Welsh Green Dragon


Asylum seekers demonstrate against racism outside UKBA in Cardiff by tanyamercer

Asylum seekers have been demonstrating outside the UK Border Agency in Cardiff today.

They called for an independent inquiry following allegations by whistleblower Louise Perrett, who worked for the Agency last summer, that there was a culture of discrimination within the organisation.

Chris produced this radio piece on the background of the story.

Pressure mounts for independant inquiry at Cardiff UKBA Offices

Chris and I went down to the demonstration to find out more.

Reported by Tanya Mercer, produced and edited by Chris Halpin

Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins is part of the Cross Party Group for Human Rights, which is also calling for an independent inquiry into the alleged discrimination at the Agency.

She explained how people seeking asylum were easily manipulated because they couldn’t understand the system.

She also commented how the UK Border Agency expressed disapproval that Louise Perrett was invited to speak at the Cross Party Group on Human Rights meeting on the 16th of February.

But demonstrators say the only way to fight for asylum seekers rights is to continue to put pressure on organisations like the UK Border Agency. And the biggest and most important battle, they say, is changing mindsets and attitudes.



Cardiff Man hit by flooding calls on Council to do more by alexlodge

One in nine homes in Wales is at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea.

Whilst the Environment Agency announced plans to extend its flood warning system in Wales last week, we spoke to one man who is calling on Cardiff Council to do more to stop flooding in his area.

37-year old Anthony Cornick’s garden was damaged when Whitchurch Brook, which backs on to the house at Heol Waun Y Nant, broke its banks two weeks ago.

Flood water washed away land at the bottom of Mr Cornick’s garden, dislodging his fence and leaving a seven-foot drop.

Mr Cornick said: “I’m worried about my three children. They enjoy playing in the garden, in the Spring and Summer. But obviously, I don’t allow them to play in the garden at the moment, with the condition it’s in.

“What I want to see is some action. I want to see the land put back, and see someone take responsibility for the land that was there. But I don’t seem to be getting any response from the local authority.”

Flood defence projects

Cardiff Council has told Mr Cornick that he must repair the damages himself.

A Cardiff Council spokesman said: “Council officers are eager to re-open lines of communication with Mr Cornick in order to work towards a satisfactory conclusion to this issue.

“The council is attempting to find out exactly who is responsible for the piece of land in question, but while this is in progress, we must stress it is Mr Cornick’s responsibility to secure his own ground and fence.”

The council will spend will spend £451,000 on the brook as part of a European scheme supporting eight flood and coastal defence projects in the local area.

Flood Warnings

From March, the number of properties who automatically receive free flood warnings will increase from 47,000 to 90,000.

Eligible homes and businesses will be notified by post, a phone call to their landline or a text to a mobile phone.

Alan Proctor, Flood Risk Manager at Environment Agency Wales said: “Last November’s devastating events in Cockermouth remind us that the dangers of flooding and how being prepared is crucial.”

“We urge everyone to check whether their property is at risk and taking steps to prepare, such as looking at ways to make properties more resistant to floods.”



Prime Minister petitioned to help Cardiff buses by tanyamercer

 

A petition from Save Cardiff Central is going to ten Downing Street asking Gordon Brown to prevent Cardiff Council reducing the city’s bus services. 
Campaigners, including the city’s Green party, say the council’s development of Cardiff Central is making it more difficult for people to use public transport in the capital and reducing the city’s main transport hub.
Signatories are calling on the Prime Minister to prevent other local authorities across England and Wales from doing the same. 

Matt Townsend, Green party candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth, started the petition.  He said: “On a national level the government has been talking about integrated public transport, but if on a local level individual councils are able to take away those facilities or reduce the amount they are used, then that seems inconsistent. And once they’ve been reduced in size I’m worried they’ll never go back to the way they were before.” 

Councillor Delme Bowen, Travel and Traffic Executive for Cardiff City Council, said: “The petition fails to see the benefits the changes will bring. We are not reducing the integrated transport hub but modernising it. We will have two hubs – one in St Mary’s street and one at Cardiff Central.”
  

Sustainable Travel City
The changes were introduced as part of Cardiff Council’s joint Sustainable Travel City initiative with the Welsh Assembly Government. The council hopes the changes will reduce congestion in the city centre and encourage more people to use public transport. 

The ‘bus box’ 

Cardiff bus box

The new bus routes, which were introduced in October last year, mean all the buses now travel in an anti clockwise direction around the city.
Campaigners say this means people have further to walk to get to bus stops and adds considerable time onto people’s travel signs. 

Cardiff Central Station
In an attempt to reduce congestion around the bus station, more bus stops have been introduced along St Mary’s Street. Consequently only half the buses now stop at Cardiff Central Station.
Councillor Bowen says this will help keep traffic flowing around the city centre.
But Matt Townsend said: “Nearly all buses used to stop at Cardiff Central, but now many stop away from the station. This means people wanting to make connections with local and national trains and buses have to walk further. This means people will be less inclined to use the buses and those with mobility problems will be particularly affected. If the council wants people to use public tranport they need to make it easier for them, not more difficult.”  

Free B bus
Matt Townsend also has concerns about the new Free B bus, which is designed to link up bus stops around the city.
“Because the free bus only runs til about 8pm, it means people have to wait at other bus stops late enough. Although Cardiff Central Station isn’t the safest place, it is busy and people feel safer waiting there.”
There are also complaints from Cardiff residents that people haven’t been told about the free service. Consequently, very few people are using the service.
Councillor Bowen says a new publicty campaign has now started to advertise the new service. There will be a leaflet drop to people’s homes and posters put up around city bus stops.  

Future Plans
Save Cardiff Cental campaigners are concerned that the council has not been clear about its longer term plans for Cardiff Central Station and the city’s bus system.
Coucillor Bowen says the plans could take another five years to materialise. He said: “We’re in discussions about a new bus station and new sustainable transport systems such as a tram that can run on the road or on tracks.
“I know we’re going through a transition period now, but we will end up with a much better transport system, with less congestion. Consequently, people will be able to move around the city much more easily.”



£6 Million scheme to turn M4 into ‘Hydrogen highway’ announced by Chris Halpin

Ambitious new plans to turn the M4 in South Wales into a testing ground for vehicles powered by renewable fuels have been announced by Welsh Secretary of State Peter Hain and Environment Minister Jane Davidson today.

Dubbed the ‘Hydrogen highway’ futuristic filling stations will be installed along the motorway which can fuel electric and hydrogen cars, linking into a larger network across the South west and the Midlands.

A welcome boost to Wales’ Motor Industry

With yesterday’s news that Bosch would definitely close its Miskin plant, these new plans could give a welcome boost to Wales’ struggling motor industry. Building on years of research by the University of Glamorgan’s Renewable Hydrogen Research Centre, the Welsh Assembly Government hope developing the infrastructure will attract international manufacturing companies back to Wales.

£6.6 million pounds of funding has been awarded to the University’s research team to take the first steps into developing the hydrogen fuel technology and how the filling stations can be rolled out up and down the motorway. Some of the funding for the three year research project comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Assembly Government as part of the activities of the Low Carbon Research Institute. Here’s Welsh Secretary Peter Hain’s comments on the scheme.

Reaching a Low Carbon Economy

The plan will also help to meet Wales’ targets to move towards a low carbon economy and to tackle climate change. With fossil fuels running out, Environment Minister Jane Davidson says Wales should be at the forefront of developing alternatives to petrol fuelled cars. She believes hydrogen and electric power vehicles are the way forward and that Wales can be at the forefront of this technology. She also said that whilst carbon emissions from household energy were reducing, Transport emissions were still rising.

Listen to the full interview here.

The technology’s ready but the forecourts are not

Hydrogen fuel is extremely clean emitting only water when used as fuel. So far fuel cell technology has proved expensive, but the new funding will help research how to make the fuel more efficient. The next step is the expansion of the next generation of fuel filling stations. A number of car companies have already designed hydrogen powered cars but fuel station forecourts are not ready for them. Here’s the Honda clarity as reviewed by James May on the BBC’s Top Gear.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It’s hoped that by 2015 hydrogen powered vehicles will become a common sight on our motorways as they’ll be much cheaper to buy and you’ll be able to refuel them. With todays announcement we may be a step closer but there’s still a long wait until such vehicles are likely to be hitting roads near you.



Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor? by Chris Halpin

Getting involved is billed as taking part in the ‘Greatest Bank Job Ever’. Loosely based on the Tobin tax, a group of charities have launched a new campaign which proposes to raise money from those notorious misers the bankers through – guess what – the Robin Hood Tax.

Bankers have had a bit of a bashing of late, blamed for the economic meltdown and lets face it, the banker on Noel Edmonds ‘Deal or no Deal’ is a right git.

Today the campaign came to Cardiff and I was there to see what happened.

At one o’clock unsuspecting city centre workers on their lunchbreak were treated to a surprise flash mob of dancing bankers springing into action outside Cardiff Central Library.

As you can see from the film Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams was also there for the photo opportunity to show her party’s support for the scheme.

The idea is to impose a 0.05% tax on transactions over £1000, which could be used closer to home to avoid massive cuts to vital public services like the NHS and help tackle climate change and help end poverty further afield.

The idea was launched yesterday and has already received a massive reaction, with the campaign plastered over Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. This is also thanks to celebrity endorsements from the likes of Richard Curtis and actor turned activist Bill Nighy who made this film.

But will the UK government really impose taxes on the banks? There are some bloggers out there who hope so, and some who do not.

And what do the banks make of all this? I tried getting in touch with a couple this afternoon to get their take on it but no one wanted to talk to me.

Government policy making is about as far removed from dancing flash mobs gyrating to Abba as you can probably get but it’ll surely be interesting to see who jumps on this political bandwagon in the run up to the general election.



World Wetlands Day at Newport Wetlands Centre by tanyamercer

Today is World Wetlands Day.

Each year conservationists use the day as an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of unique wetland habitats across the world.

There are many internationally important habitats around the UK and all have a rich array of wildlife.

Conservationists believe that the preservation and creation of wetland ecosystems are important in helping to combat climate change. Reed beds absorb a massive amount of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and help to increase biodiversity, something which has recently been heavily critised here in Wales.

They also play an important part in flood protection.

To find out more about wetlands in South Wales, Chris and I went to Newport Wetlands Nature Reserve.

For our the full interview with Gideon Harries of the RSPB, see below.



Environmental Extremists are Terrorists say Government by Chris Halpin

Have a watch of the video above. Do these people make you feel threatened? They seem to have the Ministry of Justice worried.

In what seems like further erosion of  civil our liberty by the British government, environmental activists or so-called ‘Domestic Extremists’ have now been put in the same classification as al-Qaeda terrorists in terms of their threat to you and I.

From a government document leaked to The Guardian (not however through whistle blowing site Wikileaks as they have run into financial woes), it transpires that people who campaign for a cleaner greener environment are as much a danger to national security as those who wish to commit mass murder.

I followed this story last Friday on our radio production day and interviewed a representative from Climate Camp Cymru. Dai Jones (he asked for a pseudonym) said that when he first read the news he wasnt sure whether to laugh or be alarmed. Here’s the radio piece that made it into the lunchtime bulletin.

He reckons that events like Climate Camp and The Wave have struck a chord with the general public, and that the government are trying to put people off legitimately protesting in what they believe in. In conflating protesting to seem as something more sinister or violently motivated, Dai believes less people will want to be involved and the campaigns will lose momentum.

Such has been the dismay among environmental campaigners of this re-classification, with great ironic timing comes the latest news from the planets most notorious terrorist mastermind.

Osama bin Laden’s audiotape released on the 29th January is yet to be verified, but deplores America for not addressing climate change and George Bush for not signing up to the Kyoto agreement. Views that many climate change activists might share- reckon he’ll show up at climate camp next time round? I’m not even going to attempt a wise crack as Marcus Brigstocke has this one superbly satirically covered. So although the eco warriors do have a lot to grumble about, perhaps idealogically they do have a little more in common with terrorists than they would like to admit!