Thursday, 30 October 2014

‘Super prison’ is "the equivalent of building a very sick small town on Wrecsam’s doorstep"

New evidence shows that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will not know the full impact of the Wrecsam ‘super prison’ on their work until May 2015, this despite an imminent decision on whether to grant full planning for the prison due on 3 November 2014.
This latest piece of evidence follows concerns prisoner healthcare in Wales is already underfunded by the UK Government with the additional costs falling on the Welsh Government and Local Health Boards.
The information released to the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University under Freedom of Information shows that the health board will not determine the “health requirements”, “cost” or “staffing resource” needed to accommodate the new prison until May 2015, as outlined in the response:
  1. A Health Needs Assessment is being developed and will not be completed until May 2015.  This will be used to develop cost projections for prisoner healthcare at the North Wales Prison.
  2. This will be used to scope what staffing resources are needed alongside any associated training needs.
  3. This will be used to inform Healthcare requirements.
This again has led to calls for the real impacts of what will be the second biggest prison in Western Europe to be properly scrutinised by politicians in Wales.
Responding to the new evidence, Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University researcher Robert Jones said:
“While the case to receive full planning permission will once again be put before Wrexham Council Planning Committee on Monday (3 November 2014), what this information shows is that the true cost of the prison still remains unknown to politicians in Wales.
“In particular, until a Health Care Needs Assessment is completed, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will remain in the dark about what requirements and costs the Wrexham 'super' prison is likely to present them.
“Prisoner healthcare does not come cheap and given the potential for very high medical costs to the local area from the new prison,  it is essential to ensure that not a single brick of the prison is laid before we know the full impact of the 'super' prison.”
Responding to new evidence made public today by the Wales Governance Centre which highlights the lack of information about the full health costs of the proposed Wrecsam ‘super prison’, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“Government plans for a 2,000-place ‘super prison’ in North Wales are the equivalent of building a very sick small town on Wrecsam’s doorstep. It would be short sighted of councillors to give the green light to this massive jail without the opportunity to consider its full associated costs and impact on devolved local health services in Wales.”
 Cllr Arfon Jones, who leads the Plaid Cymru group on Wrecsam Council, said:
“It was only last week that I met with the senior council officer leading on the prison. I specifically asked about the cost of health and he told me that the Ministry of Justice will pick up the bill. The answers from the Health Board do not indicate that. I am at the stage where I frankly don't believe what I'm told when it comes to the prison.'
Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary candidate for Wrecsam, said: “More and more evidence is emerging that the prison is being built without any consideration of the impact on local services, particularly health. The Ministry of Justice seems happy for the local NHS to take the strain of catering for an additional 2,100 prisoners without providing any information to either the health board or community about their additional needs.
 “Wrexham is in danger of being dumped on from a great height. I’m not opposed to a smaller prison that caters for North Wales but there’s a huge issue with building the second largest prison in Europe without considering the impact on emergency services that are already stretched to breaking point.”

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Milk Not Methane.

Please watch these two short YouTube videos of the experiences of people involved in campaigning against the drilling for unconventional gas or fracking in Bentley, Northern Rivers, Australia and Washing County, Western Pennsylvania, USA.

They are both powerful films of what WILL happen if we allow these companies onto our lands

These films show clearly what will happen if we allow drilling for unconventional gas or fracking to go ahead it will destroy our agriculture which is why we should use the hashtag #MilkNotMethane to highlight the dangers to our food production if water tables are polluted.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The arguments against Fracking simplified.

This is a guest post by Matt Bryan a local anti- fracking campaigner who took part in a recent debate at the Chester Debating Society on the subject. This was his speech which we consider to be an excellent summary of a complex subject and which we reproduce with Matt's permission:

Good evening, and thank you to Chester Debating Society for inviting me to propose the motion Fracking should be in banned in the UK.

This evening I aim to persuade you that  Fracking should indeed be banned in the UK.  Let me first explain first what is Fracking?

Modern high-volume Hydraulic fracturing, or slickwater fracking, is a NEW technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock. Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure mixture of sand, water and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. The process is carried out vertically and then by drilling horizontally.

So why are we considering fracking in the UK?  The Government established the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil  in December 2012, to develop and promote the shale gas industry in the UK. Around half of the UK has been opened up and176 Petroleum Exploration Development Licenses granted. A new round of onshore licensing was commissioned in 2014 leading to this dash for gas

Quantifiable evidence exists which clearly shows harmful environmental impacts, including water contamination, air, noise and light pollution, industrialisation of the countryside and earthquakes.  It is damaging to human and animal health, worsens climate change, uses massive volumes of water, increases HGV road traffic and reduces property values.  It will not reduce the price of gas or provide local jobs, it isnt the answer to our energy security and would be disingenuous to call it a cleaner fuel as methane is 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide.

Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and parts of Australia, Canada and the USA have suspended or banned fracking so why has our Government, despite knowing the risks, rail-roaded it through against the wishes of the public in a complete infringement of our democratic rights. No country in the world has proved fracking can be done safely so why do we still seem to be embracing it?

One of the main concerns about the process is water contamination, not surprising given that the British Geological survey shows how many of the shale gas reserves lay under our aquifers.  There are several ways in which contamination can and does happen - through well failure, accidents, leaks or spills, either from fracking fluid or from the gas itself.   Fracking fluid contains a cocktail of proven hazardous chemicals, and the waste water returned to the surface is a combination of both the water, chemicals, heavy metals and what the European Union classify as radioactive waste. There will be huge volumes of waste water which will need to be treated.  There are currently no specialist water treatment plants who could safely deal with full scale production in the UK and would be too prohibitively expensive and complicated to remove many of the contaminants.  It might be worth noting that while 40-60% of the fracking fluid is brought back up to the surface the rest remains underground.

Fracking companies insist that the risk of water contamination is low, but no level of risk is acceptable.  Water is our most precious commodity, far more precious than gas and we cannot afford to get it wrong.  You cannot UN-contaminate an aquifer.   We can survive without gas, but we cannot survive without water.  Gas companies continually deny that fracking has caused water contamination, but this is simply not true there are numerous studies which have shown it has. Fracking company Cuadrilla has been hauled up by the Advertising Standards Authority for making this false claim.  Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time, released details of 248 cases in which companies were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking wells.

Industry accepted figures on well failure stand at 7% of them failing immediately and Schlumberger, the world's biggest fracking company, cites failure rates of 60 percent over a 30-year span. All wells will leak eventually.  Industry reports on well failure show that it is impossible to prevent it happening.   Doesnt this mean that some water contamination is not just possible, but in fact inevitable?

Then there is air, noise and light pollution.  During operations drills and compressor stations operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with floodlighting required at night.  Compressors are the equivalent in noise production to jumbo jets taking off continuously and there will be around 50 HGV visits per site per day. Emissions from drilling pads, compressors stations, HGVs and other related equipment can lead to a gas field haze with high levels of ozone and airborne toxic chemicals.

Gas companies cannot keep denying that fracking affects human and animal health there is overwhelming evidence from the US and Australia that it does. As this unconventional extraction method has pushed into more densely populated areas of the States, numerous studies such as the one by Bamberger and Oswald, have begun to show that living near a well is extremely detrimental to human and animal health.  Clusters of ill health have been found around fracking sites including chronic, acute and even fatal conditions from nosebleeds, neurological disorders and breathing problems. Breast Cancer UK have called for an immediate moratorium. Given that the UK is considerably more densely populated than either the US or Australia, the health impacts will surely be far more pronounced.  Wont this put undue pressure on our already struggling National Health Service? These were views echoed by a report made by the British Medical Journal. In parts of Australia they have declared that drilling should not be undertaken within a mile of a property, but in England this would be virtually impossible if full-scale production were to take place.

Unlike conventional gas exploration, fracking shale requires a huge number of wells to make it commercially viable and would see the British countryside littered with thousands of rigs, supported by connecting pipelines, compressors and service roads. If the energy companies undertaking unconventional gas extraction are accurate and truthful in their claims to investors and they delivered the quantities of gas they promise it would mean that the UK would be covered in around 25,000 rigs. The Advertising Standards Authority upheld a claim against Cuadrilla for its misleading suggestion that there were no material differences between fracking in one of its conventional wells and fracking for shale gas.

Shale gas production is known to be very water intensive. Estimates for the volume of water required from start to finish of the fracking operation vary significantly due to lack of reliable data and differences in depth and geology of shale plays. According to the recent Tyndall Centre report the entire multi-stage fracturing operation for a single well requires around 2.5 million 8 million gallons of water this would include 1000 - 2500 tonnes of chemicals per well, per frack. According to the Environment  there are considerable pressures on water resources throughout England and Wales.

Earthquakes There are vast amounts of evidence that fracking and industry related injection wells cause earthquakes. In fact the first frack in the UK, which took place in Lancashire in 2011, caused two earthquakes magnitude 2.4.  According to Scientific American there have been over 230 fracking induced earthquakes measuring over 3 on the Richter scale in Ohio this year alone and 2500 since 2008. According to the British Geological Survey Britain has a more complex and fractured geology, unlike any of the shale plays in the USA. Professor Mike Stephenson of the BGS said that to minimise earthquake risk, it is really very, very importantwhen you decide that you want to hydraulically fracture to make sure there are no faults in the area. Blackpool- home to the UKs only fracked shale gas well - is known to be faulted. 

Is shale gas the answer to our energy security or supply?  This is highly unlikely.  Risk of uncertainty in the international gas markets driven by the shale boom, as highlighted with the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies assessment that there are limited prospects for shale gas in the UK or Europe, call into question arguments that shale gas can enhance UK security of supply.  Even if it could it would only be a short term solution and we wouldnt reach full-scale production for 15 years long after the point at which we will need to have found a solution to our energy crisis. 

Promotion of the shale gas industry I believe, detracts from what we should be doing in terms of energy conservation and renewables.  Surely that is the real answer to our energy security.  And since we can only use less than ½ of all known fossil fuels whilst still retaining a liveable planet, we need to be reducing our dependence on gas not fuelling our dependence to it, diverting our attention instead to improving renewable technology for a long-term sustainable solution.

Lower energy price claims have been refuted by every major financial institution in the world. There are estimates that finding and development costs in Europe are in the region of 23 times higher than the US. The UK has a population density which is eight times that of the US and limited land availability, which combined with the differences described above, indicate that domestic shale gas is unlikely to be able to compete with imports in the future.

It is claimed that the industry will bring with it local jobs, but this is highly unlikely. The Oxford Institute for Energy Study points out that there is currently close to no fracking expertise nor manufacturing capacity in Europe...meaning that they will need to rely on international service providers.  In other words, any shale gas production in the UK would rely on importing both labour and equipment from overseas, probably the US, given its position as market leader.   Any local jobs would be unskilled and temporary. In fact it is likely that the industry would be the cause of jobs losses in sectors such as agriculture, tourism and the brewing industry.  This is in stark contrast with the potential economic and job creation benefits, which low-carbon technologies such as marine renewables could bring to the UK as highlighted by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in its Building a Low Carbon Economy report.

The Government acknowledges that there have been problems with fracking in the US and Australia but insist that it wont be like that here because we have gold standard regulations.  However a report by the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health found both the European Union and the United Nations Environment Programme have concluded that fracking may result in unavoidable environmental and health impacts even if the gas is extracted properly, and more so if done inadequately. They suggest that even if risk can be reduced theoretically, in practice many accidents from leaky or malfunctioning equipment and bad practices occur regularly.

When profit is at stake corners will always be cut and rules flouted. However, not only can this industry not be sufficiently regulated, but having myself listened to presentations by representatives from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, I can assure you that our regulatory system is not even close to gold standard and goes nowhere near protecting our communities.  It is my belief that Fracking cannot be carried out safely and Cuadrilla have been in trouble again with the Advertising Standards Authority for falsely claiming that they use proven safe technologies.  There is no such thing as proven safe fracking technology.

The EU study found cumulative overall risk to the environment and health from releases to air and from traffic associated with fracking operations to be high. The UK is already facing potential legal proceedings from the EU as a result of its failure to improve air quality as at least 29,000 UK deaths are caused by air pollution each year. Fracking is likely to exacerbate this problem.

If we are able to extract all the shale UK reserves, and this remains doubtful, Gas companies and their share holders would stand to do well, as would the Government initially through tax revenue, but at what cost?  Is money more important than our environment, our water, our air and our health?

So my view is that Fracking should without question be banned in the UK.  I look forward to listening to the opposition debate and will be happy to answer any questions after her submission.


In conclusion, I have established through referenced research, the following points:

Our dash for gas will increase and bind us to our reliance on fossil fuels and will redirect our attention and investment from alternative energy sources.

House prices would fall as a result of production in the area

Seismic activity would increase

Well failure is an industry accepted eventuality and will lead to water contamination

The UK is simply too densely population for this industry to operate safely

Water supply for the industry is a major issue and aquifer contamination and climate change issues will leave us more open to water shortages and drought.

Fracking is an industry that is fuelled by powerful corporate interests influencing political agenda

Massive industrialisation of our countryside would be. Increased HGV traffic, noise, light and air pollution would be of major concern

Associated risks to residents, workers and livestock pose a huge threat to health and well being. Burdens to the NHS have been noted.

Job promises have been grossly exaggerated and would probably lead to job losses in other areas. Job creation in the low-carbon sector outweigh the fossil fuel sector.

These are the reasons why I propose that fracking should not be allowed in the UK

Anyone more interested in finding our more please visit or simply type fracking into google.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this debate tonight.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Plaid Wrecsam visits Borras anti-fracking camp

There has been huge community support for the new Borras and Holt Community Protection Camp set up in the field where the test borehole for Coal Bed Methane and Shale Gas is planned.
 Among the visitors on Saturday were a group from Plaid Wrecsam who were there to show solidarity and bring food to the first wave of camp protesters. 
 It's very welcoming and open for visitors - and now has some toilet facilities! This is going to be a long haul - please support.

Fracking - it's our future that's in danger
Joanna Parry is 13, her school assignment was to produce a piece of persuasive writing - hence the repetition, alliteration and rhetorical questions. A 13-year-old schoolgirl understands fracking and its consequences better than a planning inspector or London politicians.
"Good morning my fellow class mates, how would you feel if you turned on the news and were told that the last surviving polar bear in the world had just died? How would it make you feel knowing that it was our fault? It’s simple, our grandparents’ generation and our parents’ generation damaged the environment and we are the ones who will have to sort it out. It’s our future that’s in danger.
Where are the proposals to cut down on fossil fuels and increase our use of renewable energy? They have been over shadowed by the recent plans to introduce fracking into the U.K. Fracking is the process of drilling into the earth and pumping a mixture of high pressure chemicals and water into loose stones to release gas. There are proposed fracking sites very close to where we are sitting right now. This is not just the polar bears problem, it’s our problem. Fracking is dirty, dangerous and destructive. These dirty chemicals that it releases into our water supplies may cause cancer or other diseases. The dangerous fracking process has already caused two earth quakes in Blackpool and Cardiff could be next. Fracking produces a fossil fuel which is hugely destructive to the environment because of the large quantities of carbon it releases in the atmosphere. Carbon causes climate change. Climate change will destroy the world as we know it. It’s our future that’s in danger.
The Committee on Climate Change have announced that in the past 100 years the global average temperature has risen so much that sea levels are rising. Polar bears will be gone by 2050. That’s your 50th birthday. It is not just animals that will pay the price. Rising sea levels could cause a threat to lives, property, the livelihood of people living in coastal regions and low lying islands. People will be at increased risk of malnutrition. They will be more likely to get ill from intestinal diseases, heart and lung problems and infections. It’s our future that’s in danger.
You are not the first generation to be confronted with this dilemma. During the industrial revolution south Wales was one of the main providers of coal. The south Wales valleys were blighted and scarred by coal mining. However it was not the local population that benefited from the money it produced. A few very rich landowners became even richer whilst the working class and the residents of the valleys sacrificed their health and, in many cases, their lives. Once again it is our future that’s in danger.
 What have the giant fracking companies offered us this time? Just 1% of the profits for coming onto our land, taking our natural resources and putting our health at risk. This is outrageous! We have to stop the dirt. We have to stop the danger. We have to stop the destruction.
 We live in an age of highly advanced technology where pretty much anything is possible. Research into renewable energy such as solar power, wind power and wave power is already well advanced. If the government invested into further research into this technology instead of supporting fracking then our energy problems and our environmental problems would be solved.
It’s our future that’s in danger. Join me and fight fracking today!"

Friday, 17 October 2014

Breaking news: Anti-fracking camp set up to protect Borras

An anti-fracking camp has been set up on the proposed site for test drilling for Coal Bed Methane at Commonwood Farm, Borras, between Wrecsam and Holt tonight.

For the latest information go to Frack-Free Wrexham on Facebook.

Practical and moral support much appreciated!

More details will be available at the public meeting being held in The Cunliffe Arms on Thursday, 23 October at 7pm.

Governor at Europe’s largest prison: ‘Big prisons don’t work’

An urgent rethink of the size and type of prison planned for Wrecsam is needed, according to Plaid Cymru.

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary candidate for Wrecsam, said: “If this prison is built to current plans, it would be the second largest one in Europe.
 “So it’s interesting to hear that the governor of the largest one – just outside Paris – believes that small prisons are the way forward.
 “Fleury-Merogis prison near Paris was built in the 1960s and houses 3,800 inmates, divided into male, female and youth offenders. The 2,500 adult male section of the jail make it bigger than any single UK prison.
“The Governor Joaquim Pueyo said that, if UK Government officials were to ask him what the ideal size of a prison should be, he’s say 600.
“This is the size of new prisons the French are now building to cope with their own overcrowding issues. So why on earth are we repeating mistakes made by the French back in the 60s and ignoring the views of experts who say prisons of this size don’t work?”

Ms Harper said there was a logic to having a smaller scale prison to serve the needs of North Wales:

“There are lots of reasons to re-think this scheme before it’s too late. The council’s decision last week to defer planning permission gives us a window of opportunity.
  “A smaller prison built for the needs of North Wales would allow women and youth offenders as well as adult males to stay in the region rather than being moved away to prison, with all the resulting extra cost and problems for visiting family.
 “It would also reduce the impact 2,100 adult male  inmates would have on local services such as the NHS, police and housing.
“Plaid Cymru is totally opposed to any prison being privately run by a company such as G4S, which has been proved to falsify records in terms of tagging criminals.
“Our other concerns are that when the government talks of ‘local jobs’ and ‘local firms’ getting contracts, it actually refers to anyone within 50 miles of Wrecsam – that includes Liverpool and Manchester. I’m very concerned to ensure that Wrexham sees the full benefit of any work and contracts otherwise we’ll end up with all the problems and none of the benefits.”

·        Long-term critic of the super prison Robert Jones and Elfyn Llwyd MP, who has visited similar prisons in Texas, will be the guest speakers at a public meeting entitled “Wrexham Prison – pros and cons” to be held at Saith Seren, 18 Chester St, Wrexham, LL13 8BG on Thursday, November 20th. Entrance is free and everyone is welcome.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Councillor calls for fracking ban

Plaid Cymru councillors have called on all 52 Wrexham fellow members to ask them to support a motion against fracking.
Cllr Arfon Jones, who leads the Plaid Cymru group on Wrexham Council, made the call in the wake of the Welsh Government's planning inspectorate deciding to back test drilling for Coal Bed Methane and Shale gas at Borras on the outskirts of the town. The controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to mass opposition in some areas due to the danger of contaminating water sources, the risk of mini-earthquakes and other environmental damage. 
He said: "Many councils in England have taken a stance on this important matter and passed motions against fracking, As Wrexham is one of many areas in Wales also facing fracking, we in Plaid Cymru feel we should make a stance and declare our opposition to the process.
 "Many European countries have a ban on fracking and the Australian company involved in this test drilling, GP Energy, would not be able to carry out this work in New South Wales. Why should it be able to here in old North Wales?
 "There is an active campaign locally against this, the council's own planning committee weighed up the pros and cons and came out against it and there's a clear feeling that the dangers outweigh any possible benefits. 
 "I have raised this in the Homes & Environment Scrutiny Committee some months ago and it was agreed to a workshop on fracking but we are still waiting whilst the people of this county are actively campaigning against. Without the right information, councillors cannot carry out their job properly.
 "Officers are concerned about the cost of appeal decisions but the cost in terms of public safety and the environment from mini-tremors, subsidence, gas leaks and polluted water could be much higher."
Cllr Jones, who represents Gwersyllt West, said licences to drill for unconventional gases had been granted by the UK Government to cover the whole of the Wrexham and Flintshire area. It was up to local councillors, he said, to represent local people and stand up to the multinationals seeking to drill under people's homes without permission.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Clwyd South and Karen Sinclair.

The following letter appeared in Wrexham's Leader on the 9th October 2014, having a go at Mabon Ap Gwynfor for working hard for the people of Clwyd South constituency:

The following is a letter I wrote in reply:

Dear Editor,

Whilst I'm quite used to 'shameless partisan politicking' by the Labour Party, Karen Sinclair (Leader Letters, Oct 9th)takes their hypocrisy to a whole new level. Lets take the recent goings on in Labour locally; ten Labour members leave the party stating 'negative influences' by unelected party members making their continued presence untenable.

Perhaps Karen Sinclair should spend more time shedding the 'negative influences' out her own dysfunctional Clwyd South Constituency Labour Party so that local politicians may seek to emulate Mabon ap Gwynfor's committment to put the people of Clwyd South before party politics.

Oh, and as a matter of interest Ken Skates AM was employed by Mark Tami MP before being elected the AM for Clwyd South.

'People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones', Karen!

Councillor Arfon Jones.
Plaid Cymru 
Etholaeth Wrecsam Constituency.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Council uses Manchester auction house to sell local youth clubs

There are small signs that the local economy may be turning a corner and emerging from the recession. Small signs that need encouraging.

What won't encourage local businesses is seeing Wrecsam Council failing to use local companies to carry out its work.

The derelict Pentre Broughton and Gresford youth clubs are being put up for sale at an auction... in Manchester.

There are local auctioneers who could carry out this kind of work.
There's this thing called the internet that apparently lets people know what's for sale without actually being in one place.
Putting the auction in Manchester is going to make it less likely that someone local purchases the sites to redevelop them.

Just one third of Wrecsam Council's tenders are given to companies in the county or in neighbouring Welsh counties. Two thirds to to England.

A huge £75m a year (on 2011 figures) is being spent outside the county borough on services that could be tendered locally.

Community response to illiterate racists

There's only one thing worse than a racist and that's an illiterate racist. Unfortunately, Hightown's resident illiterate racist chose to display his ignorance by spraying it all over the wall of the local underpass.

The boldly named Hightown Riot Squad Youth sprayed the graffiti under the Whitegate Road bridge late last week. This morning the community responded with a self-organised clean-up.

Plaid Cymru's Whitegate councillor Marc Jones, who chairs Caia Park Community Council, said he was delighted with the numbers who had turned out at very short notice:
"I'm very grateful to all those who turned out, in particular young people who were as disgusted with the racist and offensive graffiti as we were.
"The irony is that, while the graffiti artist was vandalising his own community, there are Polish people who are organising a youth football team in the field next to the bridge and making a real contribution to the area. They are a credit to Whitegate.
 "This was an immediate and temporary response. Our next step will be to create something more positive and permanent on the walls that can bring everyone together."