Monday, 26 January 2015

Plans for over 900 houses in Llay and Rhosrobin are a 'disaster waiting to happen’ says Plaid Cymru candidate

A series of housing developments in villages near Wrexham will push local services to breaking point, according to Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary candidate Carrie Harper.

She says plans for two separate housing applications in Llay and another in Rhosrobin will total 911 houses.

Plaid Cymru is urging Planning Committee members to consider the collective impact of these developments, which together amount to a new village for the area. They state it is vital to consider the huge impact the new housing plans on greenfield sites will have on local infrastructure such as schools, health and other key services.

Carrie Harper, who as a former county councillor sat on the planning committee for four years, said:

“Plaid Cymru have been arguing against the over-development of Wrexham for many years now. We are already seeing the impact of a decade’s worth of over development on local services such as the Maelor. This issue simply can’t be ignored any longer.”

“Let’s be clear, there is no local need for the level of unaffordable housing we are having forced on us."

In 2011 Plaid councillors persuaded Wrexham council to reject plans to allocate land for 12,000 new houses - a level of development demanded by the Cardiff Labour Government as part of the borough’s new Local Development Plan. The council decided that ‘to continue with that level of development would threaten our communities in terms of our schools, our road networks, our health service, our identity and social cohesion’ and opted for a much lower figure over a 10-year period. The rejection of the plan was also in line with local consultation that demonstrated overwhelming opposition to further extremely high housing development levels.

A revised LDP process is still on-going but Plaid Cymru is reiterating calls for the council to protect local communities such as Llay from being concreted over by developers with developments proposed for Gresford Road and Hayward’s Field.

She said: “Developers have had a free for all in Wrexham for far too long and it’s time this unsustainable level of development was stopped. It still amazes me that the amount of houses being planned in the future are not part of a wider exercise looking at the impact of an increasing population on our local infrastructure.

"Where are the funding increases for our local schools and the NHS to go along with these new villages? The truth is that no one, not the local council, not the Welsh Government have done a single piece of work looking at this issue, despite it being raised time and time again. How on earth does that make any sense? We are being severely let down.

“Just looking at these applications for Llay and Rhosrobin alone. If they get the go ahead we will see a population increase of about 2000 people, including about 300 children. Where will these children go to school? How will the Maelor hospital cope with this population increase when it’s already at breaking point? What about local GPs and dentists, what about council services that are also under pressure? What impact will more cars on the road have? It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

"These questions are vitally important and absolutely relevant. I would say to the councillors tasked with making a decision on these applications, if you do not have satisfactory answers to these questions, the only responsible course of action is to turn these plans down.”

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Is the Welsh Government telling porkies over fracking?

Plaid Cymru calls for same powers as Scotland to protect Wales from fracking

The Party of Wales Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food Llyr Gruffydd has called for Wales to be granted the same power as Scotland to protect its communities from fracking.
Llyr Gruffydd, pictured at the Borras anti-fracking camp, challenged the Minister for Natural Resources on the progress made to devolve the power over fracking to Wales.
When the Minister claimed that “many conversations” had happened between the Welsh Government and UK Government on the matter the Plaid Cymru AM pointed out that the UK Energy Minister had last week told Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards MP that “no discussions” had happened.
The Party of Wales Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food Llyr Gruffydd said:
“The people of Wales should have the power to decide on licensing for fracking in their communities. Plaid Cymru wants Wales to have responsibility over fracking so that we can introduce a moratorium on a process that carries a host of unknown risks for the environment and public health.   
"The Scottish Government has made this happen there, but unfortunately the Welsh Government has done absolutely nothing to stand up for Wales’ interests. 
“It is now clear that the Labour Government has not made any representations to the UK Government for these powers to be devolved which suggests that Labour sees no need to challenge Westminster’s policy of promoting and encouraging fracking in Wales. 
“On top of this, Labour refused to support Plaid Cymru tabled amendments to the UK Government’s Infrastructure Bill to exclude Wales from the measures which would allow fracking operations under people’s homes. Scotland has already been given this protection. Why is Wales treated differently? 
“The Labour Government’s unwillingness to fight for these powers makes it clear to me that it is happy to see companies drill for shale gas under Welsh homes. Plaid Cymru on the other hand will not stand idly by and let our communities be exposed to such unacceptable risks.”

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Plaid Cymru Councillor accuses Wrexham Council of 'suppressing the demand' for Welsh-medium education

Dataganiad i'r Wasg/Press Release:

Plaid Cymru Councillor accuses Wrexham Council of 'suppressing the demand' for Welsh-medium education
Wrecsam Plaid Cymru Councillor, Arfon Jones has written to the Welsh Government Education Minister, Huw Lewis to complain that Wrecsam Council is deliberately suppressing the demand for Welsh Medium Education by cutting funding of £23,000 to Mudiad Meithrin.

Mudiad Meithrin is the only provider of Welsh-medium early years care and education in the voluntary sector in Wrecsam. By cutting the entire grant, Cllr Jones believes the authority is reducing the availability of early years provision and thus children not having the opportunity to benefit from early years care and education through the medium of Welsh.

Cllr Jones said: "This proposed cut in funding is ill-thought out and the impact of it has not been properly assessed. The £23,000 investment provides excellent value in that it supports more than 700 children in pre-school settings. Where else could we find such value? Certainly not in-house at the Council.

"Any cut in funding at nursery level will have a knock-on effect on reception numbers at Welsh-medium primary schools. This flies in the face of one of Wrecsam Council's own ‘ priorities’, which is to increase the number of children entering Welsh-medium education. This will not happen if the cut goes ahead. In addition, the council's own Welsh In Education Strategic Plan attributes extensive responsibility to the Mudiad to deliver the early years part of the plan, which is now wholly misleading."

Councillor Jones went on to say: "What is particularly disturbing about this whole process is the rationale behind it and that is a deliberate attempt to suppress demand for Welsh-medium education because the authority knows that they will struggle to provide places both at primary and secondary level in future years.

"I very much hope Huw Lewis takes note of my letter and rejects Wrecsam's Welsh in Education Strategic Plan. He should challenge the council’s lack of enthusiasm in promoting the Welsh Government's aspirations to increase the number of Welsh learners and, more importantly, not to treat Welsh less favourably than English."

Llythyr at y Gweinidog Addysg yn ymwneud a thoriadau i'r Mudiad Meithrin gan Gyngor Sir Wrecsam.

Annwyl Mr Lewis,


Ysgrifennaf atoch ynglŷn â’r cytundeb uchod, yn benodol ynglŷn â bwriad y Cyngor Sir i ddiweddu ariannu (£23,000) Mudiad Meithrin , yn gyfan gwbwl wedi Mawrth 2015.

Corff elusennol / gwirfoddol yw’r Mudiad Meithrin. Ei nod yw rhoi cyfle i bob plentyn ifanc drwy Gymru i fagu profiadau drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.

Mae Cyngor Sir Wrecsam wedi bod yn gefnogol iawn o waith y Mudiad ers ei sefydlu ym 1971 ac wedi bod yn ffynhonnell ariannol gyson. Mae’r cytundeb uchod, sydd am ddod i ben ddiwedd mis Mawrth 2015, wedi bod yn gymorth mawr iddynt dros y blynyddoedd. Mae’n destament fod yr Awdurdod Lleol, drwy weithio gyda’r Mudiad Meithrin, wedi gweld niferoedd plant sy’n mynychu cylchoedd meithrin a chylchoedd Ti a Fi yn Wrecsam yn cynyddu hyd at 50%, a’r gofyn am addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg yn y sir wedi esgyn. Yn ddiweddar er enghraifft gofynnodd swyddogion y Cyngor i’r Mudiad agor dau gylch newydd yn yr ardal.

Mae gan Gyngor Sir Wrecsam ddyletswyddau statudol i’w cyflawni o dan yr Asesiad Digonolrwydd Gofal Plant a’r Gymraeg yn y Cynllun Strategol Addysg.

Yn wir, gweld cynnydd yn y niferoedd o blant yn derbyn addysg drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg yw un o flaenoriaethau strategol y Cyngor (PE6). Mae’n anodd gweld sut y gellir cyrraedd y gofynion hyn oni bai fod parhad yn y bartneriaeth.

Teimlaf fod y Cyngor Sir yn fwriadol dynnu’r nawdd er mwyn peidio annog twf a chynnydd ac i leihau y galw am addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg o fewn sir Wrecsam, yn gwbl groes i ddymuniadau Llywodraeth Cymru ac, yn wir, i’w cynlluniau strategol honedig ei hun. Mae Cynllun Strategol Cymraeg Mewn Addysg Wrecsam yn amlinellu cyfrifoldebau helaeth i'r Mudiad Meithrin i ddarparu cefnogaeth i'r blynyddoedd cynnar ond yn awr heb adnoddau digonnol.

Er cydnabod ein bod yn byw mewn amser anodd a bod rhaid wrth arbedion a chynilo, credaf y byddai’n gam anferth yn ôl i feysydd gofal plant cyfrwng Cymraeg ac, heb os i Addysg Gyfrwng Cymraeg yn Wrecsam, pe bai’r nawdd yn dod i ben.

Gofynnaf i chi ystyried a fydd modd i Gyngor Wrecsam gyflawni ei dyletswydd yn ystod oedran meithrin fel eu hamlinellir yng Nghynllun Strategol Addysg Gymraeg Wrecsam?

Yn gywir,

Y Cynghorydd. Arfon Jones,
Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Wrecsam,
Neuadd y Sir,

Monday, 19 January 2015

More patients but fewer beds, fewer nurses 15 years of Labour misrule hitting North Wales NHS

North Wales has nearly 400 fewer hospital beds and 350 fewer nurses than five years ago, according to new figures obtained by Plaid Cymru – the Party Of Wales.

The figures, released following a series of Freedom of Information requests, shows that in October 2009 the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board had 2677 in-patient beds and employed 6276 nurses. By October 2014 the figures were 2284 in-patient beds, a 15% fall, and 5907 nurses, a 6% drop.

Wrexham Maelor Hospital saw a drop of 50 beds coupled with the closure of Flint and Llangollen community hospitals during that period (1).

At the same time, the number of inpatient cases in North Wales rose from 80,867 to 86,249 – a 6.7% rise. But in Wrexham Maelor the rise in the past year alone has been 15% - from 26331 to 30409.

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said that such a reduction in beds and nursing staff was contributing to the difficulties the NHS was facing in terms of coping with a growing elderly population and ensuring there were beds for those brought in by ambulance to A&E.

Mr Gruffydd said: Closing wards such as the Acton ward in the Wrexham Maelor , coupled with the loss of many community hospitals, help explain why we are seeing long queues of ambulances outside our main hospitals and why people waiting so long for operations.

“The health board claims that nurse recruitment is the problem but nurses tell us they’ve applied to work Bank shifts and not heard back from the board. Instead, we’re seeing expensive agency nurses being recruited when we need longer-term planning in terms of workforce recruitment and retention.”

He was also critical of the health board’s claims that care was now focussed in the community: “These cuts in hospital services would be easier to stomach if we had seen an equivalent increase in funding for community care and GPs, but the truth is that we are facing a looming crisis in GP and primary-care services. I fear GP shortages will be the ‘health story’ of 2015, unless something drastic is done about it.

“Care at a hospital might be an out-dated concept for health bosses who want to see more care delivered at home but, until the structure and provisions are in place to ensure that home-care is functioning properly and can be delivered within budget, then there is a real danger that the system will fail if they reduce the number of beds and nurses.

“In recent years, Labour has underfunded the NHS in Wales and, as a result, we have seen a health service struggling to meet demand, which is rising with every new medical breakthrough and with a population that is living longer. The Cardiff Labour Government is presiding over an NHS that employs fewer nurses and has fewer facilities than it did five years ago – that’s a huge indictment of their misrule.”

Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, also stepped into the debate, arguing  that Plaid Cymru is the only party bringing practical solutions to the health debate in Wales.

Ms Wood accused the Westminster parties of failing the Welsh Health Service, criticising the Labour Welsh Government's "gross mismanagement" and the Tory-Lib Dem's destructive agenda of cuts and privatisation.

She repeated the Party of Wales' plan to recruit 1,000 extra doctors in Wales to ease the pressure on existing GPs and A&E departments, and its long-term aim to integrate health and social care.

Ms Wood said:

"The Welsh Health Service is one of our nation's proudest and most precious creations.

"However, there is no hiding from the fact that this crucial public service is facing a double hit from the Coalition Government's destructive agenda of cuts and privatisation, and the Labour Welsh Government's gross mismanagement.

"In Wales, only the Party of Wales is demanding financial fairness for our nation so that an over-stretched and under-resourced Health Service has the tools it needs to meet targets and deliver the best care possible.

"With our proposals to integrate health and social care, create a thousand extra doctors in Wales, and improve ambulance services in rural areas, we are the only party bringing practical solutions to the health debate in Wales.

"From ambulance response times to A&E waiting times to cancer treatment waiting times, the Labour party's record on managing our Health Service in Wales reads like a catalogue of shortcomings. The First Minister's denial surrounding these problems is failing staff and patients and it is time he woke up from his complacency.

"In the dying days of the Scottish referendum campaign, the Labour party also teamed up with the Conservative party to protect the Barnett Formula and therefore secure the continued under-funding of Welsh public services.

"To protect the Welsh Health Service, Wales must return as many Plaid Cymru MPs as possible in May to take on the privatisation agenda and to demand an end to the chronic under-funding of our nation so that we can secure the best outcomes for Wales."

Plaid Cymru warns of GP crisis in Wrexham as many doctors prepare to step down

Up to third of the GPs in Wrexham could retire from frontline patient care during the next five years, it has been revealed.
Figures produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) show the extent of the shortage of GPs in the Wrexham area.
The RCGP said that 33% of all GPs in Wrexham are over 55 – among the highest in Wales. Across Wales they expect 23% of all GPs to withdraw from frontline care but acknowledge the situation is much more acute in Wrexham.
Plaid Cymru candidate for Wrexham Carrie Harper said: “Plaid Cymru pledged in 2013 to recruit 1,000 new doctors if the Party of Wales wins the 2016 elections to the National Assembly.
“These figures from the RCGP illustrate the desperate need to tackle the shortage of doctors across Wales. Figures obtained by Plaid Cymru show that the Welsh Government has cut spending on doctor recruitment to just £1,115 in 2013-14, at a time when it is most needed.
“There are already well documented problems with surgeries in Hightown and other parts of Wrexham struggling to cope with demand and unable to recruit new GPs to fill vacancies. It’s about time we saw a proper training programme for GPs in Wales.”
Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru AM for North Wales, added: “There is a ticking GP time bomb in Wales, and particularly Wrexham,  and action must be taken before this turns into a crisis.
“More GPs are needed as Wales grapples with a growing and ageing population and efforts need to be stepped up to tackle it now. It is no good Welsh Government Ministers sitting on their hands – we need action before it is too late.”

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Mudiad Meithrin.

This article by Rhoda Emlyn - Jones in the News Opinion of WalesOnline prompted me to write the following letter in defence of organisations who provide a high quality low cost service on behalf of public authorities and who are being unfairly targeted for savings by public authorities hell bent on protecting their own inefficient bureaucracies:

Dear Editor,

Rhoda Emlyn-Jones makes some excellent points in her article "We must fight to protect the small, excellent services worth their weight in gold." WalesOnline News opinion, Jan 8th.

There is no doubt that many local authorities throughout Wales are cutting funding to third sector organisations and moving them in house so as to protect their own staff without any consideration as to who provides the best service to the user

A case in point is my own authority, Wrecsam County Borough Council, where they propose to stop funding to the Mudiad Meithrin, who provide low cost and skilled language advice to all Welsh nursery settings in Wrecsam and to bring it all in-house where they claim they will be able to deliver identical services within existing capacity; and this in an authority where the numbers of Welsh essential speakers (outside schools) are in single figures.

Whilst this particular service is not statutory, it is a Welsh Government aspiration to increase the number of Welsh learners and it is indeed included in Wrecsam's Welsh in Education Strategic Plan, which outlines a major role for Mudiad Meithrin in promoting Welsh education in early years education. Clearly this Strategic Plan is now of little or no value and hopefully the government will see it for what it is...lip service to Welsh education.

Councillor Arfon Jones. 

More Clwyd South Labour Spin!

The following is a letter to the Wrexham Leader from a Labour cheerleader who was trying to re-write history as to the truth behind Labour's closure of the Plas Madoc Leisure Centre. Unfortunately for the author, we that tried unsuccessfully to save Plas Madoc did obtain a recorded vote on the decision making.

This was my response to Mr Moore's letter:

Dear Editor,

I would be grateful if you would allow me to correct the misleading letter by Stephen Moore of Chirk "Labour minority backed closure" Leader Letters, January 13th. In his letter Mr Moore claims that the closure of Plas Madoc was down to the minority of Labour Councillors who left the party.

The real facts are that the decision to close Plas Madoc was made at a Full Council meeting held on the 24th February 2014, when the Labour led administration (all 23 of them) introduced a budget which proposed a saving by closing Plas Madoc Leisure Centre. The then opposition proposed an amendment which if passed would have kept Plas Madoc open. That amendment was defeated where 22 of the 23 Labour Councillors voted to close Plas Madoc (1 abstained).

In the main vote to pass the budget (and by implication to close Plas Madoc) 20 Labour members voted Yes whilst 3 abstained.

Seems to me Mr Moore that it was a substantial majority of Labour Councillors who voted to close Plas Madoc. It was only later and in the face of public outrage and falling support did Labour Councillors past and present do a complete U-turn and offered the Splash Magic Trust back just 10% of what they had cut less than 12 months previously.

Councillor Arfon Jones.

Plaid plans for 1500 new local jobs and economic boost for Wrexham

Only one third of council contract spending spent in county

Plaid Cymru Westminster candidate Carrie Harper is calling on Wrexham Council to increase the amount of tenders and contracts allocated to local firms by 25%, which could create up to 1500 jobs in the county borough.

 The call follows an FOI request from Plaid revealing that only 33% of Wrexham council services put out to tender are procured within the county borough area.

 Carrie Harper said:” The low level of procurement of services from the council in Wrexham and also from Welsh based suppliers generally is something we have been monitoring for a number of years. It remains consistently low. “

“The FOI reveals that, out of a total of over £116 million spent by the council on procuring services in during the last financial year, only 33% was spent within Wrexham and only 45% from within Wales.

 "This just does not make any sense economically and the council needs a shift of perspective in order to secure as much local benefit as possible from its spending. 

 "The vitally important point to remember here is that creating these jobs does not cost an additional penny, it’s just about having a more local focus and spending smarter. “A progressive strategy designed to increase local procurement by 25% could produce up to 1,500 new local jobs. With the unemployment rate in Wrexham currently standing at 1,673, that can have a huge impact on our local economy and people's lives.

 "There are also other significant benefits if the council chooses to positively influence how the supply chain re-spends the income it receives. As well as creating new jobs, we can look to tackle issues such as deprivation and support the creation of new business, boost spending in local shops and create more apprenticeships. 

 "This is genuinely very exciting; we know that money spent with local businesses stays in the local economy. I’m increasingly angered that council spending levels within Wrexham remain so low and this has to change.”

Carrie Harper said there were good examples of how this had been achieved in other councils: “In 2012 the Federation of Small Businesses commissioned a report looking at how council supply chains can help small businesses. They quote the example of Manchester City council which, through a strategy based on place, economic development and influence, increased the re-spend back into the Manchester economy from 25p to 42p in every pound.  

 "Wrexham can do this as well and transform our local economy. The only question to ask is why we’re not doing this already? It’s only red tape that makes it more difficult for smaller local businesses to bid for these contracts and this issue has been successfully tackled elsewhere.”

As well as the obvious local benefits to Wrexham, Plaid’s strategy is to increase local procurement from council spending across Wales by 25%. This could create up to 50,000 jobs across the country and transform the Welsh economy. Plaid Cymru is wholly committed to making life better for the people of Wrexham and Wales, that is our main objective 

Thursday, 8 January 2015


Wrecsam Council’s decision to spend £1m on consultants PriceWaterhouseCooper to cut services has been branded “perverse” by Plaid Cymru candidate Carrie Harper. 

The shock news that a contract was signed back in July 2014 to do the work comes at a time when the council is trying to save millions by cutting services and staff.

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary candidate for Wrecsam, said: 
“We know what consultants do - just a year ago, the Labour-run council spent £52,000 on consultants to be told that Plas Madoc Leisure Centre should be closed. Consultants come in to do a hatchet job and are often used by councillors and senior officers as a cover for making unpopular decisions. We pay senior officers on the council very good wages to make difficult decisions and now we’re being told the expertise isn’t there. It’s not a great advert for the council.
 “We all realise that the council, like all other councils in Wales, is having to make savings. What many Wrecsam people will find hard to stomach is that an extra £1m in savings will have to be found just to pay for consultants to state the obvious. It’s a perverse way to try to save money.
 “It’s not really a surprise that the previous Labour administration was so keen on signing the contract. After all, Labour on a UK level is also very fond of PriceWaterhouseCooper and the firm has even seconded staff to work for free in the office of Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls and other senior Labour politicians. To have private consultants shaping a party’s policies so blatantly is very unhealthy and begs questions about who is really running Labour."
 Plaid Cymru understands that six PWC members have been working in the Guildhall over the past few months and will be presenting their findings to the council later this month.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Football fans back Splash fundraiser

Football fans are backing plans to re-open the Plas Madoc Leisure centre as a community venture with a bucket collection outside the Racecourse tomorrow.

Wrexham FC and Wrexham Supporters' Trust have given their approval for a bucket collection to boost the coffers of the Splash Community Trust before the December 20th game against Dartford.

Greg Ogden, on behalf of the Splash Community Trust, said: "We're delighted that football fans are backing Splash in such a practical way. Hopefully they'll also be returning to use Plas Madoc's pool, gym and leisure facilities once it re-opens on December 6th but we will continue to fundraise and look to publicise the venture in the community."

Marc Jones, who has organised the collection, said: "Wrexham fans know all about community ownership and the importance of fundraising when times are tough. We now own our club after a long struggle and I'm fans will want to support another important community venture at Plas Madoc. 
 "The Splash Community Trust is still in its infancy and will need support from all quarters after it opens - this is just a small contribution towards that fighting fund from Wrexham fans."

Anyone wanting to help with the bucket collection between 2-3pm before the game should come to the junction of Crispin Lane and Mold Road.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Welsh Government must get off the fence over fracking

It’s time for the Welsh Government to get off the fence over fracking, according to Plaid Cymru.

The Party of Wales has accused Welsh Government Ministers representing areas affected by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of “silent complicity” with the gas-drilling firms looking to exploit shale gas and coal bed methane in Flintshire and Wrecsam. Licences for exploratory drilling for gas cover two-thirds of the Welsh population.

Plaid Cymru’s shadow energy spokesperson and North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said:
“Earlier this year, I called for a moratorium on fracking because of the dangers drilling for unconventional gas poses to Welsh communities, the environment and our water. I invited the First Minister to show a lead on this but he and his fellow ministers – many of whom represent constituencies that are being targeted by the fracking firms – have failed to come off the fence on this matter. 
"Staying silent on such an issue is complicity with the fracking firms and shows a contempt for those communities directly affected by this new development.
“The decision of the local planning authority against granting permission to test drill for coal bed methane was made after extensive discussion. That decision was overturned by the Planning Inspectorate. “If the Welsh Government won’t stand up for communities under threat from fracking, even in their own backyards, then Plaid Cymru – both locally and nationally – will continue to do our utmost to reject unconventional gas drilling in Wales.  
"There is growing proof from the USA, where fracking originated, that wells leak, that water courses are being polluted by the toxic chemicals used and that these are causing health problems for both humans and animals. In Texas, the home of many of these drilling firms, towns are now voting to ban fracking due to the risks.
“It’s time for the Welsh Government to get off the fence on fracking before it’s too late”.
Local Plaid Cymru councillor Arfon Jones, who represents Gwersyllt West, has tabled a motion to Wrecsam Council calling to make the county a “frack-free area”.

• These Welsh Government ministers all represent constituencies where PEDL licences have been granted for unconventional gas exploration. The first three represent constituencies in Flintshire and Wrecsam:

Minister for Natural Resources & AM for Alyn and Deeside
Carl Sargeant:
Minister for Communities & Tackling Poverty
Lesley Griffiths:
Deputy Minister for Culture Sport & Tourism
Ken Skates:
Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
Edwina Hart:
Minister for Education and Skills
Huw Lewis:
Minister for Finance & Government Business
Jane Hutt:
Minister for Public Services
Leighton Andrews:
Minister for Health and Social Services 
Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
Julie James:

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Fracking camp gears up for court battle

On Monday, two bailiffs attempted to serve a court summons on "persons unknown" at the Borras and Holt Protection Camp. This consisted of throwing a bit of paper into the mud. The paper gave details of a court hearing in Manchester.
 This is the response of Plaid Cymru councillor Arfon Jones to the news:
Subject: Case No - 830MA971 

Dear Sir/Madam, 
Yesterday bailiffs tried to serve an eviction notice on unnamed camp protectors at Borras, Wrexham. Protectors have set up a camp to protest against exploratory testing for CBM at this location. The protectors believe that the company will exceed their authority granted in the planning application and ignore the conditions thus posing an unacceptable risk to the public and the environment.
The Protectors therefore wish to oppose the issuance of an eviction notice and feel that the case listed for Thursday 20th November, does not allow them sufficient time from unlawful service of the notice to the hearing for them to present a defence (3 days).
Protectors and their supporters will also wish the hearing to be heard in Welsh as is our right and the claim is within the jurisdiction of the High Court Chancery Division in Wales.
I very much hope the Presiding Officer will accept the Protectors request for an adjournment as it's only right that both sides has access to justice.

Yours sincerely,
Councillor Arfon Jones
Wrexham County Borough Council.

Legal advice is also being sought and the camp is digging in preparation for any action to evict.
If nothing is heard from the court, we have to assume the eviction notice will proceed at 10.30am at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, 1 Bridge Street West, Manchester M60 9DJ

For the latest information go to the Facebook page or Twitter account.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Dafydd Wigley's speech in the House of Lords debate on the Infrastructure Bill and Fracking 10/11/14

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 115B, 115C and 123, which also stand in my name and are grouped with Amendment 114. First of all, could I say a word about the whole issue of fracking? Noble Lords will be aware that when this Bill was given its Second Reading there was no reference to the provision it now makes in relation to fracking. When we first started in Committee, there was no sign of the amendments we knew were being prepared. Ostensibly, we had to wait until the conclusion of the consultation process in August, before amendments were formulated. But since little notice seems to have been taken of the overwhelming opposition to fracking expressed by the general public, this seems to have been little short of a charade. It is not good enough to take an arrogant and disparaging attitude to those who harbour genuine fears.
Now that we have the amendments in the Bill and the provision for fracking is likely to be confirmed as part of it as we move forward from Report, unless we challenge it rigorously tonight, then the fears that people have will be underlined and reinforced. That is why I have tabled my amendments. But before I address the detailed wording, I will make it clear why I unreservedly oppose the application of fracking technology to extract underground gas. I have grave reservations about this technology. I do not express these doubts and concerns on the basis of a nimby approach. There are no identified areas of potential fracking activities in my home county of Gwynedd, nor do I harbour doubts about any form of modern applied technology.
My university degree, many years ago, was in physics, and I rejoice in the progress of science in making life so much better for millions around the world. But science needs to be applied with a degree of the precautionary principle. We all remember the tragedies of thalidomide, the dangers of radiation exposure, and the potential disaster which was associated with CFCs in the atmosphere. It is just as stupid to blindly accept the application of science as it is to blindly apply a knee-jerk reaction against the wonders of modern science, and what it can bring us. We need a balanced approach, and that means asking awkward questions and challenging glib assumptions. That is what I want to do in regard to our apparent acceptance of fracking technology.
The dangers associated with fracking can be summarised under five headings: first, direct dangers to human health and to animal and plant life arising from the chemicals used in the fracking process and the likelihood of them entering our water supply systems; secondly, the possibility of fracking technology triggering seismic tremors, as we have heard about in earlier debates tonight, and in the extreme, earthquakes, as apparently happened not so far from Blackpool in 2011; thirdly, the implications, by building a cheap gas economy, of worsening our carbon footprint at the very time when we should be putting every priority into reducing our fossil fuel usage and investing in reducing demand for fuels by insulation and fuel efficiency programmes, and re-orientating our energy systems into using renewable low-carbon technologies; fourthly, the highly questionable principle of giving developers carte blanche to enter people’s property or dig under their land under a blanket assumed permission to do so, undermining the checks and balances which have been carefully crafted into our town and country planning systems; and fifthly, the environmental squalor which fracking has left in its wake in so many of those communities in North America which have been blighted as a result of the fracking invasion of their countryside, and now this Bill will allow fracking companies to walk away from their clapped-out equipment, which they leave under the ground after them.
We are told of the economic benefits which will flood into these areas as a result of fracking, but all experience shows this to be a total nonsense. Only a handful of jobs are created, and they usually go to migrant workers who move from location to location as the fracked-out wells are exhausted, leaving behind them the industrial squalor so often associated with the extractive industries. We are told that there will be immense wealth from exploiting these untapped reserves of gas. But that wealth does not go to the communities which have suffered the ravages of exploitation; it goes to the supranational corporations, which are only too ready to respond to the Government’s inducements. Of course, the money will go into the Treasury to bail out a near-bankrupt economy, with the danger of being squandered in the same way as has happened to the UK’s North Sea oil reserves. Local families, local communities and local environment pay the price, and distant pockets bulge with the proceeds.
All these are matters of concern to me. But let me concentrate, in the limited time we have available on Report, on the dangers of chemicals contaminating the water systems of those areas where fracking takes place. In Wales, we provide water not only for our own communities, but for many English conurbations: in north-west England, in the Midlands, and in probably increasing quantities to southern England. The purity and safety of those water supplies have been taken for granted. Let me mention just some of the chemicals used in the fracking process. Each fracking “job” requires between a million and 8 million gallons of water, and each such job uses 40,000 gallons of chemicals, involving as many as 600 different chemicals, including carcinogens and toxins such as lead, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde.
In the United States, there have been over 1,000 cases of contaminated drinking water in locations next to areas of gas drilling, and these have led to cases of sensory, respiratory and neurological damage which have been attributed to ingesting contaminated water. Less than 50% of the fracturing fluid is recovered; the remainder of the toxic fluid is left in the ground. Overwhelmingly, it is not biodegradable.
In the United States, waste fluid is often left in open-air pits to evaporate, releasing harmful, volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere, creating contaminated air, acid rain and ground-level ozone. A whole plethora of legal cases have arisen in the United States. In April, the Parr family in Texas were awarded
$3 million damages against the Aruba fracking company for the pollution of air, water and soil which had seriously impacted on the family’s health. The following month, in May, there was a rig blow-out in Morgan County, Ohio, with a spillage of 184 barrels of toxic fracking fluid, which apparently reached the nearby waterway. In Pennsylvania in June, a fracking company was fined almost $200,000 for a toxic hydraulic fracking fluid spill of over 200,000 gallons into the local environment that led to the evacuation of local families from their homes. In Texas in August, it was reported that in a survey of 100 water wells up to three kilometres away from the fracking locations, over 30% had arsenic levels above the safety limit. A survey by Dale University said that water sources—again in Pennsylvania—showed an elevated level of methane in locations a kilometre or more distant from drilled areas. In some instances, the methane concentration was so high as to be explosive.
Britain is much more densely populated than the United States, with consequently higher likelihood of water sources used for human or animal consumption being polluted. Given this sort of experience, it is of little surprise that states such as Vermont have banned fracking since 2012. They did so, in the words of the state governor, Peter Shumlin, in order for Vermont to,“preserve its clean water, its lakes, its rivers and its quality of life”.
I was told graphically when in America in August by Eluned Jones, Professor of Economics at South Dakota State University, that the economic benefit gained in her state by fracking had been attained at an environmental and social price that was a profound disaster. Other parts of America are waking to the dangers of fracking. Only last Tuesday, as we heard earlier, the city of Denton in Texas—in the heart of fracking country—voted in a referendum to ban any new fracking operations. Civilised European countries that put the safety of life and the environment above commercial profiteering have banned fracking. France has done so since 2011. Both Germany and the Netherlands have placed a moratorium on it. That is what my party, Plaid Cymru, has also called for.
In these amendments I urge the House to take a first step towards a moratorium throughout Britain by refusing to carry forward Clauses 32 and 33. They were inserted in a blind moment in Committee and I urge the whole House to reject them emphatically. If, for whatever reason, I cannot carry the House with me—as I suspect may be the case having heard earlier debates—then I implore the House to at the very least agree Amendment 114. That would allow this clause to be applied in Wales only if it was so approved by the National Assembly, and allows the National Assembly to impose whatever conditions it deems fit on any fracking development. My hope would be that, irrespective of what happens in England, it would say no to fracking in Wales.
However, there are cross-border issues relating to fracking. My parliamentary colleague, Hywel Williams, MP for Arfon, was told in a Written Answer that fracking developments in north-west England may well look to Wales for the enormous supplies of water they will need for those purposes. As noble Lords will be aware, water is an incendiary substance in Wales.
Any suggestion of the drowning of further valleys in Wales to provide water for fracking in England—no doubt without any compensatory payment—will generate a howl of outrage the length and breadth of my nation. Water is to Wales what oil is to Scotland, so let there be no misunderstanding whatever that the exploitation of water resources in Wales, without the sanction of the National Assembly or adequate payment, is a non-starter and will be fought every step of the way. I cannot make it clearer than that.
In many ways, it would be totally perverse not to devolve to the National Assembly responsibility for allowing, banning or putting conditions on fracking in Wales. The Assembly has responsibility for virtually all aspects of town and country planning in Wales, it has total responsibility for the environment and agriculture, and it has responsibility for the healthcare services in Wales. All these are policy portfolios impacted by the effects of fracking. If Wales is to have coherent public policy, then control of fracking must also be devolved. Indeed, the Government have tacitly admitted this in their response to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee’s report on energy generation in Wales. The committee recommended that the UK and Welsh Governments should co-operate on regulatory and planning matters, including the “environmental risks” associated with hydraulic fracking. The Government’s response was that planning was a devolved matter. That being so, surely the Government must accept the thrust of my amendment.
Incidentally, I would be grateful to the Minister if we could have some clarification as to whether these draconian provisions will apply to Scotland directly, or whether the Scottish Parliament has some control over their applicability. I suspect that if you were to tell Mr Salmond that Scotland will have to allow fracking willy-nilly and by Westminster diktat, there would be such an eruption north of Hadrian’s Wall as to re-open the whole relationship between this place and Holyrood. Yet if Westminster were to allow a Scottish veto over fracking, then on what earthly basis is such a provision to be denied Wales?
My preferred outcome of this debate would be for the Government to withdraw or the House to vote these appalling clauses out of the Bill. In the event of failure to do this, I implore the Government to either accept my Amendment 114 to allow the National Assembly to determine these matters in Wales or undertake to bring forward their own clause in another place for the same purpose. Whichever way they proceed, this issue will not go away. I beg to move.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Milk not Methane... Part 2.

This is a great article in the Daily Post Wales today, very balanced reporting except that the pro Fracking comments are totally misleading:
Supporters of underground drilling for gas in the UK claim it will be far more rigorously regulated than in other countries.
I couldn't let this go without comment, so the following is a letter which I wrote to the Daily Post in response :

Dear Editor, 
Supporters of 'Fracking' claim that the process is more rigorously regulated (here) than in other countries "Protestors Against Underground Drilling... (Post, Nov 7th). That claim is absolute rubbish and patently untrue. 
Planning law is devolved to the Welsh Government, and the Wales Minerals Policy is apparently the policy for 'fracking'. However it makes no mention of 'unconventional gas' or 'fracking' hence the presumption is that the Welsh Government has NO policy on this dangerous industry. 
 Likewise, Natural Resources Wales monitor compliance of Planning conditions and are supposed to enforce those conditions to protect the environment a search of the NRW website will reveal no results for a search for 'unconventional gas' or 'fracking'. The NRW is just another inept regulatory authority like the Environment Agency who roll over and allow these corporate gas and oil companies to do what they want with no monitoring and destroy the environment and its oldest industry, agriculture. 
The Welsh Government need to wake up and realise that drilling for unconventional gas is the 'elephant in the room' and they need to up their game and get a grip of their responsibilities, something that Ministers have abdicated up to now. 
What we want is Milk not Methane. 
Councillor Arfon Jones.