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.



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.



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.



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.”



The Green Gym by tanyamercer

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



Crackdown against fly-tipping in South Wales by Chris Halpin

Fly-Tipping Action Wales Campaign – Radio Feature

You know what they say, where there’s muck there’s money. However in this case its leaving local authorities in South Wales a deficit to the tune of three million pounds per year, and in the end we’re the one’s who pay through higher council tax bills. Tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish is left at roadsides and wasteland each year, and now there is a new drive to tackle the problem.

The Environment Agency are once more trying to convince businesses and families that fly-tipping is not on, with partnership agencies like Keep Cardiff Tidy and Cardiff City Councils Prosiect Gwyrdd (Project Green) on board.

Notorious areas for fly-tipping are the lanes which run between Caerphilly and St Mellon’s where you can find dozens of dumping grounds. The usual suspects include old furniture, settees and large white goods like fridges and washing machines, but alarmingly also a lot of trade and industrial waste like building materials and toxic asbestos. People may think places like this are out of sight so out of mind, but it causes considerable disruption as many sites block farmer’s gates and of course have a devastating impact on the environment.

Duty of care

The new campaign which is backed by the Welsh Assembly Government is designed to remind homeowners and businesses that it’s their responsibility that waste gets disposed of properly. If you’re using a tradesperson like a builder or plumber you must check that they’re registered with the Environment Agency as a waste carrier.

This latest crackdown has been timed for January as it’s the worst month for illegal dumping when people have their annual new year clear out. Surprisingly almost two-thirds of waste found is actually normal household waste in black bin bags which could be left out for the dustbin man.

Hi-tech police crackdown

As technological advancement races on, South Wales Police are developing cunning ways in which to catch illegal fly-tippers out. Forensic techniques like SmartWater and aerial surveillance are being employed to chart illegal dumping sites and track down the culprits.

With the risk of landing a fine of up to £50,000 or even a prison sentence is it really worth the bother?  The scale of the problem is only demonstrated by the fact that out of 55,000 cases between 2008-1009 only 72 arrests and prosecutions were made. Some people argue that the council need to make it easier for people to get rid of waste, especially large electrical items. With the opening of smaller local tips, or Civic Amenity sites like Waungron Road in Fairwater, legimate ways to chuck away waste are being made more accessible – the only stipulation is you can only take waste that will fit in your car; larger vehicles must go to the Recycling site at Lamby Way. Alternatively you can ring Connect 2 Cardiff, Cardiff City Councils helpline and they will arrange collection of larger white goods free of charge. For more information visit the Fly-Tipping Action Wales or Cardiff City Council website.

The root of the problem?

From the people I spoke to it seems part of the problem comes down to disposal cost and people tightening their belts because of the recession. This is especially the case for small tradesmen and businesses disposing of composite or dangerous materials like plasterboard or asbestos. When it comes to waste they often operate at a loss and if they do jump through the right hoops it’s seen by many as a lengthy bureaucratic nightmare.  One builder I spoke to challenged me to try and dispose of some asbestos myself, just to see how hard it really is.

This is no justification for flagrant littering, but unfortunately the age-old dilemma rings true once again; the environment is not everyone’s main priority – time and money are more important. Despite the threat of a hefty fine or time behind bars, the blight that fly-tipping causes looks set to stay. One must hope this new campaign attempts to get to the root of why people lack a conscience when it comes to driving out to the middle of nowhere under the cover of darkness and using the countryside as a dumping ground.