Welsh Green Dragon

Couples to receive two IVF cycles
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


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.”


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.


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.”


Asylum seekers demonstrate against racism outside UKBA in Cardiff

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.

Prime Minister petitioned to help Cardiff buses


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.”

World Wetlands Day at Newport Wetlands Centre

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.

The Green Gym

It’s that time of year again. The excesses of Christmas have caught up with us. Those jeans have either shrunk in the wash or I’ve put on an extra pound or two. Gym membership deals are posted through the letter box and everywhere you turn there’s an advert for some fabulous diet that promises you’ll lose 16lbs in 2 weeks.

But realistically, am I going to stick with the gym? Probably not. I find them incredibly dull, and lycra and me are not a good combination! Similarly, diets are always started with great vigour, but then abandoned by the end of January.

And, just when I was losing hope, I think I’ve found a way to keep fit that challenges, reinvigorates and doesn’t involve running machines or eating solely carrots for a week. Plus it helps the environment.

It’s called the green gym.

It’s a BTCV idea, which hopes to inspire people to improve both their health and the environment.

Experienced leaders guide ‘gym goers’ through a range of practical projects, giving the opportunity to tackle physical jobs in the outdoors – improving strength and stamina, boosting practical skills and confidence and benefitting local green spaces.

To find out more I visited the green gym volunteers at Cymtillery Allotments.

It could just be that this is the type of gym to stick with!

Green gym volunteers

Green gym volunteers

Green gym leader Bryan Brown

Green gym leader Bryan Brown

The allotment at Cymtillery

A bridge too far?
At the beginning of this week Bute Park was awarded the accolade of the best park in Wales in Britain’s Best Park competition, for the second year in a row.

The park is a popular retreat for Cardiff’s residents and visitors. It offers somewhere to escape the busy hubbub of the city centre. Somewhere for people to stroll on a Sunday afternoon. Somewhere to walk the dog or go for a jog.

It is always, whatever the weather, a hive of activity.

Cardiff Castle and Bute Park

And it has been this way since 1947 when a significant area of the Bute Park grounds was given to the people of Cardiff by the fifth Marquess of Bute.

Presentation of Bute Park 1947

Since then it has been expanded and developed. A variety of rare and ornamental trees have been planted to form the Bute Park Arboretum. Forty eight of these trees now have Champion Tree status – for being the biggest or best example of their species in the UK.

The park has won numerous green awards for its sustainable development and management.

But recently, Cardiff Council has been criticised for its proposed developments of the park. A group of local residents and academics have formed a group – the Bute Parks Alliance – to campaign against the Council’s developments.

Last week tree specialists starting felling 21 of Bute Park’s nationally significant trees. The felling is part of the £5.6 million Bute Park Restoration Plan.

Funded by over £3.1 million pounds from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the plan is to restore some of the important historic features within the park, including the medieval Blackfriars site and the Victorian animal wall. The council also hopes to provide new facilities for visitors and improve accessiblity to the park.

As part of this work the council is building a new bridge into the park from North Road. The council says the £1.4m constuction will direct heavy articulated lorries away from the busiest parts of the park and give them better access to the nursery in the centre of the park. But local residents say the bridge will destroy an important part of the park and allow more traffic into the area.

The council says the trees need to be felled because they are diseased or dead. According to the council, the trees have been independently surveyed and recommended for removal on arboricultural grounds.

Tree management work in Bute Park

But Professor Kevin Morgan, an expert in city development and chair of the Bute Parks Alliance, says he’s concerned there hasn’t been enough research into this.

The Bute Parks Alliance is also concerned that the council are removing healthy trees. Campaigners say they are suspicious that some of the trees are positioned so close to the controversial new bridge and the road leading to the nursery.

I asked Councillor Nigel Howells, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Parks, if there was any truth behind this accusation.

Councillor Howells says the bridge is an important part of the park’s development. He believes it will reduce vehicle mileage in the park and direct traffic away from the popular area around the north gate.

But Professor Morgan thinks there has not been enough sustainable planning behind the bridge. He believes that the bridge development has been led instead by the council’s desire to cater for big events in Cardiff.

The next stages of development for the park will begin in the spring with the restoration of the animal wall.

Racoons on the animal wall that borders part of Bute Park

Developments will then continue with the conservation and preservation of the medieval Blackfriars site, preserved sections of the nineteenth century planted layout and the twentieth century Arboretum.

The stone circle in Bute Park

In addition, new visitor facilities will be provided, including a training and education centre, better seating, path surfaces and signage, improved visitor information, public toilets and refreshment outlets.

Professor Morgan says he hopes the future developments of the park will balance ecological, social and cultural needs in consultation with local people.

There are many aspects of this project that local residents support. Improved interpretation and facilities throughout the park and the restoration of its historical features are welcome developments.

But many local people are alarmed that despite the opposition and campaigning the bridge is still going ahead. They are suspicious that the council is not listening to their concerns and a distrust of the council has started to develop. Many people feel the decisions taken over the bridge have not considered the longevity of the park’s tranquillity and character.

It is, for them, a bridge too far.

To listen to the full interviews with Councillor Nigel Howells and Professor Kevin Morgan, please click on the links below.

Councillor Howells

Professor Kevin Morgan

Environment Minister calls for fundamental lifestyle change
November 27, 2009, 9:35 am
Filed under: Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Future Thinking

The Environment Minister has said people in Wales must make a fundamental lifestyle change to tackle climate problems.

Jane Davidson says Wales is not doing enough towards sustainability. Evidence from scientists and economists shows taking action now will cost us less than taking action in the future.

Talking at the recent Welsh Green Heroes event, the Assembly Mininster told me that everyone needs to think about their way of life to ensure they are as energy efficient as possible.

Listen to the full interview here.