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.



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.



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.



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!