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Opposition to hydro-power scheme grows

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Llyn Brianne: The iconic slipway

Llyn Brianne: The iconic slipway

A PROPOSED hydro-electric power plant (Infinis Hydro River Tywi) along the banks of the River Tywi at Ystradffin has drawn strong opposition from Carmarthenshire Anglers.

Mike Davies the secretary of Carmarthenshire Fishermen’s Federation told The Herald: “Planning has not been approved but the developers (Ellergreen Hyrdro Limited) have already held a consultation up in Rhandirmwyn about the scheme.”

The developers’ scheme involved building a weir about 3km below the dam to extract water. That water will be piped around the Dinas RSPB bird reserve and will enter the river again further down. Mike Davies explained: “They are bypassing a very important part of the river Tywi. It is a very important part of the Tywi called Craigiau Tywi where the river pours over rocks and boulders and oxygenates the water. That oxygenated water is important for other aquatic life and other wildlife.”

Mike explained the dangers the scheme represents: “The water that comes from the dam comes from its bottom and is not oxygenated. Any water from that plant would be harmful to the environment. If water is released from the top of the dam, oxygenation would not be a problem.

“The proposed pipe bypasses a junction pool. The fish rely on the Pysgotor and the Doethie and the must have the right pressure to progress up the river. Llyn Brianne Dam has blocked natural and historic spawning grounds upstream and the fish now rely heavily on the spawning grounds in the area where it is proposed to locate the plant. The environmental damage it causes will be far greater than any environmental benefits.”

Mike continued: “The dam itself already produces 4.5mw of electricity and any increase in electricity created by a further hydro-electric facility would produce relatively small increases in supply. The Tywi is one of the major trout and salmon rivers in Europe. It will be a disaster for Carmarthenshire if they interfere with the river for just a modest scheme.”

Concentrating on the threat to Carmarthenshire’s wish to re-invent itself as a tourism destination to rival those elsewhere in Wales, Mike told The Herald: “Lots of people come to Carmarthenshire to fish the river and stay in the hotels; they create work for people. It would be very short sighted if Carmarthenshire County Council allows this to go ahead.

“A scheme like this was submitted a few years ago and it was turned down. It seems like this is just the same thing, reheated to have another crack at the planners. The public won’t benefit from this. It will go into the pockets of the shareholders. If this happens here, there is nothing to stop it happening all along the Tywi. The river is struggling now. It is a gem the people of Carmarthenshire should be protecting. And that includes county councillors.”

Expressing frustration at Natural Resources Wales and their supine approach to the development, Mike Davies told us: “NRW are there to protect the environment and they should not allow this to go through. They have a fisheries department and they should be objecting to this.”

Towy Valley Farm, across which the river flows, is on the market for £2.65m. The vendor’s agents, Edward H Perkins, have included details of the hydro electro plant in their brochure.

Under a heading ‘Renewables – Hydroelectricity Scheme’, the brochure claims: ‘The vendors have made significant investigations and commitment to a 2 MW Hydro scheme. Water extracted from the River Towy at the head of the river just below the Brianne Dam.

‘Investigations in relation to water abstraction and ecology have been ongoing and discussed with Natural Resource Wales (NRW) since 2011. The proposed weir at the abstraction point sits on Towy Valley Farm land, the bed of the river and the western bank. Therefore there are 3 legal interests to secure to implement the scheme. The pipe and turbine house are proposed to be located on Towy Valley Farm only.

‘Application for the abstraction licence has been made (in the name of G L Jones – Vendor) and approved. (The confirmation on the final amount of water to be abstracted has not been confirmed due to NRW regime changes in relation to Hydro projects in Wales).

‘Estimated output is 2MW based on the amount of water requested in the abstraction licence. Grid Connection secured and paid for by HED developers. Planning application is understood to be prepared by HED developers and can be submitted following confirmation of legal documentation.

‘Lease Term – 40 years Current rental arrangement proposed Years 1 to 10 – the greater of £50,000 per year or 4% of gross revenue. Years 11 to 18 – the greater of £50,000 per year or 6% of gross revenue. Years 19 to 40 – the greater of £50,000 per year or 7% of gross revenue. Further information is available from the vendor’s agent.’

The terms of the lease suggest that the vendor is seeking to realise a MINIMUM of £2m over the term of a forty year lease as a minimum from any purchaser. The share of the gross revenue for the project for any purchaser appears to indicate that, despite the farm’s considerable livestock holding and acreage, the main product of the establishment is intended to be electricity supply to the National Grid.

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The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister

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THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.

The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.

Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.

Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.

He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.

Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.

“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.

“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.

“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”

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Trade deal won’t benefit Wales

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EVERY week, the Herald carries political opinion pieces from across Wales’ principal political parties.

This week, Jonathan Edwards MP casts an eye over the trade deal between the UK and Japan announced this week and wonders ‘What’s in it for Wales?’

Jonathan Edwards writes: THE BUNTING was on full display in Westminster this week as the British Government announced that it had reached the holy grail of signing its first post-Brexit international trade deal.  

The agreement with Japan was described by Secretary of State Liz Truss as a ‘major moment in our national history’.  As major moments go, a casual look at the detail leaves a lot to be desired.  Effectively all the British Government has achieved is to replicate a deal UK business already benefited from as part of the EU-Japan trade deal signed in 2019.

The British Government admit that over a 15-year period the deal will only increase UK economic wealth by 0.07%.  However, under the rules of Brexit political discourse never let the facts get in the way for an excuse to sing Rule Britannia and wave the Union Jack.

During the debate in the Commons, I highlighted that the British Government’s own figures indicate in a best-case scenario it would take 71 deals of this nature to make up for the British Governments strategy for the second phase of Brexit of leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union.  If we no deal at the end of the year the situation would be considerably worse.

For Wales, the economic benefits are projected to be less than even the negligible UK figures with the deal only expected to benefit the Welsh economy by a measly 0.05%.  The same goes for other trade deals currently being negotiated by the British Government.

Capitulating on chlorinated chicken in the US Trade deal could only benefit the Welsh economy by 0.05% over 15 years according to an excellent Senedd Research paper.  

The New Zealand and Australia deals, according to the same paper, could have a 0% impact on the Welsh economy.  

Never again can the Tories claim to be the party of business: what we are witnessing is economic madness.

The agricultural provisions in the Japan deal further fuels my fears that our farmers will be the proverbial sacrificial lambs in these trade negotiations.  True there was progress on Geographical Indicators, but the British Government failed to secure any tariff rate quotas for food products.  Instead, our farmers will only be able to utilise unused quotas by the European Union.  

Let that sink in.  

In the real world, effectively. EU export policy will determine what can be exported from the UK.

The Secretary of State emphasised that the Japan deal paved the way for entry to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  A free trade area consisting of 11 countries (down from 12 after the US pulled out).  

What the British Government are reluctant to reveal is that the TPP contains strict rules on State Aid and also includes an investor-state dispute resolution mechanism which would supersede UK domestic law.  These are the same two areas, of course, that have led to the breakdown in the second phase Brexit negotiations currently ongoing.

At the end of the day, the two great Brexit era slogans of ‘take back control’ and ‘global Britain’ are completely incompatible and inherently contradictory.

As UK international trade policy develops these inconsistencies will become apparent to all.

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Plans for Llanelli’s first ever virtual Christmas carnival

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LLANELLI Christmas Carnival will not be held this year, for the first time in its 42-year history.

Partners have confirmed that the decision has been made in line with current Welsh Government guidance and increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus linked to large gatherings.

However, plans are afoot to celebrate Christmases past and present in the town’s first ever virtual carnival.

On what would have been ‘carnival night’ the town’s illuminations will be switched on and an online celebration will be hosted on Carmarthenshire County Council’s social media channels featuring music, opportunity to reminisce over past carnivals and a challenge to businesses and organisations to create a carnival scene for the town’s first ever virtual parade.

The town’s Christmas tree is also being relocated to a more visible location for passers-by, at the busy Gelli-Onn junction near West End.

The largest Christmas carnival in Wales, Llanelli’s festive celebrations are a joint effort by Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council, Llanelli Rural Council and Llanelli Round Table.

Partners have expressed their disappointment at the decision but have vowed to keep Christmas spirit alive.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We have made this decision with a very heavy heart as we know how much the carnival means to the people of Llanelli. This is the first time since it started over 40 years ago that we have had to take a decision like this and we are as disappointed as I’m sure everyone else will be.

“We are determined to do something special to keep the tradition alive and planning is now underway to hold a virtual carnival on what would have been the night of the traditional festivities.”

Cllr Shahana Najmi, Leader of Llanelli Town Council said: “The Llanelli Christmas Carnival is the highlight in the calendar for thousands of people and whilst we’re sorry we can’t hold the traditional carnival this year, we are pleased to be working with partners on an online celebration which we hope people will get involved with and enjoy.”

Cllr Tegwen Devichand, Leader of Llanelli Rural Council, said: “Generations of families have enjoyed Llanelli’s Christmas carnival over the years and we’re disappointed that for this first time in its history we are unable to put on the parade. We hope people will understand the decision and support the plans we’re developing for the town’s first virtual carnival.”

Roger Bowen, of Llanelli Round Table, added: “Llanelli’s carnival night is an important night as it raises a great amount of money for local charities and brings many communities together with such tremendous work on the floats, which really makes the evening such a special event.  We hope that people will find other ways to give generously and support good causes in our communities.”

Further information will be released in the coming weeks about the virtual carnival and how people can get involved.

Keep an eye on Carmarthenshire County Council’s Facebook and Twitter feeds and visit newsroom.carmarthenshire.gov.wales

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