Welsh Green Dragon

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.


Couples to receive two IVF cycles by tanyamercer
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 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.

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!

Wales at ‘The Wave’ Radio Feature by Welsh Green Dragon

As promised, below is the podcast/ radio documentary on last weeks Climate Change demonstration in London. Many thanks to those who contributed, including Haf Elgar from Friends of the Earth Cymru, Luned Jones from Oxfam Cymru and the Austin family from Merthyr Tydfil.  Also included is a slideshow so it all makes a bit more sense!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A bridge too far? by tanyamercer
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

Dai the Dragon steals the show at ‘The Wave’ by Chris Halpin

This is the last call for the 7.00am bus from Cardiff next stop…

Despite  a very early start and it being a pretty dismal December day, people turned out in droves to march on the Houses of Parliament in London to demand action on controlling Climate Change.

The morning started for me with an early coach ride laid on by The Co-operative from Cardiff where I met a very friendly bunch of people from around South East Wales. I asked Christian, who’s a social worker from Cardiff, why he forfeited his lie in for a day of demonstrating.

After shamelessly plugging this blog I set about my mammoth task of documenting the day, which you may have seen on our twitterfeed and you can also listen to in the podcast/documentary that will be on the site by the end of the week.

… London Grosvenor Square

When we arrived in London, Dai the Blue Dragon emerged from his cave (well the underpass off Park Lane) to join the throng of people gathered for The Wave rally and march which would set off from Grosvenor Square.

At one o’clock the procession of blue began to snake its way through central London bringing traffic to a standstill and leaving tourists and onlookers bemused on the pavement. Bands played, drums were beaten, as we passed The Ritz and Picadilly Circus in a steady trickle towards our final destination, Westminster bridge.

Despite the numbers and strong feeling amongst campaigners, the day’s event passed by without trouble, except for a handful of climate change deniers who shouted abuse from outside the cordon as the procession reached Trafalgar Square.

Who represented Wales at ‘The Wave’?

I joined campaigners from the Stop Climate Chaos Cymru Coalition which included representatives from Oxfam and Friends of the Earth, and asked them why taking part in The Wave was important. I spoke to Haf Elgar, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth Cymru, who has been planning Wales’ presence at The Wave for months. I asked what she thought about the ‘ClimateGate’ scandal at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia.

I also spoke to Luned Jones, who is a campaign officer for Oxfam Cymru who I managed to tear away from leading the welsh Stop Climate Chaos brigade for a mini interview. I asked her about the policing of the event.

On that note, one policeman confessed how he was glad to be at a protest which he could actually sympathise with, and how the atmosphere was more reminiscent of a carnival than a highly charged political rally.

The culmination of the day’s event was ‘The Wave’ itself, where by 3pm the line had completely encircled parliament. When Big Ben bonged three times, 50,000 pairs of hands painted blue or snug within gloves waved frantically towards the Palace of Westminster. Right on cue the heavens opened; what a great irony.

By three the protest was over and we were shepherded to the buses. Cheers for campaigning, now go home please! If there were a competition for the best protest declaration, Dai the Dragon would have come first. He got a lot of media attention and earned his spot on Sky News, BBC national news and BBC Online on Saturday. When he crossed the line we had shouts of ‘well done Wales’- we felt like we had run a marathon.

Was it all worth it?

The question is how succesful was the demonstration? It certainly gained plenty of media attention and recognition from our government, with Gordon Brown inviting 24 Stop Climate Chaos representatives to 10 Downing Street afterwards. Ed Miliband was also getting involved at the start of the protest down in Grosvenor Square doing interviews from the top of the media bus. Whether it will influence the politicians at the Copenhagen summit still remains to be seen.

I think its useful however to put the numbers into context. Fifty thousand people is a lot, but not extraordinary – you only have to look at the Anti War rallies in 2003 where an estimated one million people took to the streets in opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

Arguably, the threat of imminent war is more real than the omnipresent and invisible threat that Climate Change poses. In the developed world, and especially northern hemisphere, we are yet to see any lasting effects of climate change; it’s the poorest nations and far away shores who are suffering first. Yet climate change will affect everybody eventually and could have catastrophic consequences. The fact that the amassed crowd is representative of only 1,240th of the population of Britain is alarming.

A few of my colleagues went out into Cardiff today to randomly ask shoppers about what they thought of the Copenhagen Summit starting. Many people busy doing their Christmas chopping gave blank expressions and didn’t know a thing about what they were being asked. Other cynical people who had heard of the summit thought it was just the politicians’ excuse to ‘go on a jolly’.

I hate to end on a pessimistic note as you couldn’t help but feel upbeat after spending the day with like-minded environmentally aware people at ‘The Wave’. Unfortunately it seems that back in the real wide world such progressive thinkers are in the minority.