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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Don't devolve police says Isherwood AM

Speaking at the Welsh Conservative Party Conference at the weekend, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood spoke out against the devolution of policing and emphasised that crime in Wales fell by 9% last year.
He said: “The Labour Welsh Government believes that a devolved Criminal Justice system should form part of the long term vision of Welsh Governance – and Plaid Cymru believe there should be a transfer of powers over justice as a whole, including Police, Prosecution, Probation, Prison, and Young Justice.
“Welsh Conservatives believe that the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners marked an act of real devolution, empowering local communities to have their say on Policing priorities and to hold an elected representative to account.
“We have not seen any evidence which leads us to support the devolution of Policing or Criminal Justice and we are concerned that the devolution of Policing could compromise cross-border working between Police forces. Quite frankly the thought of a Welsh Police Force under the state Socialist control of the First Minister of Blame, Carwyn Jones, or Loony Leanne Wood, absolutely terrifies me.”
He added: “Labour and Plaid Cymru have said that UK Police Reforms and Budget Reductions would mean higher crime, but recorded crime is down more than 10% under this UK Government and people’s experience of crime has fallen to its lowest level since the Crime Survey for England and Wales began.
“Crime in Wales fell 9% last year, with the biggest drop in Gwent, down 17%, followed by drops of 8% in North Wales, 6% in Dyfed Powys and 5% in South Wales.
“However, only this month a Labour AM responded to new figures showing a 10% fall in crime in Wrexham by warning that this fall in crime could be short lived if planned Budget cuts go ahead, even though the budget cuts were implemented from 2010. 
“Shadow UK Policing Minister David Hanson has criticised police budget reductions, despite Labour backing equivalent cuts.
"Labour planned cuts of around 12%, and Labour’s March 2010 UK budget had included police funding reductions of £545 million by 2014.
"But Labour has also supported savings proposed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate Constabulary (HMIC) and the Police Arbitration Tribunal which essentially match the UK Government’s own plans to make savings from police budgets over this parliament.” 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pontfadog Oak could be cloned

* The Pontfadog Oak before it fell victim to the weather. 

The BBC North East Wales website is report this evening (Monday) that the 1,200-year-old Pontfadog Oak, which was felled by the recent snow, could be using its DNA.

See the full story at:

Sunday lunch gets its place in the Sun

llanblogger taste test

* The Sun Inn at Rhewl - now serving Sunday lunches again. 

After lying empty for a time, the historic Sun Inn at Rhewl is once again very much open for business.
And the people now in charge of the centuries-old hostelry not far out of Llangollen have obviously set out to revive its reputation as a great place to go for Sunday lunch.
llanblogger tried it out yesterday and can thoroughly recommend it as the perfect venue for a traditional roast-and-veg meal.
As anyone who has been there will know, it’s not a large establishment and lunches are served in the small front room with atmospheric low ceilings, a massive open fireplace and low, black-painted beams.
There doesn’t seem to be a menu as such but as you pass the small bar-room on the way in and express a wish to eat, a staff member rapidly follows you to one of the four dining tables and tells you what’s on offer by way of Sunday lunch.
Yesterday it was either beef or pork, both of which came with a Yorkshire pudding, roast potato, cauliflower, broccoli and diced carrots, topped off by a very nice gravy.
llanblogger’s party both opted for the roast beef, which was tender and succulent and may even have been locally sourced.
All the veg were obviously fresh and also came well cooked.
Portions were adequate rather than over-facing – which meant there was room left for dessert.
For the llanblogger duo this came in the shape of orange and lemon sponge with custard, and rhubarb crumble and custard – both delicious.
The basic roast dinner is a very reasonable £6.99 and the price of the two desserts plus a tea and a coffee brought the final bill to just £21.80 for two people – not at all bad these days, especially in a place where the surroundings are as agreeable as this.
Apart from the food, the pub also has a worthy selection of real ales on tap, including the Llangollen Brewery range of beers and the re-born Wrexham Lager.
All in all, we’d say that it’s definitely worth aiming for a place in the Sun. 

Operatic's Travelling Troupe a hit at Ryan Jones testimonial

* Travelling Troupe members with George North, Ryan Jones and Sam Warburton.

OVER 250 people paid £75 a head to attend a glittering testimonial dinner for Wales rugby star Ryan Jones at Llangollen Pavilion on Saturday evening.

Entertainment for the black tie event, compered by the BBC’s Scrum V commentator Rick O’Shea, was provided by the famous Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir and Llangollen Operatic Society’s Travelling Troupe.

Jones, who was supported at the event by Wales colleagues Sam Warburton and George North, is one of a handful of distinguished Welshmen of any generation who can lay claim to playing a significant role in the winning of three Grand Slams in a hugely successful rugby career.

He has chosen the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal as his nominated charity during his testimonial year. 
Louisa Jones, who sings with Llangollen Operatic’s Travelling Troupe, said: “Being asked to provide entertainment at the testimonal was a great honour.  

“It is the most high profile gig we have done as a troupe and our largest audience, so we were very keen to deliver a highly polished performance.

“The audience's reaction to our programme, which included Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and One Day More from Les Miserables, was warm and appreciative and we were thrilled to receive some fantastic feedback later on when we mingled with the guests. 

“Ryan Jones himself was also extremely complimentary and he and his colleagues Sam Warburton and George North kindly posed for photographs with us and signed autographs.”
* Pictured right, Ryan Jones with Troupe members Pamela Williams, left, and Alison Jarvis. 

Llangollen Operatic Society Troupe is available for bookings and anyone interested can contact Louisa on 07989 985644, Tracey on 07875 639533 or e-mail:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

County council clamps down on rogue traders

As part of National Rogue Trader week Denbighshire Trading Standards Officers and North Wales Police have been out patrolling the county on the look out for rogue traders operating in the area. 

Officers were looking for offences relating to consumers’ cancellation rights and aggressive selling techniques linked to “cold calling”.

Traders were also given advice as to their legal obligations.

The two organisations also teamed up with Neighbourhood Watch to get out and about and advise the public on dealing with cold callers.

One of the major issues identified by officers is that many residents do not report the activities of “Rogue Traders”.

David Smith, Denbighshire Cabinet Lead Member with responsibility for Trading Standards is urging  residents to be aware and to tell the authorities if rogue traders cold call in their area offering to do gardening, tree cutting, tarmacing, roof repairs and general odd jobs. 

He said: "These traders can do a poor job and subsequently charge over the odds for that work, ask for cash and then simply disappear. They are usually untraceable when things go wrong as they give false names, addresses and phone numbers.

"Whilst not all doorstep traders are ‘rogues’, many are completely legitimate and provide a good level of service, there are some who prey on the elderly or vulnerable members of society."

Emlyn Jones, Denbighshire's Public Protection Manager said: "Officers from each of the organisations teamed up and have been speaking to people in the county.  We hope that those individuals will not only follow the simple rules when dealing with cold callers but also spread the message to their neighbours and family.  Whilst we did not find any issues during our patrols we will continue to be on the look out for any activity which might be attributed to a rogue trader."

Neighbourhood Watch coordinator Pam Gardner also added: "No cold calling zones are a good way of discouraging traders from operating in certain areas as any trader cold calling in No cold calling area could be committing an offence.  Anybody wanting more information about cold calling zones should contact their local Neighbourhood Watch coordinator on 01745 539208 or via"

Inspector Siobhan Edwards of North Wales Police sais: "If in doubt, keep them out" is the simple message to remember when somebody knocks at your door.  If you are concerned about anybody in your neighbourhood ‘knocking’ on the door offering to carry out home maintenance work, then please make a note of vehicle make, model, colour and registration number and any descriptions of the individuals, and contact either the police on 101 or Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Customer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or for the Welsh Language Service 08454 04 05 05.

Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.  If you feel intimidated or threatened by any doorstep seller you should shut the door and call the police emergency number 999.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Man charged with murder following Oswestry death

Detectives have charged an 18 year old man with murder following the death of a 21 year old man earlier this week.

Danny Jones of Chirk died in hospital following the attack in Oswestry on Wed night (24 April) after he received a single stab wound.

The teenager who has been charged is a local man and is due before Shrewsbury Magistrates Court on Monday 29 April.

He was arrested a few hours after the attack and charged this evening (Sat 27 April). He has been remanded in custody.

Detectives working on the investigation have recovered a knife which they believe to be the murder weapon.

Red-hot Latin American band star alongside Strictly duo

* Strictly's James and Ola Jordan. 
* Buena Vista Social Club .
Television’s Strictly Come Dancing stars James and Ola Jordan are household names – but not to the band who will be supplying the music for Llangollen International Eisteddfod’s Strictly Cuban night.
The glamorous dancers, stars of BBC’s Saturday night smash hit show, will bring their Latin American dance expertise to the Eisteddfod stage this July but the musicians of Havana’s Buena Vista Social Club have never heard of them.
That doesn’t worry them though – they had never heard of legendary American guitarist Ry Cooder when he discovered them in Cuba in 1997 and it didn’t stop them going on to worldwide fame, an Oscar nomination and a Grammy award.
This July their traditional rhythms and haunting melodies will flood a North Wales valley as The Buena Vista Social Club take to the Royal International Pavilion stage on Thursday, July 11.
And although the Eisteddfod’s history and tradition is also something new to the band’s Cuban musicians according to trombonist Jesus ‘Aguaje’ Ramos, band members are honoured and excited at the prospect of making their Eisteddfod debut alongside James and Ola.
Speaking from Havana, Aguaje says he, and his fellow Cuban musicians, are looking forward to meeting the star dancers and their Welsh audience.
He said: “We are learning about the Eisteddfod and the fact it was set up to promote international harmony. Of course we are really excited about being invited to such a wonderful event and are happy to be part of it.
“We play traditional Cuban music and everything surrounding it! This is the roots of our music, our culture, and there are countless different styles within our traditional music, such as Cha Cha Cha, Guajira, Son, Danzón, Montuno, to name a few.
“We are sure James and Ola will enjoy it too and we look forward to seeing them dancing to our sound.”
Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths said: “We’re thrilled to have the Buena Vista Social Club here in Llangollen as their roots go back to the origins of Latin American music.
“It’s a really exciting prospect to have James and Ola dancing on the same stage as them and a little corner of Wales will be transformed into a sultry night in Havana.”
While the Buena Vista Social Club owes its roots to the traditional rhythms of Cuba the band, perhaps, owes its worldwide fame to their collaboration with Ry Cooder.
In 1996 Cooder, who has worked with Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and Neil Young, among others, was invited, by British music producer, Nick Gold, to Havana to record a session with two African and Cuban musicians.
However, the two Africans, from Mali, were unable to get visas in time so Cooder and Gold changed plans and decided to record an album, along with local musicians, of traditional Cuban music.
Within a few days they’d managed to put together a band and began recording at Havana’s EGREM Studios despite the recording equipment and atmosphere having remained unchanged since the 1950’s.
The album was recorded in just six days with Cooder, unfazed by the language barrier, saying musicians understand each other through means other than speech.
One of the songs featured on the album was ‘Buena Vista Social Club’, a song written by bass player Israel Lopez.
Cooder, who was looking for a name for the album, was told of the history of the actual members-only social club that existed in the Marianao district of the Cuban capital and which had adopted the song as its signature tune.
Following the album’s 1997 release the CD became a word-of-mouth global smash hit selling more than five million copies and winning a Grammy Award.
On the back of the album the Buena Vista – meaning good view in Spanish – Social Club began touring as they generated a revival in interest in traditional Cuban and South American music in general.
And while band members may have changed as the years roll by they will always stick to their traditional Cuban roots, according to Aguaje.
He said: “From the original band there is still Omara Portuondo (vocals), Eliades Ochoa (guitar and vocals), Barbarito Torres (laud, a traditional stringed instrument similar to a guitar) and Guajiro Mirabal (trumpet).
“I joined the band myself after a few shows and we are currently accompanied by a great cast of young musicians.
“Since the band starting touring we have visited so many countries we have lost count and this year we have a long tour coming up, including Llangollen, with a lot of dates still to announce.
“But we still perform, when we can, in Havana. To us music is life and whenever we get the chance we like to gather in Cuba and play.
“We play traditional Cuban music, son, guajiras, montunos, and look to our island¹s rich musical history, and the musicians’ own personal experiences, I think this is what makes our music so special.”
Omara Portuondo says the Llangollen audience will experience the full Buena Vista Social Club band in a high-energy performance that will leave lasting memories.
He said: “The full band will be in Wales and the show will feature Eliades Ochoa and me on vocals. You can expect some classic Cuban songs such as Veinte Años, Chan Chan, or El Cuarto de Tula, but also there would be some nice surprises with new songs we¹ve been working on recently.
“Of course we would love to have Ry Cooder join us again on stage one day but it won’t happen this time.
“Hopefully, some day in the future, our paths will cross and we will remind ourselves of the beautiful memories we have and the music we did with him.
“Within the band we have a number of younger musicians, Calunga and Idania, the singer, Rolando, the pianist, Pedro on bass, Guajirito alongside his grandfather, Guajiro Mirabal, on trumpet.
“And also, in all the music schools in Cuba, the students are taught traditional music so our roots will never be lost!
“We would like to release more albums but only the future knows if we are going to be able to. We are working really hard with some new tracks, such as Changui, and some of them are already included in the set list that you’ll be able to listen to in Llangollen when you enjoy the show.”
Speaking about life in Cuba, Aguaje, says even traditional music is evolving as time goes by.
He said: “For me Cuba is music, it’s my family, my happiness, my reason to live. I think its culture that is constantly evolving; the younger generations of musicians in Cuba are producing some really interesting music, which although it maintains its Cuban roots, does have a real 21st Century sound.
“People ask me why is Buena Vista Social Club has been so successful, well for me it’s because when something is unexpected, you receive it in a natural manner and with great happiness.
“We never imagined we would be so successful and it would last for so long. We just played and still just enjoy playing and making music together.”
The Buena Vista Social Club are part of a stunning lineup at this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July.
The will perform with Strictly Come Dancing’s James and Ola Jordan and other top attractions are Jools Holland, harpist Claire Jones, tenor Noah Stewart, percussionist Evelyn Glennie and a 200th anniversary performance of Verdi’s Requiem.
The Eisteddfod runs from Tuesday, July 9, to Sunday, July 14, at the Royal International Pavilion site and as well as star-studded concerts there are top class music and dance competitions.
Tickets for this year’s concerts are available from the website at and more information is also on Facebook at

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hospital closure referred to older people's czar

Campaigners have condemned a “reckless” hospital closure which they say will endanger patients’ lives in the Llangollen area.

The group fighting to retain hospital beds and improve health services in Llangollen and the Dee Valley are so concerned about the situation that they have called on the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales to hold an investigation into the Health Board’s decision to close Llangollen Hospital.
They say that they fear for the well-being of elderly patients in the area.
Keep Llangollen Health Services have contacted the office of Sarah Rochira, the Commissioner for Older People, urging her to look into the “reckless” decision by the health Board.
Mabon ap Gwynfor, of Keep Llangollen Health Services said: “I recently spoke to a care home professional who said that it was his opinion that the closure of Llangollen Hospital would endanger people's lives.
“He explained that elderly people who needed medical care had no issues with going to a Cottage Hospital, but were reluctant to go to general hospitals because of the risks of contracting hospital-acquired infections, such as C-difficile and MRSA.
“Unfortunately his concerns stack up.”
Mabon ap Gwynfor referred to a paper published in the British Medical Journal, which is quoted by the respected Dr Fosters Hospital Guide, which says “Risks (such as hospital acquired infections) are discernible when average bed occupancy rates exceed about 85%”.
"Last year both Wrexham Maelor and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd had bed occupancy levels reaching 87%.
“The NHS is at crisis point in Wales with A&E in meltdown, ambulances queuing 10 deep, and bed-blocking because there aren’t enough community beds available. The Health Board have compounded this with their reckless decision to close Llangollen Hospital with the loss of 18 beds.

“Elderly and vulnerable patients are especially put at risk because of the closure of the hospital. That is why we have called on the Commissioner for Older people to hold an inquiry into the health Board’s decision.”
The Campaign group are urging people to share their stories with them by emailing

Monday, April 22, 2013

llanblogger's taking a short break

Dear readers,

llanblogger is taking a short break for the next few days.

But we'll be back as usual from next Saturday posting all the best in news and views from Llangollen and the surrounding areas.

See you soon ...

KLS chair attends special event in Fron

Mike Edwards, chair of Keep Llangollen, has this special report of the event he attended recently over in Fron ...

I attended a visit and learning event at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct last Friday organised by the Federation of Small Businesses.

It was an informative session initially consisting of a presentation by officers of Wrexham County Borough at the Visitor Centre at Trevor Basin.

The party of 25 people mainly members of the FSB then strolled over the aqueduct on a pleasant sunny evening to the Fron Basin.

Here we visited the Fron Tea Rooms where a traditional tea of sandwiches and cakes was served.

Later we boarded a canal barge to travel back over the aqueduct with an amusing and informative commentary from Peter Jones (Jones the Boats).

Wrexham Council are strongly promoting the World Heritage Site (WHS) and other visitor attractions in the County Borough as part of their Destination Wrexham.

Following a question I posed an assurance was given that Wrexham Council were co-operating fully with Denbighshire and Shropshire Councils in relation to marketing the 11-mile long WHS Buffer Zone which stretches from Chirk to the Horseshoe Falls above Llangollen.

Members of the FSB expressed concern that the WHS was not sign-posted prominently, particularly from the A483.

It was revealed that there were complications about agreeing the signage with Local Authorities and the Highways Agency.

One member strongly criticised the Authorities for failing to come up with signage four years after World Heritage Status was granted to Pontcysyllte and Llangollen Canal.

As Chair of KLS I have arranged to meet with the FSB to ascertain what benefits they are able to small businesses in Llangollen.

Mike Edwards

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Councils team up to launch sport kite mark scheme

Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham Sport Development Units & Glyndwr University have joined forces to launch the Supporting Volunteers Kite Mark to recognise community sports organisations that are committed to supporting and developing their volunteers.

The Supporting Volunteers Kite Mark has been developed by the Sport Wales Regional Coach and Volunteer Development Team to promote good practice in the recruitment, training, deployment and retention of coaches and volunteers.

Signing-up to working towards the Kite Mark, will have a number of benefits for community clubs and sport organisations including free Sport Coach UK training, wider access to and support in recruiting and developing volunteers and advice and guidance from the local authority Sport Development Team.

The Kite Mark has been designed to be accessible to all sporting organisations, bearing no cost implications for a club.  It will offer a chance for some clubs to gain recognition for the work which they already do while for other clubs it will be a chance to develop volunteer support structures by working towards achieving the mark.

Speaking about the launch of the Supporting Volunteers Kite Mark, Sport Flintshire Coach and Volunteer Coordinator Gareth Hayes said:
“Volunteers are the life blood of community sport and the launch of this Kite Mark signifies Sport Wales and the local authorities’ commitment to supporting community sport organisations in providing a positive and worthwhile volunteer experience that will contribute to a lifelong involvement as a sports volunteer.”

Sport Wales North Wales Regional Manager, Graham Williams added:
“The Supporting Volunteers Kite Mark is the first of its kind in Wales and I am sure will provide huge benefits to local sports clubs and their volunteers across Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire. 

“Volunteers are key to ensuring that every child in Wales has the opportunity to become hooked on sport for life.  It is therefore encouraging to see partners coming together in this way to launch a scheme that will benefit those wanting to volunteer within their local community.  We hope that this launch will inspire others to adopt a similar approach across the country.”

For further information regarding the Supporting your Coaches Kite Mark, please contact your local Coach and Volunteer Coordinator. Please find details below:

Flintshire - Gareth Hayes:  (01352) 702465
Denbighshire - Matthew Hilliker:  (01824) 712700
Wrexham - Thomas Robertson:    (01978) 292088
For more information please contact Claire Nicholson at Sport Wales on 02920 338366.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Latest local roadworks

Latest roadworks in the area notified by Denbighshire County Council are:
Birch Hill, Llangollen, road closure until September 20 for water works by Welsh Water. 
A5, junction of B5103 TO Rhysgod Bends, Berwyn, temporary traffic lights from April 24-25 for tree cutting.


Safety checks on electrical goods

Denbighshire's County Council Public Protection Service recently secured funding from the Electrical Safety Council to undertake a project of monitoring the safety of the sale of electrical goods sold through second hand shops.  

The intention was to raise awareness amongst retailers selling second hand electrical goods and also to check only safe goods were being sold.

Trading Standards Officer inspected a number of second hand outlets across Denbighshire where they not only gave safety advice but also obtained electrical items for analysis at an independent test house.  Disappointingly, 18% of items tested failed to meet electrical safety requirements, with the majority of faults being in relation to the plug or the flexible cord.  Trading Standards are continuing to work with the proprietors of the businesses concerned to ensure no further unsafe products are offered for sale.

Trading Standards Officers are advising consumers to carry out visual checks before purchasing second hand electrical goods and if possible, to only purchase goods which have been tested for safety.  

Emlyn Jones, Public Protection Manager said “The items that failed the test could have been avoided if simple visual checks had been made.  We recommend that anybody purchasing second hand electrical goods give the item a basic visual inspection before purchase.  For example, look out for frayed or split wires, damage to the casing or plug and check if the plug pins are insulated”

Further advice concerning all electrical safety issues can be found on the Electrical Safety Councils website:

Any member of the public who have concerns about the sale of second hand electrical goods should contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 or 08454 05 05 for the Welsh language service.

The Electrical Safety Council is a UK Charity committed to reducing deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents at home and at work.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Health chiefs promote measles jab

Public Health professionals are urging parents in North Wales to act quickly to vaccinate their children against measles. 
There are over 10,000 children who are not fully protected by the vaccine in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area and therefore at risk of contracting measles.
In 2012 we saw how quickly the disease can spread when over 60 people contracted measles during an outbreak starting in Porthmadog.  
Siobhan Jones Consultant in Public Health said: ‘‘Although the outbreak is at present affecting the Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot and Llanelli areas, it is likely to spread to other areas.  The likelihood that unvaccinated children across the country will come into contact with those already infected is high. It is vital that parents act now to ensure that their children are fully immunised with the MMR vaccine.
“The outbreak is particularly affecting children aged between 10 and 18 who missed doses of MMR at a younger age. Therefore Public Health Wales is urging parents to remember that it is not only younger children who need to be vaccinated urgently.   
"The MMR vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organization, UK Department of Health and Public Health Wales as the most effective and safe way to protect children against measles. It is never too late to catch up on missed doses."
Dr Sian Owen, paediatrician and lead immunisation doctor for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: ‘‘Measles cannot be taken lightly because you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). MMR vaccination offers the only protection against these complications."
Public Health Wales and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is urging parents to work with health professionals and schools to ensure their children are vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.  As children return to school after the Easter holidays, the opportunities for measles to spread increase - now is the time to vaccinate your children.

North east Wales gets local digital radio for first time

The BBC is reporting today that digital radio listeners in north east Wales will be able to pick up local stations for the first time as new transmitters are switched on.

See the full story at:

Simon Collinge of Llangollen has been in touch via llanblogger's Facebook page to say: "Will we be able to receive in Llan? Has anyone else noticed that the signal strength of current transmissions AM/FM is much weaker recently?"

Crucial River Lodge report due out "soon"

* The derelict River Lodge in Llangollen.

The Welsh Assembly’s influential public accounts committee will publish its eagerly-awaited report into the acquisition and subsequent attempts to dispose of the former River Lodge in Llangollen “soon”, according to its chair. 

In response to a query from llanblogger about developments in the long-running saga, Darren Millar AM said earlier this week: “The public accounts committee is planning to publish its report into this matter soon.  

“It will be available on the Assembly website once published.”

The building, on the A539 approach to Llangollen, has been empty for the past few years and has fallen into dereliction.

Through the now defunct Welsh Development Agency, the government bought the building on the banks of the River Dee at the gateway to the town for £1.6 million in 2007.

Sole purpose of the deal was to facilitate a community project by the organisation Powys Fadog.

But the development never went ahead and following a series of vandal attacks the hotel now lies empty and vandalised. 

The saga has sparked major criticisms of the part played by the government and led last year to the publication of a critical report by the independent Welsh Audit Office.  

That report said the government’s decision to purchase River Lodge as “flawed” and “represented poor value for money”. 

The public accounts committee has held a number of hearings into the issue, the latest of which was held at Llangollen Pavilion on October 8 last year.   

At that time the committee heard evidence from Pol Wong, chair and chief executive of Powys Fadog, and Amanda Brewer, a chartered surveyor with the Welsh Government and originally with the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) which was absorbed into the Welsh Government.  

Also giving evidence to the hearing was Gareth Hall, former director of economy and transport at Welsh Government who was head of the department in which Amanda Brewer was employed.  

Pol Wong said this week: “Of course I'm anxiously awaiting the report, after giving evidence that completely refutes the story portrayed by the Government in the Welsh Audit Commission report.”

The site of the River Lodge has been mentioned as a possible location for the new health centre which is due to house some of the services which had been provided at Llangollen Cottage Hospital until its recent closure.

New app encourages people to grow their own

During the current National Gardening Week, Crunchd has announced the launch of a pioneering new social platform to incite and inspire people to grow and share their own food.
Combining a website and a free app for both iOS and Android smartphone users, Crunchd is the first of its kind to enable anyone with a Facebook account to use the Crunchd app to find out what’s in season, what other people are growing and cooking, and whether people in their area want to trade their produce when it comes to harvest time.
  • The platform navigation and information is tailored to the user allowing them to search and discover Crunchd according to their location
  • Nearly a third of all British adults are now sprouting their own
  • Crunchd hopes to revolutionise the way we source our food and build communities which in time will save people money
  • Crunchd provides a platform for people to share and view seasonal recipes and record growing status.
  • Users can gain progress badges such as the ‘Elvis Parsley’ badge for singing to their crop
  • The app has a beautiful design and user interface created by Synth Media
People like the concept of growing your own food and the romantic ideal of the good life, but when reality sets in people find it hard to get started and worry when things don’t quite work how they would like to.
Crunchd is there to offer support, find like-minded people, and learn from those in the know. Crunchd has also put together the most popular organic and high yielding seeds made available via the online store which can easily be grown outside, inside or even in window boxes and other city garden spaces, with a growing guide supplied as well as all the support from, it is time for cities to embrace grow your own.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

1,000-year-old Pontfadog Oak falls victim to high winds

* The Pontfadog Oak collapsed in high winds.

Clwyd South assembly member Ken Skates has called for more support for Wales’ ancient trees after it was confirmed today (Thursday) that the famous Pontfadog Oak, believed to be one of the oldest trees in Britain, collapsed in high winds.
Local folklore suggests the tree was over 1,000 years old and was spared when King Henry II had his men cut down the Ceiriog Woods in 1165.
The ancient Welsh oak has not been the only old tree to suffer in the recent bad weather, other heritage trees in the Wrexham area have been lost or severely damaged in the snow and high winds.
The AM, who helped launch a Coed Cadw petition last year calling for a strengthening of Tree Preservation Order legislation and more support for private owners who have ancient trees on their land, said Wrexham had lost an ‘iconic’ piece of its local heritage.
He said: “I am really so very sad to hear about the collapse of the Pontfadog Oak.  We have lost one of the most important and iconic pieces of our local heritage here in Wrexham.
“The tragedy is that more could have been done to save it.  If we had a comprehensive system of grant aid for such trees and a stronger set of powers which Natural Resources Wales or the local authority could utilise to help protect such trees, we could well have put in place strengthening work to save it.
“For tree owners with a lack of funds, there is currently no system in place to offer professional assistance and funding for necessary stabilisation and protection works.  Though it had a Tree Preservation Order on it, this only prevented it being felled by a chainsaw. We need stronger powers.
“The recent snow has caused catastrophic damage at to many ancient and veteran trees in the Wrexham County Borough area including some at the Grade 1 Listed Capability Brown gardens in Ruabon, but this is definitely the worst news of all.
“I am hopeful we can try and save the fallen parts as part of an exhibition so we can at least let future generations know about the rich history of the Pontfadog Oak.”
The AM added: “To me trees like the Pontfadog Oak are a hugely important part of our natural heritage and as important as Caernarfon Castle or St David’s Cathedral.
“As we have seen, an ancient tree like this can take hundreds of years to reach maturity, but it can all be lost in an hour. We are the guardians of these trees and they need greater protection, the same care and attention we give to the most treasured buildings or monuments in our communities.”

Scheme to protect your vehicle rolled out across region

* Officers and staff from the North Wales Police Community Safety Team.

A scheme aimed at helping to protect your vehicle from theft is being rolled out across North Wales.
The Vehicle Watch 25+ initiative has been designed as a crime preventative measure and to increase the likelihood of a stolen vehicle being spotted and stopped by the police and also acts as a deterrent for young people not to steal vehicles.
Vehicle owners over the age of 25 will be given an information pack containing specially-designed window stickers which will be attached to the front and rear windscreens of their cars. If the vehicle is then seen being driven by someone apparently under the age of 25 it may be stopped and checked by police.
PC Hazel Goss, Community Safety Officer for North Wales Police said: “Anyone over the age of 25 can join the scheme for free. It is open to all users, private and commercial. Once people have registered a Vehicle Watch pack will be sent out which will include stickers and crime prevention advice.”
“It was first launched as a pilot scheme throughout Flintshire a year ago, where in excess of 200 people have registered and to date none have been the victim of vehicle theft. We have had lots of positive feedback from the people who have joined. Other forces have also adopted the initiative.”
Photograph of the Vehicle Watch information packsPC Goss added: “A lot of vehicle crime results from criminals seeing opportunities and taking them. You can easily outsmart the car thief by following the simple advice which has been provided with this scheme. Remember, most car crime can be prevented. Don’t give criminals an easy ride.”
The scheme, which is administered by the North Wales Community Safety Partnership, is free to join and motorists will receive the stickers as part of a vehicle crime prevention pack containing advice leaflets, registration letter, withdrawal letter, change of address form and other relevant information.

Registration to the scheme does not expire unless it is withdrawn or change of car ownership occurs.
If you would like to join for free, please contact PC 1409 Hazel Goss at the Flintshire Community Safety Partnership on 01352 702145 or email:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Isherwood questions First Minister over income tax changes

Questioning the First Minister in the Assembly this week, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood highlighted the fact that 11,720 low-earners across North Wales will be taken out of income tax altogether as a result of changes introduced by the Conservative-led UK Government this month.
Mr Isherwood revealed the figures following inaccurate claims by Labour members that the tax changes will benefit the wealthiest.
Mr Isherwood asked Carwyn Jones: “Why would you be opposed to tax changes that mean that 2.7 million of the lowest paid will be taken out of tax altogether, including 11,720 across north Wales, and which mean that the wealthiest in society will pay a greater proportion of UK taxes in every year of this UK Government than in any of the last 13 years of the Labour UK Government?”
"Out of the 1.42 million tax payers in Wales, almost 1.1million will benefit from the changes which came into force this month, with 57,007 people in Wales taken out of tax altogether."
Mr Isherwood added: “These figures demonstrate how Conservatives in UK Government are taking tough decisions to ensure work pays. They are ensuring a fairer tax system by providing support to individuals on low and middle incomes, and by increasing the rewards to work.”

Seat belt campaign nets 1,700 motorists

Over 1,700 motorists from across Wales were prosecuted for not wearing a seatbelt during a multi-agency crackdown.

In March, North Wales Police teamed up with the other Welsh Police Forces to launch the All Wales Seatbelt Campaign, warning motorists and passengers that they are risking their lives by not wearing belts and issuing fixed penalty notices to those who choose to flout the law.

During the two-week campaign police officers detected a total of 1,775 seatbelt offences.
In North Wales 280 offenders were caught and apprehended and in the Dyfed Powys force area – who led the campaign, there were 959 offences.

In South Wales, 405 people were prosecuted, while in Gwent, there were 131 offences.

46 of the offences across Wales were in relation to children not wearing a seatbelt.
Acting Sergeant Mark Jones from North Wales Police said: “It is disappointing that 280 motorists were caught not wearing a seatbelt in north Wales during the two week enforcement period of the campaign.
“People are twice as likely to die in a collision if they are not wearing a seatbelt. They only take a second to click in to place, but can produce a lifetime of repercussions if ignored.

He added: “We will continue to be robust in our efforts to ensure all drivers and passengers are being safe and buckling up.”

Motorists and passengers who choose to risk their lives by not wearing a seatbelt could receive a £60 Fixed Penalty Notice or be summonsed to court where they could face fines of up to £500.

North Wales Police has a robust strategy around enforcing the ‘Fatal 5’ offences which are failing to wear a seatbelt, drink and drug driving, dangerous driving including unnecessary risk taking, speeding and using a mobile phone whilst driving.
A/Sgt Mark Jones added: “We are committed to assisting in reducing casualties on the road through the use of targeted operations around high risk groups of people and locations while enforcing the ‘Fatal 5’ offences.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Anything Goes has a great maiden voyage


First night review


It was full steam ahead for fun as the good ship SS American, crewed by a talented Llangollen Operatic Society cast, headed out into the Atlantic on its maiden voyage earlier tonight (Tuesday).

The society has a five-night run until Saturday at the Town Hall with the classic Cole Porter musical Anything Goes, which is set aboard the ocean liner as it journeys from New York to London sometime in the Jazz Age.

And the opening performance was a real Blue Riband affair as the 24-strong cast powered their way through a marvellous collection of songs, some ship-shape acting and enough tots of humour to make a sailor groggy.    

The story involves madcap antics aboard SS American as she heads across the pond.

Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Sir Evelyn Oakleigh.

Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin aid Billy in his quest to get the girl.

Along the way there are some delicious renditions of memorable numbers such as Anything Goes, You’re the Top and I Get a Kick Out of You.

Certainly getting a kick out of her role as Reno Sweeney is Llangollen stalwart Louisa Jones who vamps it up in fine style at Reno, a racy gal but with a heart of gold and a voice like a touch of velvet.

A true song and danceman who can also handle a range of spoof accents as he assumes different guises to avoid a spell in the brig is called for when it comes the role of Billy.

And that’s just what it gets in the shape of relative Llangollen newcomer Paul Bailey.

His love interest, Hope Harcourt, is nicely played by another member of the society’s growing band of new singings, Danielle Chamberlain. She can act and she surely can sing.

Bill Hughes, one of Llangollen’s regulars, who can seemingly turn his hand to any leading role, superbly fills the upper class shoes of Sir Evelyn Oakleigh.

A neat comedy touch is applied by Richard Mascarenhas as the gangster Moonface Martin, who ain’t nearly so bad as his reputed position as America’s public enemy number 13 suggests.

Bonnie, Moonface’s moll, is played believably by Stephanie Cottam and Mrs Harcourt, Hope’s battleaxe of a mum, is well handled by Jeanette Robinson.

More laughs come from the direction of Llangollen faithfuls Tony Jones and Jan Bellis as a couple of comedy Chinese men.

The songs – solos, duets and three-handers – are all expertly performed and the chorus numbers are toe-tappingly powerful.

The whole show is a credit to director Chrissie Ashworth and the entire behind-the-scenes team deserve applause every bit as warm as the ones directed at the cast as the curtain falls.

The only pity is that the first night audience was so small.

If you fancy a real treat try a voyage aboard the SS American any time over the next four nights at 7.30pm.

Anything Goes opens tonight

Llangollen Operatic Society's production of  Cole Porter's Anything Goes takes to the stage tonight (Tuesday) for a five-night run at the Town Hall.

Set on board an ocean liner bound for England in the 1930s, this lively, witty musical tells the story of stowaway Billy Crocker who, aided by a glamorous evangelist turned nightclub singer and a New York gangster, sets out on a mission to get his girl before she marries an ageing English gentleman.

This show has everything from comedy to romance, poignant solos and rousing chorus numbers guaranteed to have your toes tapping.

Porter’s jazzy score is a triumph and recognisable songs include I Get a Kick Out of You, Blow Gabriel Blow and the title number Anything Goes.   

Tickets are priced £9 and £7.50 (concessions) and are on sale now from Llangollen Tourist Information Centre, Jades Hair & Beauty or for telephone bookings call Stella Bond on 01978 860441. 

KLS chair hits out at planners

Local planning authorities “run scared of corporates and their highly paid professional advisors” and fail to protect independent local businesses as they did when granting planning consent for an out-of-town Sainsbury's supermarket, to the detriment of Llangollen town centre.  

That is the view of Mike Edwards, chair of Keep Llangollen Special (KLS). 

He was reacting to a new report that says the Welsh planning system should be focused on economic development and not climate change or affordable housing.

The report, from newly launched think tank Gorwel, claims that discussions about planning have too often centred on issues that Wales cannot address on its own and much more should be done to drive the economy forward.

Evidence of the failure of the planning system to help local businesses can been seen, authors Steve Belzak and Russell Deacon claim, in the “increasing homogenisation of town centres” and the development of “out-of-town retail centres dominated by large, often multinational corporations”.

Mr Edwards said: “In their panic to avoid a costly planning enquiry local planning authorities ignore Planning Policy Wales and fall down in front of speculative property developers and corporate supermarkets. 

“Building out of town increases traffic journeys and is not environmentally friendly. Wales needs to give priority to town centres and independent Welsh businesses and support the employment and income generation from shops and local suppliers.  

“This keeps money recirculating in local economies to the community's benefit, whereas supermarkets export money out of local economies to corporate HQs mainly in the South of England. 

“Elected representatives need to stand up for local businesses and the employment they provide and not encourage corporate businesses and the low-paid part time work they offer whilst exploiting local communities and suppliers.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Explosions at Boston Marathon

The BBC and other media are reporting that two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon race have left an unknown number of people injured.

For the full BBC version of the story see

Power cut homes urged to seek compensation

Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South, is urging any of her constituents left without power for 24 hours or more during the recent severe weather who has not yet received a compensation payment to contact their energy supplier as soon as possible.
As soon as the bad weather spell began, Ms Jones was in contact with ScottishPower, the main energy supplier in the Dee Valley, which was one of the worst affected areas in the UK with 10 foot high snow drifts and 6,000 customers left without power. 
Ms Jones has now received a comprehensive response from ScottishPower.

In it, the company advises customers who were without power for 24 hours or more and have not yet been contacted by staff to put in a claim. ScottishPower customers can do this by calling 0330 1010 158 or visiting
"I pay huge tribute to power company engineers, local authority staff and so many other people who battled really treacherous weather conditions in the cause of their public duty last month," said Ms Jones
"However, I would also like to remind local residents not to forget to make a claim from the power companies if they are entitled to one. Any of my constituents who is entitled to a compensation payment should either contact their power company direct, or get in touch with my office via my website, by phone on 01978 824288 or by letter to me at The Enterprise Centre, Well Street, Cefn Mawr, LL14 3AL.”

Supermarkets to cut petrol prices

The ITV news website is reporting that four supermarkets are to cut the price of petrol from tomorrow.

See the full story at

Anti-dog fouling firm wins warm praise

Shop the dog foulers by ringing 0800 2300234

A company employed by Denbighshire County Council to help address issues around dog fouling and littering has been praised by residents for creating visibly cleaner streets in the county.

Kingdom Security Services, the company contracted to carry out environmental enforcement for the council, has teams of enforcement staff working across the county who have joined forces with the authority to rid our streets of dog mess and litter.

Teams are kitted out with video cameras to patrol hot spot areas on the lookout for anyone who fails to clean up after their dog or throws litter on the street.

A resident of Maes Afallen, Corwen recently reported dog fouling in a children's play area.

They said: "I complained to the council about a woman who was regularly allowing her dog to foul in the children's play ground near to my home and not picking it up and also about the dog owners allowing their dogs to foul on Railway Walk near Maes Afallen.

"The response I received was without doubt everything I could have asked for. Enforcement officers came here immediately and now the problem has been sorted out. I have been given dog bags, signs and have been promised a bin for the play area.  I understand that the litter has also been cleared from the Railway Walk.

"I am over the moon with Denbighshire's response I can't fault them. Some commitment is clearly being shown dealing with the problem of irresponsible dog owners."

A Rhyl business owner said of their experience:  "As a local business owner in Rhyl town I am heartened to see the introduction of high profile enforcement officers regularly patrolling the town centre.

"I have watched the officers carefully since they started and have questioned them about their role, they were very open and told me what they did and the reasons why Denbighshire had engaged them.

"In the short time they have patrolled Rhyl I can see that there has been a huge improvement, the streets are much cleaner and more pleasant to walk in. I fully support the enforcement of littering and especially dog fouling. It is about time the couldn't care less culture changed and I believe that the reputation of Rhyl will change for the better. I can say I actually feel safer being in Rhyl.

"The council provide plenty of bins in the town so there is no excuse for anyone littering especially throwing the cigarette ends on the floor. We should report people we see allowing their dogs to foul and accept that we can help clean up our environment. Anyone who gets caught and fined has only themselves to blame. I support the council's actions."

Councillor David Smith, Cabinet Lead Member for Environment, said: "We are delighted to receive such positive feedback for our efforts to clean up the streets of Denbighshire. The company is an integral part of this success.

“Dog fouling and littering are two of the most common complaints we receive here in Denbighshire. It was highlighted in our latest resident’s survey as one of the most pressing issues in communities.

“Not only is dog fouling a health hazard, it blights the environment in communities across the authority and now is the time to tackle the issue robustly.

“We will be looking to engage with communities, educate people on the need to clear up after their dogs and make it much easier for people to report through a freephone number and social media as well as the more traditional methods of making a complaint.”

To report problems with dog fouling please call freephone 0800 2300234.

Police launch speeding crack-down

A crackdown on speeding motorists is set to take place throughout north Wales this week.
North Wales Police will be taking part in a European-wide initiative to crack down on speeding motorists from Monday, April 15th to Sunday April 21st.
The TISPOL (European Traffic Police Network) campaign will see police forces across Europe tackling speeding by conducting random speed checks.
North Wales Police Roads Policing Officers along with Go Safe will be combining their efforts to deter and detect motorists who choose to ignore the speed limits. Drivers who are caught speeding will be issued with anything from a Fixed Penalty Ticket to a summons to attend court.
Acting Sergeant Mark Jones from North Wales Police’ Roads Policing Unit said: “We want to work with drivers and that is why we are giving advance notice of this week-long operation.
“Speeding is an issue that concerns many residents and one that we take extremely seriously.
“Those who choose to ignore the speed limits can expect to be prosecuted for their actions.”
The campaign starts shortly after North Wales Police released figures under the Freedom of Information Act highlighting some of the highest recorded speeds on roads throughout the region – which included 125mph recorded on the A5 near Corwen.
A/Sgt Jones added: “We are committed to making our roads a safer place for all who use them and we will continue to crack down on those irresponsible drivers who choose to ignore speed limits and drive irresponsibly, not only risking their own lives but the lives of others.”
North Wales Police has a robust strategy around enforcing the ‘Fatal 5’ offences which are speeding, drink and drug driving, dangerous driving including unnecessary risk taking, failing to wear a seat belt and using a mobile phone whilst driving.
Further information regarding TISPOL can be accessed via their website