publishes examples of new scams on GOV.UK to help customers recognise phishing emails and bogus contact by email, text or phone.

Ways to spot a tax scam

It could be a scam if it:

  •       is unexpected
  •       offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
  •       asks for personal information like bank details
  •       is threatening
  •       tells you to transfer money.

Self Assessment customers can complete their tax return online and help and support is available on GOV.UK.

To protect against identity fraud customers must verify their identity when accessing HMRC’s online services. They must have two sources of information including:

  •       credit reference agency data
  •       tax credits
  •       P60/payslip
  •       UK Passport
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