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Alex Seabrook

Alex Seabrook is a Local Democracy Reporter covering Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, based at Wales Online.

The plan to roll out the coronavirus vaccine in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan has bee unveiled.

Local health bosses are planning to roll out the coronavirus vaccine in a therapy centre in Splott and two leisure centres in Pentwyn and Barry.

The three mass vaccination centres are expected to open in the middle of December, seven days a week. Mobile vaccination teams will also visit places like care homes to deliver the vaccine.

Around 265,000 people in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan will take priority and get vaccinated first, and each will likely need two doses given 28 days apart.

Details of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s mass vaccination plan were recently revealed in a report to a board meeting on Thursday, November 26.

The health board is planning to set up the mass vaccination centres in Holm View Leisure Centre in Barry, Pentwyn Leisure Centre in north Cardiff, and the Cardiff and Vale Therapy Centre in Splott.

The Splott centre will have 20 vaccine stations, while the Barry and Pentwyn centres will each have 10. The centres will likely open from 8.30am until 7.30pm, while the mobile team will work from 9am to 5pm to reach more vulnerable people, like those in care homes.

Testing for Covid-19 will carry on at the Splott centre, which will also house staff booking appointments for vaccinations.

The report stated: “The long term response to the Covid-19 pandemic requires a safe and effective vaccine to be available to all who need it.

“The vaccination programme in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, as per the rest of Wales, is planned to be delivered over nine to 12 months, starting from mid-December 2020, when the first delivery of vaccines is expected.

“The delivery of a mass vaccination programme for Cardiff and the Vale will be a significant undertaking and will require substantial resources in order to achieve the level of vaccination that is needed.”

Challenges include recruiting enough staff, getting an IT system in place, and preventing people not turning up to appointments. The report warned ‘Did Not Attends’ could mean wasting some vaccines.

Care home residents and staff will be given the first priority, followed by people aged 80 or older and health and social care workers. Then priority will be given to people aged 75 to 79; then 70 to 74; and then 65 to 69.

Adults younger than 65 but at high or moderate risk will be vaccinated next. Priority will then be given to those aged 60 to 64; then 55 to 59; and then 50 to 54. What order the rest of the population will get the vaccine hasn’t been decided yet.

The health board is expecting the costs of the vaccine to be paid by the UK Government or the Welsh Government.

The health board was approached for comment.

A care company is planning to build a 70-bed care home in the countryside near Cardiff, causing anger among neighbours.

Castleoak Care Developments wants to build the new care home off the Port Road near Wenvoe, south of Culverhouse Cross. The building will be two and half storeys tall.

The planning committee at the Vale of Glamorgan council will vote on whether to grant permission for the plans at a public meeting on Wednesday, November 25.

Local residents writing to the council raised concerns about traffic, congestion and pedestrian safety, as the Port Road can often get busy. Others were worried that the care home would overlook their gardens, impacting on privacy.

Parry Edwards, who lives nearby, said: “I appreciate the need for more care homes in the area, but this one is so large, sited on a very busy noisy road with access off the A4050 which is often gridlocked with traffic queuing up to Culverhouse, and with a high level of pollution from stationary vehicles.

“I question the pedestrian links to Wenvoe village — to cross the A4050 can be suicidal at peak times, and frail elderly residents will not be able to integrate with the community.

“This is an over development of the site and an intrusion into the countryside where no development has been previous years.”

Wendy Harvey, who also lives nearby, said: “When I bought my property nine years ago, we put a lot of thought into the location. I did not want a property that was overlooked by neighbours.

“If this huge development goes ahead, I will have no privacy whatsoever in my back, side or front gardens.

“I will never be able to enjoy a cup of tea in my garden in private, ever again. I strongly oppose this development. To put such a huge property on the site of one former residential house, which is neighboured by family homes, is shocking.”

Vale council planning officers are recommending that the committee approve the plans, due to the significant need for new care homes in the area. Planners also said the care home would create local jobs, and large trees would block views of the building from the road.

A survey has revealed the wide range of local concerns on plans to build hundreds of homes in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Welsh Government is planning on building 576 houses and flats on 60 acres of farmland just south of Penarth, next to Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.

Archaeologists have warned the plans would destroy medieval artefacts, and have criticised the plans to demolish a 400-year-old farmhouse.

Now a new survey has revealed people living in the area are also concerned about how the hundreds of new houses could increase congestion and pollution, and put pressure on local schools and public services.

The survey, conducted by Cardiff South and Penarth Liberal Democrats, was filled out by 154 people.

It revealed that 98 per cent believe the new houses would cause a “disruptive increase in traffic”; 84 per cent said the plans don’t sufficiently mitigate an increase in pollution from the extra traffic; and 85 per cent said the new 200-pupil school wouldn’t meet the increased need for places.

One respondent said: “Overcrowding, air pollution and an unsuitable plot make this area totally wrong for housing development — especially when worldwide we are endeavouring to be mindful of the damage the aforementioned poor practices produce.” 

Another said: “Environmentally, it’s a disaster. I run in this area and there is significant wildlife here. Also, every year there is always some flooding on Lavernock Road when a quick heavy downfall happens. If the green pastures can’t contain the rainfall, more concrete isn’t going to make it any better.”

A third said: “We need the countryside, and the area is already built up. There are too many cars on the road and too much pollution. There are plenty of disused industrial estates which people can use [instead]. Leave Cosmeston alone.”

While the public consultation on the plans has now ended, the Vale of Glamorgan council’s planning committee will soon consider whether to grant permission, during a public meeting. A date for that meeting has not yet been set.

At the time of writing, almost 5,000 have signed a petition to “save the farmland and green fields” at Cosmeston, urging the Welsh Government to withdraw their plans. If the petition receives 5,000 or more signatures, it could be debated in the Senedd.

Alex Wilson, Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth, said he started the survey to find out what the community thought about the housing development, before submitting a formal objection to the Vale council.

Mr Wilson said: “It wasn’t just a case of ‘we’re against it’. We wanted to find out the facts and go out to the community to ask them. We wanted to hear what people felt.”

A new chief constable of South Wales Police is set to be appointed.

Jeremy Vaughan has been nominated for the post following a detailed recruitment process led by the South Wales police and crime commissioner Alun Michael.

If approved by the South Wales Police and Crime Panel, Mr Vaughan will replace outgoing chief constable Matt Jukes, who has been appointed as assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Three candidates were short-listed and after going in front of three specialist panels and having a formal interview process, Mr Vaughan was chosen as the “stand out candidate” to succeed Mr Jukes.

In his report on the proposed new appointment, the South Wales police and crime commissioner Alun Michael said: “Despite the difficulties created by an unremitting period of tough financial cuts – and the financial challenges have not gone away – Matt Jukes has continued the journey aimed at developing South Wales Police into one of the leading forces in the UK, with a balance of high performance in responding to crime and supporting victims while intervening early and working with partners to prevent crime in the first place and create safe, confident communities across south Wales.”

Mr Vaughan is currently the deputy chief constable of the force and Mr Michael said the new chief constable will take the helm of a “fine police force” but that the “considerable and continuing” operational and financial challenges should not be underestimated.

Mr Michael said deciding who will lead South Wales Police for the coming years to succeed Matt Jukes is the “most important single decision that I have to take as the police and crime commissioner and it is important not only for the police service but for all the communities of south Wales.”

The annual salary of the chief constable is currently £162,840, with a review pending, and will be on an initial fixed term appointment for up to five years.

The police and crime panel will meet at 10am on Tuesday, November 3 to consider the appointment.

Councillors were accused of “speaking drivel” and being “full of s**t” according to the minutes from a Sully and Lavernock community council meeting.

The recently published official minutes show the depth of the rancour at Sully and Lavernock community council in the Vale of Glamorgan.

In a meeting held in September, the minute-taker detailed the insults councillors hurled at each other over Zoom, shortly before the meeting finished at 9.13pm.

The minute-taker wrote: “There was a general discussion which is not worth minuting. Some councillors were said to be speaking drivel.

“Others were said to be so full of s**t they would be well qualified to empty dog poo bins.

“A councillor was said to be a pain in the backside. One councillor was asked why he was always so angry.

“In short, it was not a productive use of time!”

Elsewhere during the meeting, the minutes reveal how a shoebox of cheques disappeared and one councillor was asked to resign after a vote of no confidence.

The shoebox contained cheques and paying-in stubs, but after it couldn’t be found, one councillor suggested contacting the police.

The minute-taker wrote: “Christopher asks Ian where a shoebox of cheques and paying-in stubs have gone. He has searched for them twice. Other councillors have also searched. Where are they?

“There was some discussion about when the shoebox was last seen, where it was seen, who had access to the office. Ian suggests getting the clerk to search the office or referring the matter to the police.”

Later one councillor lost a vote of confidence and was asked to resign but refused.

The minute-taker wrote: “Ian Barlow leaves the meeting at 8.07pm preceding a vote of no confidence and a motion asking for resignation.

“Ian declares an interest and states: ‘I was elected by hundreds of people and have no intention of resigning. I will now leave the meeting and see you in October.’”

The chairman, the council and councillors were approached for comment.

A power plant planned for Splott, Cardiff, would burn 75,000 tonnes of virgin timber from Latvia if plans go ahead.

The plans for the power plant have been slammed by environmental campaigners who claimed burning wood emits more carbon than coal.

The Parc Calon Gwyrdd biomass plant at Rover Way was granted planning permission from Cardiff council in June 2018. But as construction work has not yet begun, the plant operator has applied to renew permission.

The council is consulting the public on their views on the planned plant until Friday, October 16.

According to the plans, the 12,000 square metre power plant would generate 9.5 megawatts of energy. The plant would generate both electricity and heat, for use in a future heat network across the city.

The plans stated that virgin timber, “possibly from Latvia”, would be shipped to either Liverpool or Felixstowe before being carried on trains or lorries to the power plant in Splott.

If approved, the plant would burn around 75,000 tonnes of wood each year, generating 7,500 tonnes of ash.

Friends of the Earth Cardiff is campaigning against the plans, and petitioning the council to refuse to renew planning permission.

The campaigners claimed that burning wood emits more carbon dioxide than coal, and also produces unhealthy levels of air pollution.

Gareth Ludkin, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Burning biomass is not a ‘clean’ or ‘green’ energy resource and emits just as much carbon dioxide as fossil fuels.

“Generating a unit of energy from wood emits between three per cent and 50 per cent more carbon dioxide upfront than generating it from coal.

“Whether burning virgin wood pellets or waste wood — often imported from abroad to meet demand — planting trees in their place does not effectively balance carbon dioxide emissions while there are already clean and renewable energy sources available.

“It takes decades for a tree to grow and absorb the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted through the burning of the original tree.”

While no information about the company behind Parc Calon Gwyrdd is readily available, architects who designed the plans gave details in the design and access statement.

Architects from Downs Merrifield said: “The power station will be a cornerstone for the production of green energy and be the heart of a proposed ‘green quarter’ for Cardiff — supplying both electric and thermal energy for future developments.

“Biomass power plants are considered a low to zero carbon method of power generation on the basis that the fuel comes from sustainable sources or utilises recycling wood products.”

Earlier in September, Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked the Viridor incinerator at Trident Park, Splott, protesting against similar plans to build a commercial waste incinerator in Wentloog.

The Môr Hafren power plant, Newlands Road, is currently applying for planning permission from the Welsh Government. If built, the plant would burn 200,000 tonnes of waste each year and generate 15 megawatts of electricity.

A plea has been made to rethink Cardiff’s multi-million pound plan to build a huge indoor arena amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.

As coronavirus and social distancing could prevent concerts and conferences from taking place for a long time to come, councillors have questioned whether now is the right time to have another look at building the 15,000-seater arena at Cardiff Bay.

But Cardiff council insisted the arena would bring jobs and investment into the city, and a recession is the right time to spend on infrastructure.

Liberal Democrat councillor Rodney Berman said: “We’re a bit worried the administration may be burying its head in the sand and pretending nothing has changed. Our circumstances have changed more than at any time in my lifetime.”

He was speaking during a public meeting of the full council on Thursday, September 24, as opposition councillors proposed the rethink as part of the budget strategy for next year.

Cllr Berman said: “Is it sensible to make the same assumptions we made a year or two ago? While we all hope the economy may return to something more normal in the not too distant future, we don’t know when that will be.

Do we know to what extent organisations will want to undertake large scale conferences going forward? Do we know what the market for such conferences will be? Surely it makes sense to re-examine the business case underpinning the proposals for the indoor arena.

“We all hope the market for concerts will return. But will it return to the same extent for conferences? Let’s look again and see if the business case stacks up.”

Last week, council bosses revealed that a developer for the arena will be chosen in the “next couple of months”. More details on how the arena could look will then be revealed after the chosen developer applies for planning permission.

As part of the arena plans, the council bought the Red Dragon Centre leisure complex earlier this year for £60 million.

Conservative councillor Joel Williams said: “It’s unfortunate, the timing of that acquisition, because you don’t have to be an economist to discover that it’s likely the value of the Red Dragon Centre has plummeted.

“That leaves the council exposed to potentially millions of pounds of bad debt. I think it’s right the council pauses and considers stock and re-evaluates its position. Yes, we all want to see ambitious projects delivered in our city.

“But it’s wrong that the council seems to be borrowing an awful lot of money, and we know that money is insured by council tax payers here in Cardiff. Before we proceed with the ‘Russell Goodway conference centre’, it’s time to reconsider whether this is the right approach.”

But the Labour administration insisted during a recession is “exactly the time” to invest in ambitious infrastructure projects, and ridiculed the idea the pandemic means the “end of live music”.

Peter Bradbury, cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: “We need to be giving a signal to the music industry to those promoters and to those hard working musicians, who have not had any support from the UK government and very little from the Welsh government.

“They have been massively hit by Covid-19 and we need to be making a signal to them that we’re going forward.

“During an economic crisis is exactly the time, as a Keynesian economist, when you put money into infrastructure projects to create jobs, wealth and the very prosperity and GDP this country so badly needs.”

Russell Goodway, cabinet member for investment and development, said: “There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest the value of that piece of real estate has declined. In fact, we know real estate in Cardiff has gone up during the pandemic.

“I don’t want to just hope for an economic recovery. I’m going to work for one. I’m going to back those projects that are most likely to bring in investment to the city.

“If councillors are suggesting that all around the world, we are seeing the end of live music in centres like the arena, then all I can say is Cardiff could become the centre of live music from across the world if we have the ambition and courage to take this project forward.”

The arena is due to open in 2023, and would be double the size of the Motorpoint, the current largest indoor arena in Cardiff.

People in Cardiff could soon be restricted from leaving the city if cases continue to rise over the weekend, the city’s council leader has warned.

The city is on the verge of entering the Welsh Government’s “red zone” as the infection rate has shot up this week.

The number of cases per 100,000 population now stands at 38.2, while 3.8 per cent of tests are positive. Hospital emergency department attendance has also risen sharply in the last week, after a “fairly stable rate” during the end of August and early September.

Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff council, said: “As we have seen over the past week, the situation can change quickly.

“If case numbers continue to rise over the weekend there is a very real possibility that Cardiff will enter into the Welsh Government’s ‘red zone.’

“If that were to happen then I fully expect that we will be proposing further restrictions, as we have seen elsewhere in the city region and potentially doing so at speed.

“This might include restrictions on household meetings and on travel outside of Cardiff.”

Evidence from contact tracers suggests that in Cardiff the virus is mostly spreading within households – where family bubble rules are being breached and where people are mixing inside homes.

Council chief Cllr Thomas also warned the age profile of people testing positive is now changing, with a “significant rise” in people aged 35 to 50 now testing positive.

Earlier this week, restrictions were enforced on care home visits in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

Local lockdowns are now enforced in several areas bordering Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan: Newport, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf, and Bridgend.

Cllr Thomas said: “My message to the people of Cardiff is that we must all recommit ourselves to the public health guidelines and redouble our efforts in order to protect our families, our friends, and ourselves from harm.

“These are worrying times so let’s be there for each other and do right by one and another.”

Responding to the announcement, Andrew RT Davies, shadow health minister for the Welsh Conservatives, said: “A blanket lockdown of our capital city really isn’t local, and if such a decision is imminent, it’s incumbent on the Welsh Labour Government to bring forward a package of financial support for the many businesses (particularly hospitality) that will be devastated by the news.”

Cllr Adrian Robson, leader of the Conservative group on Cardiff council, said: “In my opinion, it’s just days to a Cardiff local lockdown. Please wash your hands, social distance and only travel if needed.”

Cllr Rhys Taylor, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Cardiff council, said he had asked for “assurances on measures from the city’s universities and capacity in the track and trace system to respond to an increase in the city’s population”.

Attempts to restore local democracy in the Vale of Glamorgan were left in shambles as the council’s first full virtual meeting suffered from “ludicrous” feedback.

The Vale of Glamorgan council attempted to hold its first full council meeting via video-conferencing technology on Monday, September 21.

But councillors complained that excessively loud feedback and echoes left it impossible to understand what others were saying.

General confusion about the voting process also hampered efforts of one of the key parts of local democracy, while some votes were recorded incorrectly.

The Vale council’s IT department was slammed, as other councils and organisations across the country have coped with the switch to new technology, allowing people to socially distance and meet virtually.

But six months after regulations allowing councils to hold public meetings remotely came into force, the Vale council is still struggling to adapt to the new necessary technology.

During the full council meeting, council leader Neil Moore repeatedly stopped talking to highlight the issue of the echo and the feedback.

Cllr Moore said: “There’s terrible feedback. Can I just stop for a second, please, I’m sorry but this is giving me a headache.

“I don’t know what’s happened there but it seems to have gone away a little bit.

“Somebody’s left their microphone on, this is ridiculous. Could somebody please turn their bloody microphone off?

“I’m not sure whether somebody is sabotaging this. But it’s absolutely ludicrous. I think there’s someone on the phone who isn’t on mute causing the massive feedback.”

Other councillors were left shaking their heads at the feedback and echo, and quickly yanking out headphones.

During one vote on changes to how many councillors represent different parts of the Vale, Cllr Kevin Mahoney raised his concerns about how the technology problems were impacting the voting process. He was then forced to leave the meeting.

Cllr Mahoney said: “I have got to stop the whole thing here. You’ve totally and utterly ignored what was agreed if you wanted to speak. I have been stopped from speaking. I have carried out the exact request, and not been called to speak.

“I can’t hear anything. Neil Moore is sounding like a very poor Norman Collier. How can anybody vote if they can’t hear what’s going on?”

Questions were raised why the council has taken so long to adapt to the new technology needed for public meetings.

Cllr Leighton Rowlands said: “The regulations for remote meetings came in April. The first meeting at the Vale council was in July. 16 meetings since then have been carried out virtually.

“Why has the council taken nearly six months to sort out its members’ IT equipment? Why is the Vale council not able to sort out virtual meetings? You have had enough time to plan this. The community councils are doing better than us.”

The council has been using a program called GoToWebinar to meet virtually, but will switch to using Microsoft Teams in November.

Council leader Moore said: “I don’t like this platform. I usually use Teams, which is stable and secure, and I wish we were using it. And we will be using it as from November.

“I accept it has taken longer than necessary, but unfortunately we are where we are.”

Plans to build the long-awaited Dinas Powys bypass have been delayed once again as no funding can be found.

Details of how transport could be improved in the village were due to be revealed in spring this year.

But this has now been pushed back by the Vale of Glamorgan council until November, as finding funding for the improvements is proving difficult.

In November, the council will set out the business case to the Welsh Government, in a process called the Welsh transport appraisal guidance (WelTAG).

Peter King, cabinet member for neighbourhood services and transport, said: “The ‘WelTAG stage two plus’ report for improvements to transport in Dinas Powys, including consideration of the bypass, is due to be presented to cabinet in November this year.”

He was updating councillors during a public meeting of the full council on September 21, on the plans for the Dinas bypass and the problems finding funding.

Cllr King said: “In respect of the active travel route between Barry and Dinas Powys, the council made a funding bid to the Welsh Government for this fiscal year, in order to progress this key active travel scheme.

“The bid to Welsh Government comprised a request for funding to take a detailed topographical survey costing £50,000; further ground investigation work costing £60,000; and a public stakeholder consultation costing about £1,000.

“Unfortunately the scheme wasn’t prioritised for funding by Welsh Government this year. As and when the opportunity rises, I will continue to seek funding for the scheme, which forms an important active travel link for this council.”

But as the population of Dinas Powys is set to grow rapidly, questions were raised about why it has taken so long for the council to get the transport projects off the ground.

Cllr Ian Johnson said: “There’s going to be a 20 per cent increase of the population in Dinas Powys. There’s lots of development and not a lot of infrastructure. The active travel route was part of the 2015 local transport plan, with a due finish date of 2020.

“It’s not beyond the wit of cabinet to allocate the funding towards that project, to kick start it. Will you do it?”

Responding, Cllr King said: “If any opportunity rises, we will certainly make further progress, because it’s a route that I’m particularly keen to see completed. It’s an integral part of the matrix that needs making up. So rest assured, when any opportunity rises, we will do it.”

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