Welsh Green Dragon


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.



Fairtrade Fortnight – what will you swap? by Chris Halpin

This years FairTrade fortnight has centred around one thing. Making individuals pledge to swap just one product they’d normally buy to a fair trade one. Organisers say this year has also been about raising awareness of the whole range of more unusual items that now carry the fair trade logo.

Fair trade groups work throughout the year to dispel any doubts people may have about fair trade products, but fair trade fortnight is the highlight of the calendar.

Welsh Green Dragon went to a Tea Dance organised by FairTrade Wales in St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff to find out more.

It’s never been easier to switch to FairTrade, especially now many of the big supermarkets are paying a fair price to suppliers in developing countries who help to produce many of their own brand products. When you think of FairTrade, what immediately springs to mind? Most people we asked said Tea, Coffee,  Bananas, then perhaps chocolate.

But there are many other ways in which we can switch to ensure a fair deal for farmers in developing nations. Cotton is the perfect example, and Tesco have recently made a pledge to sell fair trade school uniforms for the academic year 2010/11. Fairtrade organisations are pushing for hospitals and hotels who use alot of cotton to think about ethically sourcing their linen. Other ways to switch could be with Wine, Rum, Olive Oil or like Environment Minister Jane Davidson, you could promise to switch to buying fair trade Melon’s.

However getting your hands on these items is not always as easy as it seems. Fairdo’s in Canton stocks a range of products ranging from pyjamas to peanut butter, but as part of your weekly shop you’re restricted to what you can find in the supermarket.

I asked some people in Cardiff if they knew exactly what FairTrade stood for.

It’s clear that Wales is leading the way in ensuring a fair deal for farmers in developing nations, and that groups here work tirelessly to promote the fair trade ethos.  There are groups right across Wales who organise events from Tea Dances to holding stalls at farmers markets. However, changing consumer attitudes is easier said than done, as can be seen from the video above.

Fairtrade campaigners hope that with big players like Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Nestle‘s KitKat jumping onto the FairTrade bandwagon,  other multinationals will also follow suit.

My swaps will be Rum and Coffee – although I don’t think I’ll be mixing them together.



Welsh Assembly gets tough on councils to become Zero Waste by Chris Halpin

Measures to improve how Wales deals with its waste have been proposed to the Welsh Assembly Government.

Environment Minister Jane Davidson wants Wales to adopt more sustainable waste management practices.

She hopes Wales will become a high recycling country by 2025 with aims to reach a Zero Waste country by 2050.

There’ll be targets for local authorities to recycle and compost, with financial penalties if these targets are not met. Certain materials will also be banned from going to landfill, like biodegradable food waste which could be used as biomass fuel. The announcement made by the Assembly also includes plans to start charging for plastic carrier bags in all shops from 2011.

What is ‘Zero Waste’?

The concept of ‘Zero Waste’ is to try and recover as much energy from our rubbish as possible, and options on how to do this are being researched by a group of local authorities.

Prosiect Gwyrdd is a partnership between, Caerphilly Borough County Council, The County Council of the City and County of Cardiff, Monmouthshire County Council, Newport Council and Vale of Glamorgan Council.

They are looking into the different ways of turning waste into energy, through modern incinerators (also known as combined heat and power), or anaerobic digestion (where the methane gas produced when waste decomposes is captured to be used as fuel).

Recycling as it stands

We are doing quite well when it comes to recycling in South East Wales. For the last quarter the figures are as follows.

Caerphilly: 39.32%
Cardiff: 38.5%
Monmouthshire: 41.67%
Newport: 39%
Vale of Glamorgan: 41.81%

On average there’s been a 3% rise each year in the amounts recycled since 2001. Its admirable that the Welsh Assembly are committed to reducing the amount we send to landfill and that schemes like Prosiect Gwyrdd are looking into ways to convert our rubbish into energy.

However – will ruling with an iron fist work (dishing out fines to councils left right and centre) or will it just hinder any further progress? Surely working to financial incentives and encouraging better waste management is better than penalising councils for not being up to scratch.

Call me a cynic but if councils are fined, then surely it’ll be us lot who suffer in the long run when we have to cough up more council tax.