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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Chair gives more details about 2020 proposals







Early indications are that implementing a package of radical changes to traffic and parking in Llangollen town centre will cost between £2m and £2.5m.

That’s the view of local county councillor Graham Timms who chairs the committee which is masterminding the Llangollen 2020 project.
The draft feasibility study, which runs to 79 pages, has been prepared with data crunched by consultants Arcadis and feedback gleaned from public consultation exercises last year.
Cllr Timms recently updated town councillors on the project and has given a further insight to llanblogger.
2020 aims to develop options for a safer and pedestrian-friendly town centre with streamlined traffic flow and come up with options to ease the parking situation.
Main proposals in the report for further consideration are:
+ The closure of Market Street to traffic coming in and out of Castle Street
+ The creation of a mini roundabout at the junction of Castle Street and the A539
+ Short stay parking spaces removed from Castle Street and replaced with goods only loading bays
+ The narrowing of Castle Street
+ Long stay permits no longer able to be used on Market Street car park at certain times
+ No new junction at Market Street/A5/Hall Street
+ Summer park and ride scheme ruled out
+ Ysgol Dinas Bran car park to be used during August by local businesses and staff
+ The Pavilion car park to be used by coaches between dropping off and picking up passengers in town centre 
The report says: “There is a significant opportunity to improve the public realm and the environment for pedestrians within Llangollen, through making the town centre and in particular Castle Street more pedestrian friendly and taking steps to reduce the dominance of the vehicular traffic …
“Following the appraisal of options, it is considered that closure of Market Street at the junction with Castle Street is explored in greater detail.  

“Market Street would be closed to vehicular traffic entering and exiting onto/from Castle Street. At present the movement of vehicles into and out of Market Street causes conflict, which in turn impacts on the movement of traffic on Castle Street in both directions. This is particularly the case when coaches are entering and exiting Castle Street at the same time.
“A modification to the Market Street/ A5/ Hall Street junction layout has been considered however, as the junction is observed to operate within capacity in both the base year 2018 and the design year 2023 and it is not considered that orthodox roundabouts would be viable due to cross-section constraints, hence no junctions modifications are proposed at this location at this stage.”
On Castle Street the report says: “It is proposed that the existing short stay - 30 minute waiting time with no return within 30 minutes - spaces would be removed with the loss of approximately 13 spaces.”  

It adds: “These car parking spaces are in prime location adjacent to the majority of shops and services. However, from our engagement days with members of public during the first round of consultation, these car parking spaces were seen by some to offer an excellent facility whilst others said they had difficulty finding a free space and cars accessing and egressing the spaces had a negative impact on the flow of traffic along Castle Street.  

“It is acknowledged that the loss of these spaces has an adverse impact on some users, however a range of complementary measures are proposed to minimise the impact on the local community and business.  

“It is proposed that the on-street parking bays would be replaced with Goods Only Loading Bays.  
“Goods Only bays would enable only goods vehicles collecting and delivering materials to be able to use the bays, which could then be enforced by DCC’s Enforcement Officers. 

“It is proposed that two bays measuring 2.5m wide by 12m long would be implemented in similar locations to the existing parking bays. The purpose of providing the dedicated bays is to minimise the disruption deliveries have on the town centre and improve deliveries/ collections to/from shops and businesses.” 

The report suggests two narrow vehicle lanes of uniform width along the entire length of Castle Street.  

It says: “Denbighshire County Council have confirmed they are happy in principle with narrowing the width of Castle Street to 5.5m. The provision of narrow lanes and a median strip has the potential to reduce vehicle speeds, this would further be enhanced by the implementation of two raised pedestrian crossings. 

“A wider crossing point would be provided in front of the Town Hall, as from our on-site observations is considered to be a desire line for pedestrians to cross Castle Street in this location.
Additionally, a second crossing point on Castle Street is proposed part way between the Market Street and the A5.” 

It adds: “A mini-roundabout is proposed at the A539/ Castle Street/ A542 junction. This has the potential to improve the junction capacity, reduce vehicle delay and queuing. It is envisaged that this would be a paved mini-roundabout, designed and delivered to be in keeping with public realm improvements delivered across the town centre.” 

Later, the report says: “As the on-street short-stay car parking spaces along Castle Street are proposed to be removed, several existing on-street parking spaces on Oak Street and Bridge Street are proposed to be designated disabled parking bays, in order to ensure there is availability of parking for those that need it within close proximity of Castle Street.”  

The report goes on: “The option to develop a park and ride scheme during the summer months has been considered as part of this study, however at this stage it is considered that such an option would not be financially viable, but this does not mean that at another point in the future this option should not be considered again.”  

Arcadis consulted Ysgol Dinas Bran on the possibility of using its car park during the month of August, and the report says: “In principle the school is content for the school car park to be used during the month the school is closed (August). It is proposed that this car park could provide additional spaces for local business and their staff to use, thus freeing up the council operated and maintained car parks within the town centre for visitors.” 
On the Market Street car park, the report proposes its redesignation as short-stay. 

It says: “This would enable a higher turnover of car parking spaces through the removal of vehicles that are parked for long periods of time, thus enabling a greater number of vehicles to use and benefit from the centrally based car park.  

“This would however mean that the use of the long stay permits would no longer be able to be used in this car park and thus workers who wish to use this car park, would have to park in the other long stay car parks in the town. 

“It is recommended that detailed discussions are had with DCC officers to consider whether it would be possible for the designation of Market Street to be seasonal, i.e. it is considered a long stay car park during the winter months when visitors numbers are lower and demand for spaces is lower and a short stay car park in the summer months when there is greater demand for car parking spaces.

“As the short stay car parking spaces are proposed to be removed from Castle Street, further consideration could be given to provide users of the Market Street car park with 30 minutes free parking, as not to discourage those shoppers who would have otherwise used the spaces on Castle Street from visiting the town.”

The Arcadis study also proposes that the number of coach spaces at the Market Street car park is reduced, in order to provide about 30 more spaces for both tourists and local people.

Another suggestion is that the Pavilion car park could be used for coaches to wait between dropping and picking up passengers at the Market Street car park.
The report says: “It is acknowledged that this would increase the number of coach movements within the town centre, as coaches have to travel to and from the Pavilion.  However, it is hoped the provision of extra car parking spaces in the Market Street car park and the other measures proposed to increase the turnover of spaces would reduce the number of cars searching for spaces within the town centre.”
Cllr Timms said: “Now the final report has been published the 2020 committee is exploring options for funding. These include the Welsh Government, Visit Wales, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB) and Denbighshire County Council.
“Early indications are that the implementation of proposals in the report will cost between £2m and £2.5m.”
Cllr Timms estimates the plan could be implemented by the end of 2020 or during 2021.
He added: “I am confident it is going to happen. That’s because we’ve got a really good case which fits in with what the county council is planning to do across Denbighshire.
“More work now needs to be done on the parking aspect of 2020.”
·         To see the full report, go to: . https://cadwynclwyd.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/1.-Llangollen-2020-Project-Feasibility-Study-Report_FINAL-with-appendices.pdf There is a hard copy in Llangollen Library. 










Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Gorse fire latest

The Daily Post online is reporting this morning that three fire crews remain on the scene of a large gorse blaze at Glyndyfrdwy, near Llangollen, after being called to the scene at 4pm yesterday.

Last night, a tractor driver who was trapped inside the vehicle in the area of the blaze was rescued by emergency services .

Eisteddfod appoints its ninth music director



* The eisteddfod's new music director, Dr Edward-Rhys Harry.

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod has announced the appointment of its ninth music director, Dr Edward-Rhys Harry.

Edward is internationally renowned for his ability to inspire through the power of music and creative arts and says he is looking to encouraging the next generation of solo artists at this year's festival from July 1-7.

As a graduate of the University of Aberdeen with a Doctorate of Philosophy in Choral Composition, he reached number three in the classical charts in 2016 and coached the Olympic Hymn at the 2012 London Olympics.

He is now urging soloists to compete in the eisteddfod, registering before the deadline of March 1.

Successful entrants will compete for a range of prestigious prizes and have the opportunity of performing at Australia’s Gold Coast Eisteddfod, which showcases 66,000 competitors over a seven-week period.

He said: “I am fortunate that my career has taken me around the globe, which gives me an affinity with the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod."

Eisteddfod chairman Dr Rhys Davies said; "As a team we are ecstatic to have someone of Edward’s stature joining us and we’re excited to discover the direction he will take us in.

“We hope to use his extensive international experience to further the eisteddfod’s reputation and standing on a global stage. We echo Edward’s call for more solo acts and pride ourselves on welcoming those who will relish the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities.”

* For more information on all the competitions or to apply through the Eisteddfod participants’ website visit: http://eisteddfodcompetitions.co.uk/2019-solo-competitions/

To discover more about the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod visit: www.llangollen.net

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Man rescued from mountain fire near Llan

A man has been rescued by emergency services from a mountain fire near Llangollen this evening, according to a report on the BBC website.

For the story, see: Glyndyfrdwy mountain fire: Man rescued from tractor - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-47379018
* Disclaimer *

Consultants give update on Llangollen's BID progress



Town councillors have been updated on the progress of a scheme to boost the local economy and support regeneration efforts.

Llangollen is one of 10 partnerships across the country which will share over £260,000 of Welsh Government funding to explore establishing Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).

North WalesSouth East WalesSouth West WalesAfter a BID is agreed via a legal ballot, each business contributes financially via a levy, which is then used to fund the agreed activities set out in their business plan.

These could include marketing, promotion and events, car parking, tackling anti-social behaviour, improving access to towns, or work to make the area more vibrant and viable.

A representative of consultants the Mosaic Partnership, who are currently carrying out a feasibility study into the BID, gave a progress report at the Town Council meeting last week.

And Mosaic director Mo Aswat has explained to current state of play to llanblogger.

He said: “The feasibility study is the first part of a three-stage process and its purpose is to recommend whether the process moves forward to the development and campaign stage.”

He added that the study would be completed in March and would make that recommendation on the basis of:

  • Financial analysis of the BID Area (using the business rates data)
  • Local business and stakeholder consultations
  • National business consultations
  • Consultation with key business groups
  • Consultation with public agencies
  • Review of existing plans, projects and partnerships
Mr Aswat added: “The recommendation from the feasibility study does not mean that the BID will go ahead, only that we move or not to the next two phases.

“Any decision to have a BID is decided by businesses in a formal and independent ballot which would not take place until after the development and campaign phases in early 2020, which will undertake a much greater level of consultation and ultimately result in a full business plan before the ballot.”

* Mosaic is encouraging businesses in the area to complete the Feasibility Stage Survey, which can be found online at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LlangollenTC2019

Monday, February 25, 2019

Tributes paid to saviour of Llan food festival


* Colin Loughlin with Clwyd South AM Ken Skates, who is also the Welsh Government Minister for the Economy and Transport.

Tributes have been paid to a “larger than life” former wine merchant who saved Llangollen Food Festival.

Friends and colleagues were devastated by the death of Colin Loughlin, 76, at his home on the outskirts of the town following a suspected heart attack last week.

When the previous organiser of the food festival pulled the plug in 2011, Colin came to the rescue and led the committee of volunteers who took it over.

Since then the event has gone from strength to strength and has been named as one of the top 10 food festivals in the UK.

His contribution as the chair of the festival committee has been celebrated with a painting of him in a mural on the side of the Llangollen pavilion where the event is held every October.

A native of Wrexham, Colin ran a wine distribution company called Whitehouse Wines in Coedpoeth before going into business with Lorraine Hughes.

They bought an existing company called Megan’s Kitchen which makes Welsh cakes.

Lorraine continued to run the business after Colin retired five years ago before stepping down as festival committee chair in 2016.

She said: “I’ve known Colin for many years. He was so full of energy and character

“We became business partners when we took over Megan’s Kitchen about 14 years ago.

“In 2011 the guy that was running the food festival had to stop and we were approached to form a committee and to try and keep it going. Colin was elected as chair and he put his heart and soul into the job.”

Lorraine, who is the food festival’s assistant secretary, added: “He was larger than life and loved telling stories and listening to stories.

“He was the force behind the Llangollen Food Festival and we were all grateful when he returned and started attending committee meetings again a couple of years ago after resigning the chair in 2016.

“The issue was he put so much into the job he was wearing himself out. He was divorced and didn’t have any children but so many friends.

“He was also a keen rugby man and a massive Wales fan. At least he died knowing Wales were very much in with a chance of winning the Six Nations. He will be sorely missed and personally I am devastated.”

Festival committee secretary Ian Parry said: “I got to know Colin as he would call and see me from about 2002 when I was town clerk. He would pop into the office to see me about various issues.

“Then in 2011 he approached me for help in putting together a committee to save the Llangollen Food Festival and he asked if I would act as secretary to the committee and I was happy to do so. Initially the festival was run by a different group and then a commercial contractor.

“But in 2011 it looked like it would close down and Colin wanted to save it. He did a tremendous job getting a committee together and saving the festival. The success of the festival is down to his work and guidance.”

He added: “The problem was as the festival grew and expanded so rapidly he took on a huge amount of work and the pressure became immense. He decided, probably quite rightly for his own health, to stand down as chair in 2016.

“We brought in an outside company to work with the committee and help with marketing and organising the event. Colin stayed away from committee meetings for a year but came back and sat in offering his help and experience. He was really welcome.

“We simply wouldn’t have a food festival without Colin. He put so much into it and he will be sadly missed by many people in the town. He was always popular, measured and polite and was always an absolute gentleman. It’s such a huge loss for the town.”

Ian says Colin was a keen member of the Round Table in his younger days and on reaching 40 he joined the 41 Club, a group that works within the Round Table.

He said: “He was a keen rugby player in his younger days and played either hooker or front row for Wrexham Rugby Club and he used to love driving his Triumph Vitesse which was his pride and joy.”

Pip Gale,  of Gales Wine Bar and Hotel, added:  “Colin was so well respected and an amazing member of the food festival committee. In fact without him the festival just wouldn’t be alive now. He put in lots of effort but also added lots of real joy.

“He invited me onto the committee and it remains one of the best things I’ve ever done. He was a real driving force behind the undoubted success of the festival.

“He was uplifting in his grumpiness as he walked around the festival cajoling stall holders into making their exhibits bigger, better and brighter. If he had a fault it’s that he took too much on, he just loved it too much.”

He added: “We are already thinking of how we can, as a committee honour his memory. We are thinking of maybe having a best display award in his name with the winner being presented with the Colin Loughlin Trophy.

“However, it’s very early days but we will, I’m certain, be doing something. He deserves to be remembered with affection for all the hard work and effort he put into the festival.”

County warns over dog fouling culprits

Denbighshire County Council warning it will take action against those who wilfully allow their dogs to foul in public without clearing up the mess.

Figures for the number of dog fouling incidents recorded by the council  since 2014 show that the highest number of incidents happen over the winter months, in December, January and February.

Ninety-two incidents were reported in January 2015, 72 in January 2017 and 83 in January 2018.  The lowest number of incidents happen over the summer months. 

Research work has shown that this is due to the fact that days are darker and people assume they can allow their dogs to foul in public under the cover of darkness.

Councillor Brian Jones, Cabinet Lead Member for Highways, Planning and Sustainable Travel, said: “The figures show a real trend and it seems the winter months seem to be the main time for dog fouling. 

"We have seen plenty of evidence of dog fouling in dark areas where there are no street lights.

"Some individuals believe they can get away with not clearing up after their animals under the cloak of darkness.

"The only we way we can catch those responsible is by receiving information from the public.

“The majority of complaints that come in to the council are about dog fouling and residents have told us they would like to see this issue tackled. They see it as anti-social and being a blight on the landscape, as well as being a risk to people’s health.

“We have been carrying out an enforcement and education campaign over recent years and that work continues.  The majority of people clean up after their animals and we thank them for that.

“We are targeting these message at those who think it’s acceptable to leave their dog’s mess behind.  It’s not acceptable and those responsible could be issued with a fixed penalty notice or find themselves before the courts."

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Firefighters called to suspected deliberate blaze above Llan



Firefighters tackled a suspected deliberate blaze on the hillside above Llangollen last night (Friday).

For the full story, see: https://www.denbighshirefreepress.co.uk/news/17454607.five-fire-crews-tackle-deliberate-blaze-on-llangollen-mountain/

AM calls for more to be done for veterans' housing needs

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood (pictured) has called for the Welsh Government to do more to address the housing needs of veterans in Wales.

Speaking in Darren’s Millar AM’s Short Debate, ‘Are we meeting the housing needs of our veterans?’ in the Chamber, he said housing is key to veterans and their families and emphasized the need for better integration by the Welsh Government of housing, health and care services for ex-services personnel.

He said: "Yesterday, the UK Defence Secretary announced that service leavers and their families will now be able to access military accommodation for up to a year after leaving, giving them more time to look for permanent accommodation as they transition back to civilian life, because housing is key to veterans and their families.

“First Choice Housing Association, which led the way on this in Wales, delivered the ambitious self-build project for veterans in Wrexham, the third residence in North Wales to be managed by Alabare's Wales Home for Veterans, taking the Charity's provision across Wales for veterans adjusting to the civilian world to 57 (bed spaces).

“However, the Welsh Government's Housing Referrals Pathway for veterans does not address the concerns of how housing officers themselves, who provide the necessary support, are able to manage the complex cases of re-homed veterans.

"Better integration of housing, health and care services is therefore needed from the Welsh Government, and they must explain why there's been a large reduction in the number of veterans households accepted by Local Authorities as being in priority housing need since the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 was introduced."

Friday, February 22, 2019

Eisteddfod stages St David's Day fundraising event



Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is to host an international themed St David’s Day event in St Collen's Church on Friday March 1 to raise money to help fund overseas competitors to the festival.

Music director Dr Edward-Rhys Harry said: “The event will help to raise vital funds for the bursary fund ensuring that we can welcome as many international competitors to Llangollen in July as possible. It is great to see such talented local performers giving their time to support this cause.

“It is definitely going to be a traditional event not to be missed and is most certainly the perfect excuse to celebrate both Welsh culture and international inclusivity.”

The traditional format of the Cymanfa Ganu – the congregational singing of hymns - will be conducted by Leigh Mason of Côr Meibion Froncysyllte, and will have an extra international dimension as well as musical items from Llangollen Silver Band and the James Lambert Singers.

Former eisteddfod chairman Gethin Davies will be master of ceremonies sharing messages of support from the festival’s overseas competitors as well as festival president Terry Waite CBE.

Current eisteddfod chairman Dr Rhys Davies said: “After a very busy but exciting few weeks at the eisteddfod announcing our full line-up for 2019 and tickets going on sale, we are looking forward to hosting a special twist to this St David’s Day tradition.

“We’re thrilled with this year’s festival line-up and our St David’s Day fundraiser will bring people together to take part in a musical celebration, which is what the Eisteddfod is all about. It promises to be a great evening."

Tickets for the event are available from the Eisteddfod Box Office by calling 01978 862001 or from the Tourist Information Centre in Llangollen. Tickets are priced at £5, which includes entry, a programme and a wide range of refreshments. For further information visit www.llangollen.net.

The celebration will take place at 7pm at St Collen’s Church and everybody is welcome.

* For regular news and updates about the festival follow it on Twitter @llangollen_Eist , like the Facebook page Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, or follow it on Instagram @llangollen_eisteddfod. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Report has radical ideas for town's parking and traffic


* The report suggests removing parking bays from Castle Street.

A range of proposals to ease town centre parking in Llangollen town centre are suggested in a report by consultants.

These include widening the pavements, narrowing the road, introducing trees and, most controversially, removing the on-street parking in Castle Street and also the pedestrianisation of part of Market Street.

Graham Timms, one of the area's county councillors who is leading the 2020 Group which is looking into parking and traffic problems and commissioned the study, briefed the town council on its contents on Tuesday night.

The report will be released for publish consumption later this week, he says.  

Meanwhile he has produced a statement for llanblogger.

He said: "The Llangollen 2020 working group have turned their attention to another thorny issue in Llangollen as they seek to produce a wide ranging plan for parking within the whole of the centre of the town.

"A report from the consultants Arcadis has made a number of suggestions to improve  parking in the town. However, the working group want to go much further to review all aspects of parking throughout the whole town centre.

"We've identified four main user groups who park in Llangollen and are looking at ways to address the needs of each one of these. The needs of local residents must be carefully considered in any plan, whilst we also make provisions for businesses, tourists and local pop-and-shop users.

"We are aiming to have a draft parking strategy by the late spring when we will hold consultations to give locals a chance to contribute before a final report is produced for Denbighshire County Council. This will sit alongside the much more detailed plans for improvement by Arcadis Consultants.

"The final Llangollen 2020 consultants report is to be published later this week and I updated the town council on the way forward on behalf of the steering group.

"The report suggests some major changes to the town to improve traffic flow and parking, whilst making the town a more pleasant place for locals, visitors and businesses.

"It will be available to download from Cadwyn Clwyd website by the end of the week and paper copies will be available to read in Llangollen Library.

"It lists a range of changes to Castle Street including widening the pavements, narrowing the road, introducing trees and removing the on-street parking in Castle Street. A mini roundabout by Llangollen Station, improved traffic light controls on the A5 and the pedestrianisation of part of Market Street."

Friendship Room benefits from community fund


* Buddug Williams of Grŵp Cynefin with Jan and Don Ware outside the Outhouse Friendship Room. 
A Llangollen couple who run a welcoming drop-in centre have benefitted from financial support from a housing association.

Grŵp Cynefin has shared out nearly £12,000 between 54 North Wales community groups and organisations to fund a variety of different projects and activities during 2018-2019.
The community fund is part of Grŵp Cynefin’s commitment to support local communities where they work and offer more than housing to people living in North Wales and north Powys.
Among them are Jan and Don Ware who work on a voluntary basis at Tŷ Allan’s Outhouse Friendship Room in Llangollen. They have twice been successful in their application for support from Grŵp Cynefin.
The Friendship Room is situated in Castle Street at the corner of Market Street car park and usual opening hours are from 10am-4pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Jan said: “We offer a warm room to stop during the day, a cup of tea or coffee, where people of all ages can pop in, chat and share any concerns they may have. It’s a safe and warm environment for local people, with some looking for support during a troublesome period in their lives.
“The people who stop by and visit us vary from young mothers with prams, wanting a five minute break in between shopping in town and the school pick up; young people struggling to find work to older people killing time before the bus arrives and people who are in dire need of support.
“It’s a voluntary project, but we are able to signpost people with more pressing needs to different agencies and organisations. We’ve been known to arrange birthday parties for families who are struggling, feed a family with no food in their cupboards, and Christmas is a special time where we open our doors for the festive period, and offer refreshments to people who may be on their own.
“We are wholly dependent on donations, so receiving support from Grŵp Cynefin has been fantastic. This year we’ve been able to buy new heaters and smaller tables that are more manageable for us to adapt the space we have for arts and craft activities. We’re also keen to develop our informal Welsh learning sessions, as working bilingually is very important to us.”
Community, voluntary and tenant groups are encouraged to bid for up to £500 to help them make a difference to local people’s lives and the environment they live in. The application process is a straightforward, says Grŵp Cynefin.
Community gardens, festivals, well-being sessions, family camping, conservation days, PA systems, play areas, investing in village halls, arts and science projects, first aid sessions and sporting events are just some of the activities people will benefit from.
“We are delighted that so many applications come through to us each year,” explains Mair Edwards, Community Initiatives Manager at Grŵp Cynefin.
“There are so many people across North Wales and north Powys working hard within their communities to support, care for and make a real difference to people’s lives. The variety of applications we have seen is inspiring.
“We have four application windows where we accept people’s proposals, and then our grants panel, made up of our tenants, meet to discuss each application based on a number of different criteria.”
* For more information regarding Grŵp Cynefin’s Community Grant, contact the Community Initiatives Team on 0300 111 2122 or email communityinitatives@grwpcynefin.org

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

MP questions RAF pilot shortage


Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones (pictured) has called on the Government to take urgent steps to tackle the RAF's pilot shortage.

Speaking in the House of Commons Chamber she questioned Defence Ministers on a National Audit Office Report citing RAF concerns that it would be 20 years on current rates until the force has enough pilots.



After her exchange, Ms Jones said: "Everyone agrees the current system needs to be reviewed, but I don't think the Government is taking the sort of urgent steps we need. 

"I've spoken about defence cuts and shortages in our armed personnel before and I will do so again. We cannot be running down our armed forces at this time of global change and insecurity, and we must take on board the very real concerns of the RAF and our other armed services."     


Moves to improve valley's mobile signal unveiled



* Ken Skates, right, with local resident Mike Rutt, left, and Cllr Trevor Bates.

Plans to improve mobile phone coverage in the Ceiriog Valley have been welcomed by the area’s Assembly Member and MP.

Ken Skates and Susan Elan Jones have made repeated representations to mobile operators and the UK Government over the years in a bid to boost reception in the area, culminating in a petition signed by more than 1,000 people.

Mr Skates met with local councillor Trevor Bates and resident Mike Rutt, who organised the petition, in November, with the AM saying: “It is essential that residents and visitors to the Ceiriog Valley have mobile reception. I applaud the way Mike has gathered such a strong petition to urge UK Government to ensure there is better mobile connectivity.”

An email sent to Cllr Bates by BT last week said: “In order to deliver the coverage needed for the emergency services, EE is deploying hundreds of additional sites across rural Wales, England and Scotland.  The coverage provided by these sites will also be available to our commercial customers.

“In addition to these sites, the Home Office is also building nearly 300 further masts, many in Wales, to provide ‘Extended Area Services’ (EAS) coverage. It is currently planned that the Llanarmon Dyffrn Ceiriog area will be served by an EAS site. EE will put its equipment on these sites and will deliver commercial coverage as well as a blue lights service, subject to the site providing the necessary capacity to provide a good quality experience to our customers.”

Mr Skates said: “I have made numerous representations to the UK Government on this issue on behalf of my constituents in the Ceiriog Valley, which – like many parts of Clwyd South – continues to suffer from weak, intermittent and, in some cases, completely non-existent mobile phone coverage.

“I am extremely keen to ensure these plans materialise and have written to the Home Office to ask for more detail and timescales. People have waited far too long already and we need a firm commitment that action will be taken.”

Ms Jones said: “In addition to the problems poor mobile coverage causes on a daily basis for residents and visitors to the area, as well as local businesses, my constituents feel the issue could have far more serious consequences should there be another incident like there was recently when a local man suffered a serious fall, breaking several ribs.

“Rescuers had to drive some distance before a mobile signal was available to phone 999 and residents rallied to get two-way radio sets to relay the patient's condition to the emergency services while he passed in and out of consciousness. The incident happened around a mile from Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog and police had to run to the Hand Hotel in the village to call the Air Ambulance. Fortunately, the gentleman is now recovering.”

The incident spurred Mr Rutt and Cllr Bates into action and they subsequently collected a petition of 1,039 names urging the UK Government to act.

Bang-up-to-date Beemer ... at a price



* The new BMW X3 on the road.


* The cabin of the new Beemer.

BMW X3 road test by Steve Rogers


My BMW loving friend has got himself into a fix.

David has been driving his 420d for nearly a year and although he loves it he struggles to get in and out.

I should say David is nudging 80 and has had a new hip - 60 years prancing around a badminton court has taken its toll on his joints - so having to drop into and climb out of a low slung 420 is becoming a painful stretch. And he is taking stick from his wife who would have preferred an SUV this time round but you know what boys and their toys are like.

David always thought SUVs, even BMWs, had shabby handling, made for people who just want to get from A to B and couldn't care less about a car with street cred.

Then he and his good wife Margaret had their heads turned by my X3 test car. We went through the usual 'what's this, what do you think of it' questions and things got more serious when I took them for spin. They slid effortlessly and painlessly into the seats, were impressed with the quality finish, noting the dashboard looked virtually the same as their 420.

Even before we drove off Margaret was convinced they had made a mistake and should have had an X3, and David was veering to the same conclusion when he experienced the none too shabby performance and surprisingly good body control when I negotiated a roundabout a little quicker than normal.

They are not alone of course. The shift to crossovers-cum-SUVs, call them what you will, has been like a runaway train in the last few years. You may remember it all started in 2007 when Nissan came up with a new take on the family hatchback. Qashqai captured the imagination and raised the bar so high it started a trend that just keeps on rising.

But X3 was around in the days when it was easy for the premium set. Back in 2003 there was very little choice and the then newcomer was able to ride on the back of the impressive X5, not that it was in the same league.

Fifteen years on and we are living in a different world - SUV world. One in three cars leaving the BMW production line is an SUV and with so much quality opposition the German marque has really turned up the wick for the third generation X3.

It has become a big family car - the same size as the original X5 - and those who can afford to shell out nearly 40 grand are in for a real treat. You know what to expect from BMW, quality, precision and attention to detail is here in spades. The cabin is beautifully appointed putting X3 right up there as a contender for best in class.

I'm a huge fan of the new Volvos with their switch free minimalist cabin designs yet I was more comfortable tackling everyday tasks in the Beemer. It is bang up to date with a digital binnacle display, which includes the excellent head up display for speed and navigation directions, but the centre console has a more familiar look and is backed up by an infotainment centre that no longer needs a brain like Einstein to fathom.

Functions like radio, mobile phone, and navigation are behind a 10in screen with selections made via a rotary controller in a panel between the front seats. It is one of the easiest systems to work in any car.

The biggest difference over the previous X3 is how it drives. It sits on a new chassis and with modern construction technologies is lighter than the old car. Don't be thinking this drives like  a 3 or 4 Series BMW because it doesn't. It is still a fairly heavy all wheel drive car yet is surprisingly agile through twists and turns.

Granted my test car was the 8-speed M sport but I was quite happy driving in comfort mode which coped well with poor road surfaces.

You get a choice of two and three litre diesels and a new 2-litre petrol although the smaller diesel would be my pick because of its generous spread of torque, strong performance and economy.

So a big step up for X3, a technical tour de force with its driving dynamics and safety systems, but no longer having the luxury of very little opposition. It is now a case of circling the wagons with Audi, Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz  even Alfa Romeo presenting formidable challenges.

To come up with the perfect SUV would need elements from all of these but for now my money would still go on the Jaguar F-Pace... if only it could have the BMW 2-litre diesel!

Fast Facts


X3 xDrive M Sport

£41,990 (Tested £48,745 with options)

2-litre TD; 190bhp

0-62mph 8secs; 132mph

56.5 mpg combined

This test: 39mpg

144g/km. 1st road tax £515

Insurance group 29

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Sun shines on railway's new season


* The Class 104 heritage diesel railcar at Carrog Station. Picture by George Jones. 
Llangollen Railway started the new season with the sun is shining.

The first train left Llangollen at 10.40am with the Class 104 heritage diesel railcar carrying families enjoying half-term for a ride through the lovely Dee Valley to Carrog.

The railcar offers best views of the line at this time of the year with its front and rear window positions so passengers can see where they are going - or where they have been.

The late winter sunshine enhanced the views of the valley with some trees and bushes showing the first signs of spring.

After some winter management of the lineside vegetation improved views of the valley and its remoter areas have been opened up for passengers to enjoy the area of outstanding natural beauty.

At Carrog a 40-minute stop over allowed time for a hot drink in the station tearooms or a walk down the lane to Carrog bridge over the River Dee before joining the train back.

Others stayed until a later train taking the opportunity to walk a section of the Dee Valley Way.

A railway spokesman said: "The passenger numbers on the first train were encouraging with several families travelling to take advantage of the half-term offer when first child goes free and second half fare when with a full fare paying adult.

"Trains in the second part of the week and at weekends will be with a steam engine."

Food bank gets £250 boost from Christmas Festival



* Austin Cheminais, left, hands over the £250 cheque to Pastor Brian Smith in the food bank storeroom. Flanking them are Pat Smith and Christmas Festival Committee members Ian Parry and John Palmer.
Members of the committee which organises the annual Llangollen Christmas Festival went along to Matt’s Food Bank in the town to hand over a cheque for £250.
The money was part of the proceeds from last year’s festival the remainder of which - £1,000 – was recently donated to the Welsh Air Ambulance Service.
The food bank has been operating in Llangollen for the past eight years and currently distributes basic supplies to around 400 people a year.
Vouchers for the bank are available from a variety of places in the town, such as the One Stop Shop in Llangollen Library, the Citizens' Advice Bureau, the health centre and all three schools.
Donations of food are always welcome at drop-off points including the Co-op in Regent Street and a typical shopping list includes everything from breakfast cereal and biscuits to tinned meat and fish to sugar and dried pasta and rice.
Handing over the cheque to Pastor Brian Smith and his wife Pam, who run the food bank, Christmas Festival chair and town councillor Austin Cheminais said: “We’re delighted to be able to support this very worthwhile local cause which does so much good in the community.
“When it came to deciding which local charity to help with proceeds from the festival the food bank was the overwhelming choice of the committee.”
Pat Smith said: “We’re very grateful to the committee for this very generous donation.
“Their support also helps to give us a higher profile in the area.
“Once people have their vouchers for the food bank they can either come along to collect their supplies or we can arrange to have them delivered to a local pick-up point if that’s better for them.” 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Two Operatic productions up for amateur stage Oscars


* A scene from last year's production of My Fair Lady.


* The cast of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on stage.

Llangollen Operatic Society has been nominated for more amateur stage "Oscars".

In this year's Wales and Ireland Regional Annual NODA Awards the society's junior section, the Young 'Uns, is line for Best Youth Group Musical for Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which was produced by Pamela Williams.

Shea Ferron gets a nod for Best Supporting Actor for his appearance in the same show. He played the Pharoah interpreted as a bequiffed, hip-swivelling Elvis.     

Young 'Uns is also nominated for Best Youth Performer 21 and Under - Cassius Hackforth and
Best Supporting Youth Performer 21 and Under - Celyn Orton-Jones and Erin Roberts.
The society itself is nominated in the Best Show category for its 2018 production of My Fair Lady.

Further nods for the My Fair Lady team are for Best Stage Management and Technical and Best Performers - Bill Hughes (Alfie Doolittle) and Alison Ravenscroft (Supporting Role as Mrs Pearce).

Jo Lloyd, who directed both Joseph and My Fair Lady, said: "It was an honour to cut my teeth in the director's chair for two productions last year.

"I am very proud to say that both productions have been nominated for the NODA awards.

"Congratulations to the production team, cast , crew and all involved - fingers crossed!"

Helen Belton, producer for My Fair Lady, said: "Having been on stage a number of times I decided to try my hand at producing, and what a show to choose for my first.

"There was so much to do, to oversee and to co-ordinate but I'm grateful to everyone for the way in which the volunteers and cast get involved with Llangollen Operatic Society with the utmost commitment and professionalism. A massive team effort.

"My Fair Lady will be very special to me for a long time to come. An award would be a wonderful bonus for everyone."

Shea Ferron, who has just finished appearing in the Young 'Uns' latest production, Grease, said: "I am very privileged to have been nominated for the NODA of Best Supporting Actor. It’s great news to find out after just finishing Grease."

Last year, after being nominated in a number of categories, Young 'Uns landed NODA's Best Musical award for its production of Bugsy Malone.