Thursday, 31 January 2013

More Thickening of the Mast 'Plot'

It seems I've been labouring under a misunderstanding - there is no "pro-mast group" in Hay. At the most, it's a "we don't want a mast but if it is going ahead we want to mitigate the impact of it as much as we can" group.
I thought a lively debate would ensue, and so it has, under my last post on this subject yesterday, with some comments from people who know far more about the issues than I do.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Phone Mast - The Plot Thickens

There's a comment on the last post I did about the mobile phone mast, which says that the mast has been built. So I went down to Forest Road yesterday (in the rain) to see if I could find it and take a photo.
I went to where I thought it was being built, near Hendersons - and there's nothing there. So I went further up the hill, and found a vantage point where I could see down across the surrounding countryside - and I'm blessed if I can find it.
However, there have been further developments while I have been on holiday. It seems, for instance, that there is now a pro-mast group. Apparently they are working to find a site for a phone mast which is more than 500 metres from the school but within 800 metres of the Hay Festival site, so that Festival goers will have coverage without a temporary mast being erected just for the period of the Festival. They say that:
"EMF have now agreed to fund an Independent Measurement Survey which will measure the level of radio frequency before and after the mast goes up and with and without the WiFi being on in the school. Presently Powys County Council does not have the facility to make these measurements."
I have to say that it was news to me that Hay School has wi-fi on the premises - I know I've been out of education for a long time, but I can't think why they need it.
Apparently, Brecon Beacons Planning Group have apologised for the lack of consultation in this case, and say they are going to review their processes so that it never happens again. They should have informed the school and local residents as well as the Town Council (all of whom voted against the planning proposal for the mast).
Peter Limbrick and the anti-mast group don't want to help to find another site - they have pointed out that O2 are a big company with lots of money and they can do their own research if they want to.
And meanwhile at the school, parents have been given a questionnaire to fill in to find out their views - but very few have been returned.

On 6th February, there will be a public meeting of the Hay Together group, at the Parish Hall from 6.30pm to about 8.30pm.
This is just the sort of thing that the group has been coming together to look at - issues that affect all of Hay and the future development of Hay, with all sorts of different groups that already exist in isolation coming together to find solutions that will work for everyone (or at least as many people as possible!).

*[edited to add that the "pro-mast group" isn't pro-mast at all: see the comments below. I think there have been some behind the scenes disagreements.]

Monday, 28 January 2013

Resident's Parking

I'm really still on holiday - but I saw Gareth Ratcliff in the chip shop the other night, and he was really quite pleased. It seems that the County Council have finally agreed to allow a pilot project in Hay for resident's parking. There's a meeting of the town council tonight and another meeting tomorrow. I don't know the details yet, but I'll pass them on as soon as I do.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Lots of Feminist Campaigns

The Hay Feminists have moved their meetings to the Swan, while the Globe is closed during January. They'll be there on Sunday, at around 11am, and they have lots to talk about.
On the local front, they have asked someone from the Cardiff Women's Rights group to come and speak to them on 10th February.
Internationally (because why shouldn't a small group think big?) they will be talking about Billion Women Rise - there's a day of action on 14th February. This movement was sparked off by the rape and murder of the young woman on a bus in India.
Then on 8th March, it's International Women's Day. There's usually a special church service at one of the churches or chapels in Hay around that date. The services are written by a different group of women in a different part of the world every year, and distributed so that everyone who wants to can join in.

There was a plan to get in touch with women in Timbuktu, but the situation in Mali at the moment makes that impossible for the time being. As the French move in, it's depressing to read articles such as the one on Counterfire's website, about the underlying reasons for French involvement is not the humanitarian situation in the region, but the uranium, and the gold.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Rubbish Collection

I've just seen Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page, and he says that the rubbish will be collected tomorrow, rather than everyone having to wait another fortnight!
After that, it should be back to normal, with the recycling going out on Friday.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

More on the Mast

After the closed meeting for the parents at Hay School, there will be an open meeting, also at the school, to talk about the mobile phone mast. Places are limited to 100 only, though. The meeting will be on the evening of 24th January - I'm afraid I didn't register the time, though there are signs up around town (I saw one in Londis).

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Granary, popular cafe by the Clock Tower.

Friday, 18 January 2013

New History Group for Hay

I wasn't able to get to the meeting of the Cheesemarket Research Group, but they did send me their minutes, and they have Plans.
For some time they have been in negotiation with Malcolm Smith, who was the head of the History Group in Hay some years ago - it stopped meeting, but could be resurrected in theory. After some thought, though, they have decided to form an entirely new group with no affiliations to the old one, and to this end they have hired the upstairs room of the Three Tuns (one of the most historic buildings in Hay, so very appropriate!) on the 27th February, from 8pm onwards. There they will describe the progress they have made with the Cheesemarket research, and talk about future plans.
One of the future plans is to get involved with the Brecknockshire History Week in September. So far they are thinking about a tour of Hay Castle, a walk around the wells of Hay led by Fiona Howard, a history walk (possibly including the murders of Hay), and a quiz.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Doing My Bit for Tourism

The nice gentleman from the Brecon Beacons Tourism Blog, who I met over Christmas, phoned me to ask if I'd be prepared to talk to a journalist about the history of Hay.
Of course, I said yes. If talking about Hay were an Olympic sport, I'd have my own gold letter box!
We met today for lunch in the Blue Boar, which was all very civilised (I had a very nice half of Hooky with my meal), and we talked about Hay Festival, and the bookshops, and things to do apart from buying books, such as walking - he's going out on the hills with Luke Skinner of Drover Holidays tomorrow, which should be interesting in the current weather conditions.
So hopefully, there will be an article about Hay in an in-flight magazine for a Korean airline sometime soon.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

French Action in Mali

So the French have now carried out air strikes against rebels in the north of Mali, in towns around Timbuktu, though they seem to be more than 100 miles away from the city. There are French troops on the ground in the northern part of the south of the country, which is still government controlled, and Britain have lent France two transport planes to take military equipment to Mali (and possibly troops).
It must be a very scary time to be a civilian in Timbuktu.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Buttermarket Exhibition

A chance to see Hay characters photographed by students!
There's a one day exhibition in the Buttermarket of portraits that the students did when they came to Hay. The ones I've seen are all very good - Stuart the Greengrocer standing outside his shop, and Father Richard lurking in the shrubbery (!). I'm not sure if these are the same students that took a photo of me walking Islay (back when she could still walk), but I'll certainly be going along to have a look.
The pictures will be there from 12 noon until 7pm.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Small Business Saturday

Health Matters, on Broad Street, previously a wine merchant's.

Friday, 11 January 2013

THUNDERBIIRDS - FAB "The Next Generation"

I actually meant this to go on my other blog, Morwenna's Tower, since it has nothing to do with Hay, but since it's here - these are the mime artists who did a show based on Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds puppets. I saw them live once, and it was one of the best nights of theatre I've ever been to!

O2 Mast Meeting

There's going to be a meeting at the school at 7pm on the 17th January about the planning application for the O2 mast. All the parents are invited, and Roger Williams, MP will be there too. So will the Children's Commissioner for Wales, because there is a concern about a breach of human rights for the children at the school. Apparently, the school should have been consulted when the planning application was put in, so that they could comment, and this doesn't seem to have happened. Also invited is Peter Florence (because mobile phone coverage for the Hay Festival has been mentioned as one of the reasons for the mast being sited on Forest Road). Someone from O2 is also being invited, and the owner of the land, Roger Henderson.
So it seems that due process was not followed in the planning application - Gareth Ratcliffe has been shooting off emails trying to get clarification about this, so I imagine he'll be at the meeting too.
It might also be worth having a look at which has scientific information about the possible risks to health of micro-radiation, wireless technologies, and electro-magnetic fields.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Council Meeting Part Three - Emergency Services and Updates

Alan Powell brought the next item to the attention of the council. He'd gone to someone's house to do some carpentry, and they told him all about the terrible time they'd had the day before. The lady of the house had had a fall - something quite serious, as she was elderly - and they rang the ambulance. And then they rang again - several times. Three hours after the first phone call, a paramedic arrived, and the ambulance only arrived after they'd waited nearly four hours. They'd also tried ringing Hay Surgery, and none of the doctors was available to come out. There's a paramedic of some sort attached to the Fire Station, but he wasn't alerted either.
South Powys is a huge area, but it seems that there is only one ambulance on duty to cover it - and it takes quite a while to get a person to hospital (usually Abergavenny) from Hay, during which time there is no ambulance available at all for any other emergencies. A formal letter of complaint is going off to the Health Services, and both Kirsty Williams (AM) and Roger Williams (MP) are being informed so they can take it up.
On the same subject, I was chatting to a lady today who goes to the Bell Bank Club, which is for elderly and blind people - a little while ago one of their members fell over. They called the Surgery, and found that none of the doctors would come out, and they ended up calling the Air Ambulance! "You feel so guilty, calling them out," she said, "but I suppose if no-one called them, we'd lose the service."

And now I feel I must apologise to the County Councillors on the licensing committee - I said in an earlier post that they had failed to make a decision at a public meeting about the Globe's new licensing plans, and it turns out that it wasn't their fault at all - the Globe sprang some extra information on them at the very last minute, so they had to postpone. In the end, the meeting at County Hall lasted all day, so the matter was gone into very thoroughly, and now the new licence has been granted - and we'll have to wait and see how it goes.

There's a meeting on 24th January at Bishop Bevan Hall in Brecon, from 6pm from 8pm, about the Stroke Unit and Bronllys Hospital. Fiona Howard and Ellie Spencer are going on behalf of the council - the organisers had limited places to 2 people per council due to the size of the hall. So they will report back next month.

And finally, the key of the public toilets was formally handed over to Rob Golesworthy, so he can take on the important duty of locking them up at nights for the next month - though he did say that he would need a training day and a risk assessment!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Council Meeting - Part Two

For the person who asked in the comments about the canoe landing stage - your wish is my command! This was also covered at the meeting. There's been a lot of work there between various agencies. The town council are planning to put the fishing platform back as soon as they agree with Welsh Water about exactly where to put it - because Welsh Water have a pipe coming out in that general area, and don't want it interfered with. Slips have been taken of the willow trees that have been cut down, and these will be replanted along the bank to stabilise it, so trees with the same genetic stock will continue to grow there. They will be putting a notice up shortly about what exactly is going on there.
The chestnut trees are quite safe!
Sadly, someone has vandalised the digger down there, by breaking its windows, so that was one extra crime for January to be reported to the policemen at the meeting.

Meanwhile, the council have finally been given their blanket dispensation from the legal department of the County Council, so they can actually talk about the development plans around the school and community centre! Unfortunately, this very quickly degenerated into squabbling - though I do think it is unfair to blame Plan B for the lack of progress on getting a new school, when the lack of progress on getting a new school has been going on for twenty years.
It appears that the County Council's grand plans are somewhat in disarray. The plan for the area's primary schools has slowed down, with Llanigon being given a reprieve from closure because there was nowhere to move the children on to yet, and Clyro is being practically rebuilt rather than refurbished because they had to use the money they'd been granted somewhere within the financial year - which means that Hay remains just as it was, with no change.
The developer who had the grand scheme to build school, community centre, and care home around the doctor's surgery (and on one of the football pitches) has reportedly put in new plans for consideration, but nobody knew what they were.
And meanwhile there's a whole new spanner in the works in the form of the O2 phone mast. Although they say they have looked at alternative locations for the mast, these are apparently unsuitable, so they will be building on Forest Road as originally intended. Gareth Ratcliffe will be writing to the National Parks and the Planning people about the proximity of the mast to the school, as it seems it was marked wrongly on the plans when planning permission was given.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Affordable Housing

Sometimes the Council invites guest speakers to give a little talk before the meeting gets down to business. Last night it was the Rural Housing Enabler. This is a chap who is funded by various bodies, including housing associations, but who is beholden to none of them; his function is to represent the community and their wishes. He can also communicate between ordinary people in the community and the policy makers who make the decisions that affect their lives. Also sitting in on the meeting was Rosemary Harris, the county council Cabinet member with responsibility for housing.
There is a Local Development Plan for this area, which is going forward to an enquiry on 15th January (I think this means the committee are going to look at it and agree on what it says). In Hay, under this plan, there will be no building of houses before 2016, partly due to objections by Welsh Water, because our current mains water systems are at capacity (I think). After that, there are plans for 13 houses to be build by the Fire Station, four of which will be "affordable" and six houses to the side of Cae Mawr, two of which will be "affordable". So that's six affordable houses, in an area where 40 families are in housing need. Apparently the average age of a first time house buyer has gone up to around 30+. Young people can't possibly afford to get on the housing ladder, and there is also a need for older people to have houses and flats available when they want to downsize from a family home. At the moment, there are no smaller properties available in this area at all, so anyone needing to find a smaller house would have to move out of the area altogether. That's particularly important to bear in mind with the soon-to-be-imposed "bedroom tax" coming up.
Where there are no suitable properties for local families, and the families have to move away, this has a knock on effect on the local shops, and schools and other services, so getting the housing policy right is really quite important.
Something that has worked well in Talgarth, and this chap was involved in that, was identifying empty properties and encouraging the owners to do them up and let them out. There are grants available, and several houses in Talgarth have come back into use, brightening up the place no end, and meaning that there are more people living there to use the shops and library and schools and so on.
Llanbedr was also mentioned, where the local community got involved in the design of the new development there.
Something that interested Fiona Howard very much was the news of the Sustainable Futures Commission, which is looking for somewhere for a pilot scheme of building timber framed houses. She would like to see the Town Council being responsible for providing some new council houses, rather than relying on a housing association to come in and do it. That's how the older houses on Gipsy Castle were built, after all. She was very keen that new affordable housing should be properties that people are proud to live in, rather than stuck in a corner as an afterthought as in some developments. A good example of the sort of thing she wants is the cottages by the canal basin and Theatr Brycheiniog, which are lovely, and affordable.
The recent house building in Hay didn't have the requirement for a proportion of the houses to be affordable - the planning permission was given before the new rules came in. The rules also lay down space requirements - the sizes of rooms and so on - which are 20% more generous than new private houses now (I remember several people going down to Mill Bank when they were first built to look round the show house, and commenting on how cramped they were and that there was no storage space worth speaking of).

Also present at the meeting was the new PCSO for Hay. Steve is still in training at the moment, in Brecon, but will be permanently in Hay by the end of February. He's able to work flexible shifts, so he's not around at the same times every day, but can vary it according to what needs to be done.
Meanwhile, the figures for reported crime in the Hay area are drastically down on the same time last year! In 2011, there were 50 crimes reported over November and December, and this year it was down to 24! In fact, in Hay itself, there were only 2 reported crimes in the whole of December! Meanwhile the drugs unit has been travelling Powys, based on intelligence work, which means they haven't been around Hay as often, and Operation Tornado has been a great success. This is a nationwide crackdown on scrap metal thefts.
So fairly soon there will be a public meeting so anyone interested can meet the new PCSO and ask any questions about policing and local crime, and the police will be holding regular surgeries in the library. They also want to publicise the 101 number, which is the non-emergency number to use instead of 999 - due to some clever technology, this puts you through to the nearest relevant police exchange for any enquiries or reporting of crimes.

Monday, 7 January 2013

A New Year for Transition Towns

Just a quick post to say that the next Transition Towns meeting will be at the Swan on Wednesday 9th January, at 7pm. Apparently Gareth Ellis of Green Valleys is keen to assist the group, and they're hoping to organise regular film nights.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Messiah Postponed

Unfortunately, it seems that the planned concert won't be able to go ahead until later in the year - something to do with moving some pews to get enough room for the performers (difficult, since they're fixed in place!).

Latest About Timbuktu

It's still a worrying situation in Mali, and Two Towns One World will be holding their Forum meeting on Wednesday 16th January at 7pm at the Swan for anyone interested in our twin town.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Small Business Saturday

This is the very last day that the Jigsaw Shop and Teddy Bear Shop will be open for business (though it might open on a few more odd days to clear the last of the stock).
It's a big shop, and I don't think I've seen any other shop with such a wide range of jigsaws anywhere. I haven't heard about any potential buyers, so we'll just have to wait and see.
The building was originally the hotel part of the Rose and Crown - and part of the older pub building was demolished to make way for it. Now the upstairs has been converted into rather nice flats.

Friday, 4 January 2013


It seems the Open Mic Night has a new (temporary) venue, over at the Baskerville Arms. They have their first evening on January 8th.

Meanwhile, someone at St Mary's has thought up a novel way of raising money to build toilets for the church - singing Handel's Messiah!

There will be professional orchestral players, and experienced soloists - but as the compere of The Good Old Days used to say, "Chiefly - YOURSELVES!"
Which is another way of saying that anyone can sign up to be part of it.
Registration is at the church on Saturday 26th Jan, and costs £25.00. There are then two or three rehearsals spread over the next few weeks, followed by the performance on 23rd February.
Tickets for the concert are £10, with concessions £8.00
Contact John Funnell on 07866 933600 for more details.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Changes on the High Street

A New Year, a new era of the Mayan Calendar, and things are gradually getting back to normal in Hay after the holidays.
Sadly, though, Phil the Fruit has decided to give up the shop on the Pavement. Shop and flat above it are now on the market. (When I want Chef on the Run's jam and marmalade now, I'll have to go round to the Stables cafe to get it).
Meanwhile, on Castle Street, Bedecked will be closing shortly. They do a lot of internet business - the sign on their window says that they started as a kitchen table operation and have risen to become the largest supplier of European braids and buttons in the UK - but the owner now wants to partially retire, so she can more easily care for a relative at home, and so the shop is having a sale. The business is going to carry on, online. I hope my new Steampunk hat arrives in time for me to take it in to choose the trimmings!
And back at the bottom of the Pavement - I think this happened a while ago, but I didn't take much notice because it was a change from an art gallery to an art gallery - the house/shop near the bottom of the slope seems to have changed from being the showroom for Crispin Thornton-Jones' amazing landscapes to being a more general art gallery called The Sitting Room.