Welsh Green Dragon


City Car Club Launches in Cardiff by deanjpoolman

There’s a new, greener way to travel in Cardiff and it still involves the car. It’s called the City Car Club.

Based in Leeds, the City Car Club lets you hire a car by the hour in 14 cities across the UK and the scheme arrived in Wales last month.

Cardiff’s City Car Club was launched in partnership with the council and it was officially unveiled on Tuesday, December 7th by the Leader of the Council, Cllr Rodney Berman and Executive Member for Traffic and Transport, Cllr Delme Bowen.

The scheme is being funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, as part of a project to make Cardiff a “sustainable travel city”.

However, it was also public demand, which attracted the City Car Club to Cardiff, as Richard Drew who manages the scheme here explains:

[Audio http://audioboo.fm/boos/239458-richard-from-city-car-club-cardiff-explains-why-they-chose-to-launch-in-cardiff.mp3%5D

City Car Club - Cardif Launch

Launch of the City Car Club in Cardiff with Cllr Rodney Berman and Cllr Delme Bowen (Courtesy of City Car Club)

It’s hoped the scheme will reduce pollution and congestion in the city, because research has shown car clubs reduce the number of cars on the road.

The independent charity, Carplus believes “one car club car replaces around 24.5 private cars”, which means the initial delivery of City Car Club vehicles in the city could remove 245 cars from the roads of Cardiff.

Reducing the number of cars on the road isn’t the only environmental benefit of a car club scheme, Carplus also state that car club cars are more environmentally friendly and produce less carbon dioxide than the cars they replace.

At the moment, there are 10 low-emission Ford Fiestas available to hire across the city, with cars located in the City Centre, Cathays, Riverside, Pontcanna and Cardiff Bay. However, two more locations are due to open soon:

City Car Club Fiesta – King Edward VII Avenue

City Car Club Fiesta – King Edward VII Avenue

Every car available through the scheme is fully maintained and comprehensively insured by the City Car Club and each location has a space permanently reserved for the vehicle, so users should not have a problem parking at the end of their hire period.

But are these perks enough to make people sell their cars and join the scheme?

Heather, aged 49 from Cardiff: “I’m not a particularly confident driver, so I’m only happy driving my car. I’m used to driving it.”

Daniel, aged 29 from Newport: “I don’t come into Cardiff that often, so it’s unlikely I’d use one here, but I might if they were in Newport”

Mike, aged 46 from Cardiff: “I would have to look into it a bit more, find out about the cost and how the insurance works, things like that, but I’ll definitely look into it”

Only people who have paid a membership fee of £50 for the scheme and have received a smart membership card can gain access to the cars, as Richard Drew told Welsh Green Dragon:

[Audio http://audioboo.fm/boos/239476-richard-from-city-car-club-cardiff-explains-how-the-scheme-works.mp3%5D

The hourly cost of using a car club scheme can even be cheaper than owning a car, which means the benefits are not purely environmental, they are also economical.

Research conducted by the RAC last year suggests that car clubs are more financially beneficial for those who drive less than 8000 miles per year, while Carplus say those who drive less than 6000 miles a year can save £3500 a year by using a car club.

However, the scheme isn’t available to everyone in Cardiff with a driving licence:

  • Under 19 years olds cannot join the club.
  • Drivers who have held their driving license for less than 12 months are not permitted.
  • Members aged 19 or 20 years old have to pay £10 per month (in addition to the £50 annual membership fee) to cover higher insurance premiums.
  • Drivers with more than six points on their license may not be eligible (This is checked during the application process)

The City Car Club isn’t the first pay-as-you-go travel scheme to launch in Cardiff. Back in September 2009, OYBike launched in Cardiff allowing people to hire one of 70 pedal bikes from 10 locations around the city.



Is the fight lost to save Llanishen Reservoir? by Chris Halpin

Is this the end?

It seems after months of draining Llanishen reservoir in North Cardiff is finally empty.

Welsh Green Dragon was there back in February when Western Power Distribution, who own the water body, started draining down the water for a reported safety inspection.

Although at the time the water level was falling, young sailors were still having lessons and it continued to be a valued recreational amenity for people living in northern Cardiff.

However after a local resident recently sent the photograph at the top of this piece to us,  it seems the pumps have been turned off and the stark reality of the drain down has been revealed.

What was once a large open mass of water is now a boggy bowl of mud.

Agencies have ‘not done enough’

Campaigners fighting to save the reservoir have always contested the need to drain down the reservoir and that it amounted to ecological and environmental vandalism.

Local anglers have also accused the Environment Agency of not doing enough to protect the fish whose habitat has been destroyed.

Argument that a recent move by Cardiff City council to officially make the area around the reservoir a nature reserve will save it from being redeveloped into a housing estate is optimistic.

Not much protection has been afforded so far by the listing of the structure by CADW or by the minimal intervention from the Environment Agency. Nor have objections by local MP’s or councillors.

Now it’s empty it really does look like there’s no going back.

A piece on the Lisvane News last week asked ‘Is the fight to save Llanishen reservoir almost won?’. I’d have to argue otherwise. Put simply – what is a reservoir without any water?

When will the inspection of the pipes start?

Western Power have always maintained they must drain the water to examine pipes they said sat on the bed of the reservoir.

They don’t seem to be there and as Llanishen RAG‘s surveyors said all along it seems the pipes must be encased in concrete underneath the bottom layer of the structure.

We’ll just have to wait and see how long it takes for this ‘inspection work’ to happen.

What next?

If the reservoir stays empty a number of things will most certainly change.

Damage could be caused to the linings of the clay lined walls as the Victorian banks of the reservoir dry out.

This means it could become structurally unsafe and not be strong enough to ever hold water again.

Despite South Wales rainfall being heavy – it’s thought it could take as long as a decade to refill naturally.

And local residents will no longer be fighting for a reservoir, they’ll be fighting for a swampy brown pit. One wonders how long it will be until support for the Reservoir Action Group will start to wane.

It seems this could be the end for the reservoir, and instead of being a triumph for the locals, they’ve been trampled on by a multinational company who favour profit over the environment.

Let’s hope this isn’t the end for Llanishen and the Lisvane News is right.



Combating Food Waste in Wales by Chris Halpin

How much money do we waste on food each year?

Consumers in Wales will spend twenty four thousand pounds in their lifetime on food that they will never eat.

This equates to around 15p in every pound you spend on your weekly trip to the supermarket, or each year around £480 for the average UK household, increasing to £680 a year for households with children – an average of just over £50 a month.

However, environmental campaigners are saying that supermarkets themselves are needlessly throwing away around 1.8 million tonnes of food each year that is still good to eat, and that they need to do more.

Food for the vulnerable

Charitable organisations like Bristol based Fareshare South West are trying to tap into this waste stream.

They work with food distributors directly and receive weekly palettes of produce that never make it onto supermarket shelves. This food is often within date, and is returned because of packaging errors or over-ordering by certain stores.

They then break down the food, including ready meals, fresh fruit, vegetables and cereals, and distribute it to 27 organisations which work with vulnerable people like drug addicts and the homeless.

Jacqui Reeves, manager of operations for Fareshare, says they are only scratching at the surface in terms of how much waste supermarkets produce.

“It’s really seasonal. In the winter we get loads of soup, now we’re getting a lot of smoked salmon. It’s all perfectly good to eat and otherwise it would just end up in landfill – it’s madness really”

‘Bin diving’

Other people are taking advantage of supermarket throw aways for themselves.

So called ‘Bin Divers’ monitor skips round the back of stores at the end of each day to see what they can find. Gareth Blake from Splott in Cardiff has been ‘diving’ for nearly two years. When asked why he shouldn’t pay for his food like everyone else, he said.

“Well anyone can do it if they want, it’s free to everyone.I’m doing the supermarkets a favour really, and think of all the methane that’s being saved from when it decomposes at landfill”

Finding your dinner in a skip is perhaps not everyone’s idea of a healthy balanced diet though. When posed with this, he was still resolute.

“If you look at where food comes from, like the blood and guts from a slaughter-house or pesticides and herbicides or animal manure from the farm, it’s [the food] not particular hygienic to start with”

Friendly food fight

There are also an increasing number of stunts that environmental campaigners are pulling to try and engage the public in the food waste issue.

Cardiff East Transition Group worked with Fareshare and bin divers to collect food for a mass friendly food fight. It might seem quite perverse to be throwing food around to highlight how wasteful we are, but according to organiser Tim Fisher, it’s not just about the serious message.

“We’ve had a food fight because it’s a fun thing to do, and something people can relate to. We’re chucking stuff around to show how we should stop doing this”

Will landfill tax lead to higher prices?

So three very different approaches to making the most of the food that never makes it into your shopping trolley. However with landfill taxes rising, the supermarkets may well be forced to clean up their acts and start reducing their waste – which means we might be getting higher food bills instead.



Too many Beekeepers and not enough Bees by Chris Halpin

The Plight of the Bumble Bee

There’s been plenty of coverage over recent years of the falling numbers of bee populations and the implications this holds for us in terms of food – fewer bees – fewer crops get pollinated.

There are many theories behind why the bees seem to be giving up on us, ranging from falling biodiversity, to parasites and diseases like the Varroa mite, and the very wet summers we’ve seen over the last few years.

Listen to the Radio Feature Piece


Could things be looking up?

However, things do seem to be looking up for the humble bumble bee and his 249 other cousins.

Welsh Beekeepers are feeling optimistic about the season ahead. Bee colonies have managed to survive through the harshest winter we’ve had for 30 years because although it’s been cold it’s also been relatively dry, meaning that in milder temperatures foraging bees have been able to get out and collect pollen.

The recent good news that disease free Queen Bees will now be posted from the Isle of Man to try and bolster populations here is also instilling hope.

This coupled with the increased public interest in the art of bee keeping itself should mean the bees have a fighting chance of survival – in what’s been dubbed the latest craze to hit suburbia, the terms ‘urban beekeeping‘ or ‘backyard beekeeping’ are becoming the norm in beekeeping circles.

‘Massive’ influx of keen new beekeepers

However, it seems that Beekeeping Associations in Wales are finding it hard to cope with the influx of new members.

Some clubs say they’ve noticed an increase of up to 50 per cent, and John King who is chairman of the Cardiff Vale and Valley’s Beekeeping Association says he’s got more students than ever.

In normal years John says there’d be 8-10 new members of which 5 or 6 may have taken beekeeping up properly. This year there’s been fifty new recruits of which forty are showing a keen interest in keeping it up.

Beginners at the Cardiff Vale and Valleys Beekeeping Association

As a result resources are stretched and people in his club are working all hours trying to keep things going. It’s also a simple case of supply and demand, in that there just aren’t enough bees to go around.

You can’t set up an Apiary overnight


John also said there’s been interest from people who are keen to start straight away but are disappointed when they find out it takes time to get set up.

One of the problems we get is that people think , oh I’ve done the course now, I can get everything and the bees will come overnight. The biggest hindrance we have at the moment is bees, because we have suffered losses over the last two years and are trying to rebuild our stocks, and we’re reluctant to deplete them to pass them onto new beekeepers

Beekeeping is a year round hobby, and requires commitment like looking after any pet. One of John’s students Gareth Harvey has been keeping bees for around two years and says it’s not like having a dog – it requires weeks of training and he’s always learning.

One thing’s for sure, it’s not a packaged hobby you can buy in a kit, despite the numerous products and starter kits on sale.

What does the future have in store?

It’s obvious that the media exposure surrounding the threat to bee populations has done a great deal to encourage new people to get involved.

And there are many other projects which are also helping people to understand and engage with bees in new ways, from planting bee friendly plants in your garden to adopting a bee hive.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales has a bee garden that can be home to up to a million bees each summer, and a Big Brother style viewing gallery with CCTV cameras so you can get really close to the action.

There are also public art schemes in the pipeline. ‘For the bees‘ is an art project devised by Swansea based artists Owen Griffiths and Fern Thomas who are  both embarking on beekeeping for the first time.

They hope to harness the sound of the swarm by working with composers to make a piece of choral music – a project that has already been spotted by BBC Radio 4.

Whatever the future does have in store for the bee, there are plenty of people out there who are working hard to stop the decline.

And now with the British Government making bees a priority, and the Welsh Assembly becoming more involved, Beekeepers from novice to experienced will certainly be hoping that the numbers will start to rise again.



Friendly Food Fighting by the Cardiff Food Alliance by Chris Halpin

If you went down to the woods today, you’d certainly have been in for a surprise. However it isn’t a picnic you would’ve found – in fact it could be described as the exact opposite! If you were taking a stroll down the Taff Trail behind Talybont Halls of residence in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, you may have wondered what on earth was going on.

Members of the Cardiff East Transition group have been routing through bins and getting their hands on waste food, to stage a friendly food fight to demonstrate how much food is wasted in Cardiff everyday.

It might seem quite perverse to be throwing food around to highlight how wasteful we are, but according to the organisers all the food used would otherwise have been headed straight to landfill. It’s all part of the Cardiff ‘Fix the Food Chain’ month which looks at the problems in all the different stages of food production. A number of groups are involved including Friends of the Earth and Fareshare alongside the Cardiff Food Alliance.



Couples to receive two IVF cycles by tanyamercer
April 1, 2010, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Future Thinking, Health, Protest

Couples in Wales will now be able to have two free cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS.

Since 2005 women in Wales have been able to receive one treatment of IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation)  on the NHS.  But the new provision brings the country into line with England and Scotland.

The change comes after Health Minister Edwina Hart announced last year that she was “keen to increase the number of IVF treatment cycles.”

NICE guidelines

The guidelines by the health guidance body – the National Institute of Clinical Excellence(NICE) – recommend that the NHS should pay for three IVF treatment cycles.

But the Welsh Assembly suggested that two cycles was a financially viable alternative.

Ms Hart said: “I recognise that this is an extremely emotive issue…I have had lots of representations on this issue and I am pleased that I am in a position to go some way towards increasing the opportunities for women to try to have children within the available resources.”

In Vitro Fertilisation

Campaign

The new provision comes after a high profile campaign led by Kara Ellard from Pembrokeshire and Julia Eynon from Bridgend. 

Both women have undergone several fertility treatments, costing thousands of pounds between them.  The women petitioned the Welsh Assembly to follow the NICE guidelines.

Julia Eynon said: “This is such good news for women like ourselves.  It’s still not the full implementation of the NICE guidelines that we’d hoped for, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. So we’re really happy.”

Criteria

To benefit from the second cycle, couples will have to comply with the original set of criteria for IVF treatment on the NHS.

Women must be under 40 years old.  Couples must not have any adopted or biological children living with them. Patients must have a body mass index (BMI) between 19-30.  And, if either partner smokes, they must take part in a programme to quit, and must have stopped by the time treatment starts.

Demand

The Welsh Assembly Government has released £800,000 of additional funding to meet the expected increased demand for IVF as a result of the provision. 

A Welsh Assembly spokesperson told CJS: “Clinics providing IVF treatment will be contacting women who have had one cycle in the past six years…We aim to provide a second course of IVF treatment for women who are eligible within 26 weeks.”

Renewed hope

Peter Bowen-Simpkins, medical director of the London Women’s Clinic in Swansea, said the new provision offers many women renewed hope.

“This is very good news for women in Wales,” he said.  “Although there’s no guarantee someone will get pregnant with two cycles of IVF, certainly the more cycles that are offered, the better the chances of becoming pregnant.”



Drainage is well underway at Llanishen Reservoir by Chris Halpin

Video Report by Chris Halpin and Jennie Clark

Llanishen Reservoir Action Group have been campaigning tirelessly for almost ten years to save one of North Cardiff’s largest green spaces from the developers.

In what some campaigners have called a battle of David against Goliath, the action group (or RAG for short), are taking on the reservoirs owners, Western Power Distribution, who want to build hundreds of new houses in its place. Western Power are the UK subsidiary of American firm Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL), thought to be worth £7.5 billion.

Brief history

Constructed in 1884, Llanishen was part of a network of freshwater reservoirs that brought water down from the Brecon Beacons to be used as drinking water in the ever expanding city of Cardiff.

It ceased to be used for this purpose about 35 years ago, and was sold off by Margaret Thatcher in the eighties when water companies were privatised.

Despite not being used for drinking water now, over the years it has become a valued recreational amenity for walkers, fishermen and aspiring sailors.

However, over the past decade its owners Western Power have gradually restricted access to the public, and soon its final users, Llanishen Sailing Centre, won’t be able to use it either.

Once the water level is too low, about 3 metres below normal, the sailors simply won’t be able to get their boats in and out of the water.

The dispute about draining down

Western Power claim they’re emptying the reservoir in accordance with a survey they had commissioned in 2008. They say they need to inspect underwater pipe work for safety reasons – these pipes lying on the bottom of the reservoir and can only be accessed through drainage, according to the report.

In light of newer evidence and an original copy of the Victorian reservoirs building specification, RAG have since had their own survey commissioned. This says the pipes are not where Western Power maintain, and in fact are encased in concrete underneath the reservoir. RAG are therefore arguing that this completely negates any reason to be draining down the water.

Although Western Power have been denied planning permission for this redevelopment twice, campaigners fear that once the water is drained it will never fully refill, as water levels are only kept stable through rainwater. They are concerned the empty reservoir will become an eyesore, and the council will eventually give in to redevelopment as a lesser of the two evils.

Silt and the threat to Roath Park Lake

Western Power are allowed to drain off the top three metres of water but the Environment Agency say they are monitoring the levels closely to make sure they do not exceed this. If Western Power drain off more than this there is the risk that over a century of underlying silt could be disturbed and enter the Nant Fawr stream, which is where the reservoir’s water is being pumped into. This flows into Roath Park lake and campaigners also fear wildlife there could be affected. The Environment Agency called on Western Power not to empty, but drainage began at the end of February.

Protected Status and Government support

The structure of the reservoir has been listed by CADW as historically important, the banks are protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the area surrounding it which is owned by Cardiff Council has been made a nature reserve.

Western Power is trying to refute each level of this protected status, and RAG estimates the company have spent around £10 million pounds on legal fees trying to get each of them overturned and appealing the rejected planning applications.

Cardiff Council and the Welsh Assembly are supporting campaigners, with MP for Cardiff North Julie Morgan and Assembly Member Jenny Randerson personally involved. Julie Morgan also recently voiced her frustrations to Welsh Secretary Peter Hain in the House of Commons, which allowed previously confidential information about findings in the engineers surveys to be reported in the press, under parliamentary privilege.

How to join in the campaign

If you want to join the fight to save the reservoir, you can sign the online petition here,  follow regular updates on the Wales Online blog, or discuss it on this forum.




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