Public services cabinet secretary Alun Davies has issued new plans for council mergers, under which Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire would become a single authority. The government has proposed three options: allowing authorities to merge voluntarily, a phased approach that would allow early adopters to merge in 2022 with others doing so by 2026, or a single merger programme taking place in 2022.
The Welsh Local Government Association is unhappy about the shake-up. In a statement it said: “Local government was already responding proactively to the previous reform programme of regional collaboration and is progressing with the City and Growth Deal agenda. Consequently, this announcement has caused disquiet and confusion. The proposals are yet to be fully costed and most academic analysis concludes that such reform programmes rarely deliver the savings or changes in performance that were hoped.’’
If you need to contact the Gwent Badger Group to report a badger in distress or injured on the road the new contact numbers are 01291 422290 or 07825529160.
Why not nominate someone for one of these annual awards? There is a ‘Green’ category. The Awards promote and celebrate the hard work and great achievements of inspirational volunteers from around the country. More information at https://www.wcva.org.uk/about-us/our-awards-schemes/wales-volunteer-of-the-year-awards. Closing date: 20 April
WCVA will be managing the new Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme – https://www.wcva.org.uk/funding/landfill-disposals-tax-communities-scheme. This will help communities within 5 miles of a landfill site or waste transfer station with improvements to biodiversity, waste minimisation, green space, community halls, etc.
Monmouthshire has been chosen as a 5G test-bed site to improve rural connectivity in an initiative which is part of the UK’s digital strategy. From the Orkney Islands to the West of England, the six projects led by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), universities and local authorities represent the best of UK innovation, resources and expertise. They will test 5G across a range of applications, including smart farming with drones, using the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) to improve healthcare in the home, increasing manufacturing productivity and maximising the future benefits of self-driving cars. Secretary of State Alun Cairns said ”These tailor-made projects will transform our most rural communities, exploring innovative ways to use 5G to develop the tourism and agriculture industries, which are vitally important to the Welsh economy.”
Proposals to build one of the largest solar power farms in Wales, rated at nearly 50 megawatts, at a 140-hectare site at Llanwern in the Gwent Levels have been submitted to the devolved administration as a development of national significance. The 345 acre project, just south of the former Llanwern steelworks, could power the equivalent of 15,000 homes for 30 years. The project includes battery storage.
Five years on and after two independent reviews, the Welsh Government has insisted that all the country’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty will be retained and their current purpose ‘of conserving and enhancing natural beauty’ will not be weakened or changed. Environment minister Hannah Blythyn promised a policy statement “in the coming months” but also committed to holding discussions on the governance and partnerships in AONBs that would improve “delivery and accountability”. She stressed that the reviews and discussions of the past five years had not provided a consensus on whether it was necessary to change the original purpose of the designated areas, which gives primacy to the conservation of natural beauty. However, she said: “This does not mean there is not a need for park authorities or AONB partnerships to pursue activity that supports the social and economic resilience of communities in their areas. They should, and there is no barrier to them doing so within their existing purpose”. Blythyn also argued that there was a need to improve the connection between the existing purposes, including biodiversity conservation, and the framework within the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.
Funded under the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, the Vale of Usk Local Action Group would like to make you aware of the ‘Village Hall Energy Make Over’, the new scheme that provides an opportunity for venues to apply for a range of renewable energy technologies and energy saving measures. More information about the Rural Development Programme can be found by visiting: www.valeofusk.org. This scheme is aimed at buildings and halls that can demonstrate the greatest potential for improvement and are already well used by the community. The venue has to be based in Monmouthshire or the more rural wards of Newport. It aims to help reduce energy costs, increase usage of the building by creating a more comfortable environment as well as reducing the use of fossil fuels.
For further information please contact: Mark Lloyd Tel: 01633 644865; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently released figures by the Department of Transport show that over the 12 months up to September 2017, the number of registered plug-in vehicles in the area increased by 77 per cent - one of the biggest rises in the country. The statistics - which show the number of registered electric or plug-in hybrid cars, vans and micro cars in an area for each quarter of the year – reveal that, by September 2016, there were 79 electric vehicles registered in Monmouthshire. By September 2017, that figure had grown to 140 - a jump of 61 vehicles or 77 per cent. Back in 2012 in Monmouthshire there were just three electric cars. Thanks to RDP funding Monmouthshire now has a good network of charging points.
The Gwent Levels are to receive more than £2.5 million, the biggest share of a Heritage Lottery Fund £5.5million cash boost for Wales – the grant goes to the Living Levels Partnership which aims to protect the area’s wildlife. It is hoped that the grants will create almost 4,000 training and volunteering places.