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Alex Seabrook

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

A decision is due on whether plans for 240 homes on land South of Ffordd Bro Tathan, should be given planning approval.

The Welsh Government is applying for planning permission to build the 240 homes on two sites of farmland to the east of the town, just south of the newly built Northern Access Road.

The Vale of Glamorgan council’s planning committee will vote on Wednesday, February 24, on whether to approve planning permission.

The two sites sit South of Ffordd Bro Tathan access road

But locals living nearby are objecting to the plans because of the loss of open countryside and increasing burden on local infrastructure.

The plans are split across two parts: a western site of 7.9 hectares with 140 homes, adjacent to the B4265; and an eastern site of 4.3 hectares with 100 homes, north of Bethesda’r Fro Church. About 35 per cent of the planned homes will be affordable.

Both sites would be accessed off of the Northern Access Road, also known as Fford Bro Tathan. This new road was built in 2018 and 2019, running from the B4265 north of Boverton to the St Athan enterprise zone and Aston Martin factory.

The development is split across two sites, south of Ffordd Bro Tathan

Llantwit Major town council is objecting to the two applications because of the potential  impact on local infrastructure, like schools, doctors and car parking. Hundreds of other new houses are also planned for the wider area and the town is quickly growing in size.

A spokesman for the town council said: “There are up to 1,000 new residential houses built in Llantwit Major and the surrounding area over the coming few years.

“The local schools in Llantwit Major are already reaching their capacity. The town council has concerns that this development could cause overcrowding within the local schools.”

Llanmaes community council is also objecting to the plans, because of the loss of open countryside, extra demand on struggling sewers, impact on local infrastructure, flood risk, and concerns around local wildlife and archaeological remains.

The clerk for the community council said: “Building an additional 240 houses in open countryside will extend the boundary of the village and will have a detrimental effect on the rural aspect of Llanmaes, as well as being out of proportion to the size of the village.

“The current sewerage and foul water system in the village is insufficient and causes overflow problems on an annual basis. An additional 240 houses will considerably overburden the system.”

Both sites are included in the Vale of Glamorgan’s local development plan and will help the council meet its target of getting 9,460 new homes built between 2011 and 2026.

Planning consultants WYG, working on the applications, said: “The vision is to create an attractive new neighbourhood, combining the charm and character of Vale of Glamorgan villages with contemporary best practice in design and architecture.

“A new community will benefit from living in a location which is well-connected to local commercial centres as well as the south Wales countryside and coastline.”

A letter signed by 163 “senior clinicians” is calling for the new Velindre cancer hospital to be built at the Heath instead of in Whitchurch.

The new Velindre Cancer Centre is planned on land known locally as the Northern Meadows, scrubland popular with walkers in northwest Cardiff.

But the letter addressed to the health minister Vaughan Gething says building the cancer hospital next to the University Hospital of Wales would be safer for patients.

It is unclear who signed the letter, which was revealed after a freedom of information request, as the signatures were redacted.

The letter, sent last month, said: “As a large group of clinicians who are all specialists in the diagnosis, treatment and care of cancer patients in southeast Wales, we recognise the pressing need to address the ageing facilities of the Velindre Cancer Centre in north Cardiff.

“Co-location with an acute hospital would provide safer acute in-patient care, improve support from other specialities, create a better base for research and be in line with best practice elsewhere.”

The new hospital is set to replace the current 60-year-old centre in Whitchurch. Velindre says the massive £180 million investment will improve the quality and safety of care and enhance the patient experience.

Campaigners Save the Northern Meadows have previously raised concerns about the environmental impacts of building a hospital on the meadows — land which is owned by Cardiff & Vale UHB but is used often by members of the public for walking.

Adding another aspect to the debate is the medical question of whether it’s best to treat cancer patients at a separate site or next to a large existing acute hospital.

The 163 clinicians who signed the letter did not want to be named publicly, according to Save the Northern Meadows, for fear of bullying.

In the letter, the clinicians added: “We are convinced there is an opportunity to integrate existing plans for the Velindre Cancer Centre new-build with those for a reconfigured University Hospital Wales.”

Velindre is planning to open the new hospital in 2024. The hospital already has planning permission from Cardiff council. But the next step is getting approval from the Welsh Government, which means the health minister signing off the outline business case.

After that, construction work on the new hospital is scheduled to begin next year.

Much of the debate around the medical question centres on a report carried out by the Nuffield Trust, an independent think tank.

The Nuffield report, published last December, gave advice on the clinical model underpinning the major proposed changes to cancer services offered by Velindre.

The changes include delivering more care in patient’s homes, creating new sites across south-east Wales including a radiotherapy centre in Abergavenny, and building the new hospital on the Northern Meadows.

The report found that co-locating the new hospital at the UHW “would have advantages, but is not practical for some considerable time”, while cancer services in the region need to improve urgently and the current hospital is “not fit for purpose”.

It recommended focusing care at the new hospital on outpatients, while inpatients at risk of “major escalation” should be treated elsewhere, like at the UHW. Overall, the report said the plans Velindre is suggesting “represents a reasonable way forward”.

A joint statement from Velindre and three health boards — Aneurin Bevan, Cardiff & Vale and Cwm Taf Morgannwg — backed the findings of the Nuffield report.

The statement said: “We fully support the Nuffield Trust’s comprehensive and expert report on the future of non-surgical oncology in south-east Wales. We are working together to ensure that all the recommendations are taken forward.

“The Nuffield Trust’s process allowed for a broad range of views to be heard by interviewing a range of clinicians from Velindre and surrounding health services, patients and their representatives including hosting open access sessions for Velindre staff, reviewing papers from working groups, individual testimonies and letters from patients and staff.

“We are fully committed to working together to deliver excellent cancer treatment and care for patients across south-east Wales in partnership with our staff, patients and healthcare colleagues.”

A new supermarket and car park is planned on the site of a 200-year-old livestock market in Cowbridge.

The Cowbridge livestock market was recently shut down and demolished by the Vale of Glamorgan council.

The council said many people travel out of Cowbridge to shop for groceries, so a car park and a supermarket would help the town’s economy.

However local farmers are still waiting for a replacement livestock market — promised by the Vale council years ago — but which hasn’t yet appeared.

The Vale cabinet voted on Monday, January 8, to sell the land at the Butts, where the former livestock market used to be.

Deputy council leader Lis Burnett said: “People travel outside of Cowbridge down to Bridgend or to Culverhouse Cross to do large food shops. We want to retain that spend in the town centre.

“[There is] ongoing work with the associated ‘agri-hub’ concept to serve the farming industry in the Vale of Glamorgan. Discussions continue with farming stakeholders and other interesting parties in how we can develop and establish an ‘agri-hub’.”

The land is owned by the council and will be marketed to developers as a potential site for “food retail use”, including a public car park.

But locals in the town are angry about how the Vale council closed the livestock market without replacing it. The closure means farmers must travel as far as Brecon or Carmarthen to sell sheep — with any profits eaten up by the expensive petrol costs of travelling so far.

Russell Spencer-Downe, deputy mayor of Cowbridge, said: “There’s a lot of anger in the town. We have been a market town for over 750 years.”

He pointed to a study carried out in 2018 by consultants commissioned by the Vale council, looking at replacing and upgrading the existing livestock market.

The report by Per Consulting said: “Importantly, any new facility needs to be developed before the existing market closes, or risk losing the relationship with farmers who will be forced to find new outlets for their stock.

“If no livestock market was to be provided locally, producers would incur additional costs and face longer journey times in transporting animals and increased time away from the farm, a particular issue for some small producers who also maintain other part-time work as well.

“Furthermore, as farmers disperse across a potential range of alternative locations, the local social networks, potential for informal support and familiarity with each other will undoubtedly be eroded leading to further isolation and wider social challenges within the rural and farming community.”

But the market shut down last summer and was demolished in the autumn.

Deputy mayor Spencer-Downe said: “They ignored the study. The closure has been terrible for the people who used it. The council eroded the market slowly over the last 15 years, taking their livelihood away from them.

“People would like to see a cheaper supermarket here, but not on that site. But it’s not about that: it’s about how it’s been done, and the principle of it. There’s a lot of very upset people in Cowbridge. It’s heartbreaking because they don’t listen to us.

“It affects the town because it’s our identity. [A market town] is what we are; what we have been for 750 years. The Vale council promised a new market just outside the town, but where has that gone?”

Nicola Thomas is a local farmer and says she has “heard nothing” about the proposed ‘agri-hub’ supposed to replace the livestock market.

She said: “The market has been there all my life and long before it. There used to be pigs and cattle, but they gradually whittled it down to just sheep. They let it die.

“They’re stopping everything that brings character and attractions about Cowbridge. They want to turn us into a Cardiff city suburb. Cowbridge is going to lose its rural character. Everything is getting urbanised. The town is going to completely change.”

Ms Thomas has 40 sheep which she keeps to follow on behind her cattle. She takes only about six lambs to market at a time — but can’t justify the cost of driving to markets in Brecon, Raglan or Carmarthen, now that the Cowbridge market has closed.

She added: “They’re taking my livelihood away. I’m very angry about it. The market was the centre of Cowbridge, it was the community. It would draw tremendous people from all over the UK who would come here. Now all they want to do is sell the land to a supermarket.”

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is set to have offered Covid jabs to the first four priority groups by the end of the week.

So far, the health board has vaccinated 87,990 people. The third mass vaccination centre opened in Barry this week, in addition to the two centres at Pentwyn and Splott.

The first four priority groups include all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, all those aged 70 or over, frontline health and social workers, and clinically extremely vulnerable people.

Now people in those groups living in Cardiff or the Vale, who have not yet been contacted for a vaccine appointment, are urged to come forward and contact Cardiff & Vale UHB to get their jabs.

A health board spokesperson said: “Our GP practices have been instrumental in delivering the vaccine to our priority groups of people aged 75 and over and are also on course to have completed these by the weekend.

“Our mobile vaccination teams have attended all adult care homes across the region and are now visiting housebound patients who are 70 and over and clinically extremely vulnerable this week.

“Any patients that are in the top four priority groups that have not yet been contacted for an appointment we would ask them to please get in touch so we can ensure they receive their vaccine before Sunday if they want it.”

Priority group five is all those aged 65 or over, while priority group six is all those aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions putting them at higher risk of serious disease or death.

The health board is now booking appointments for group five to attend their GP practice and group six to attend one of the three mass vaccination centres from February 15.

The spokesperson added: “We would ask these groups to remain patient while we send out invitations to them.”

After reports on social media raised concerns of queues lasting an hour,  people going to mass vaccination centres are advised to wrap up warm and to turn up no more than five minutes before their appointment time, to prevent long queues.

“Huge uncertainty” remains on how the coronavirus pandemic will hit the Vale of Glamorgan council finances next year.

Council leader Neil Moore said there was “no guarantee” that the Welsh Government would continue helping the council fund the cost of dealing with Covid-19.

The Vale council is preparing to set its budget for the next financial year, beginning in April, when a council tax increase of 3.9 per cent is expected. The cabinet met on Monday, February 8 to agree the budget proposals, which will likely be signed off on March 10.

The Welsh Government has so far funded much of the extra cost and lost income faced by councils because of the pandemic. But during the cabinet meeting, Cllr Moore warned it was unclear whether that financial support would continue.

He said: “We still don’t know whether or not the pandemic will continue after the new financial year. I think it will. And we are still unclear as to whether or not we will get the support that we’re currently having from Welsh Government.

“Thus far, funding has been received from Welsh Government for this year to help support this financial impact.

“However, there is huge uncertainty as to how the picture will develop over the coming months, and therefore it’s very difficult to provide predictions for the coming year and beyond.

“The assumptions are that any ongoing financial impact on council services from Covid in the coming year will be supported by Welsh Government. But there is no guarantee.

“We still have a long way to go. There are still many, many pressures upon us.”

In December, the Welsh Government announced the financial settlement given to each council across Wales for the next financial year. The Vale of Glamorgan received an increase in its settlement of 4.9 per cent — much higher than expected.

But as many of the day-to-day costs the council has to pay are also increasing, the Vale council is still facing a budget shortfall. This means to balance the books, council tax will go up, and a target of £500,000 savings from the budget will be made next year.

Cllr Moore said: “We have taken into account the fact that we have a better settlement than previously thought. But we still have those massive cost pressures and we still have to make those savings, so we’re proposing a 3.9 per cent council tax increase.”

Council finances are split between two budgets: revenue and capital. Revenue means spending on day-to-day public services, while capital means investing in longer term upgrades, like building new schools.

The Vale council plans to invest £249 million in its five-year capital budget. This includes £480,000 on road resurfacing, £136 million on new school buildings, as well as money on flood prevention, decarbonising housing, and the economic recovery after the pandemic.

The council tax increase and budget proposals have not yet been confirmed. Councillors will debate and likely approve the budget during a full council meeting on March 10.

A decision is due in April on whether to press ahead with plans to build a controversial new road in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The proposed road would link Junction 34 on the M4 with Sycamore Cross on the A48, and would cost more than £66 million.

The plans have drawn heavy criticism from villagers in Pendoylan whose houses would be knocked down, cyclists using key routes across the Vale which could be blocked off, and Coed Cymru which has warned ancient woodland would be felled to make way for the road.

After a public consultation on the road lasting several months, the Vale of Glamorgan council has now revealed a decision on progressing the project is due in April. Campaigners have renewed their calls on the council to drop the plans for the road altogether.

A Vale of Glamorgan council spokesperson said: “Bids have been made to Welsh Government for funding for this scheme under the Local Transport Fund but not for WelTAG Stage 3. Information on these bids should soon be available on the council website.

“Responses received as part of the consultation exercise, which closed on December 23, have been mixed and a full report on the views expressed is currently being compiled.

“A technical review group will meet in March to consider the consultation, followed by a report to cabinet the following month. This report will determine if the project is to progress.”

WelTAG Stage 3 means the Vale council writing up a full business case for the new road, and forms part of the process for applying for funding from the Welsh Government. If the council goes ahead with the road, this stage would likely involve choosing a preferred route.

Campaigners are claiming the public consultation received thousands of objections, and are calling on the Vale to drop the plans to build the new road.

A spokesperson for Vale Communities for Future Generations said: “The thousands of objections to this road scheme received from a wide range of interest groups will hopefully help Vale councillors understand that their road scheme is viewed as outdated and that the world has moved on since 2017 when it was first proposed.

“Certainly, the credibility of the Vale Labour-led council will be questioned if this scheme is not formally and permanently cancelled — due not least to both the Vale council’s and the Welsh Government’s commitment in 2019 to reducing the causes of climate change.

“The council has already spent £1.45 million on a severely flawed consultation process for this road proposal.

“We now need to see their determination to permanently halt any further spending on such a destructive road scheme that would damage the environment; pollute clean air; reduce leisure access for cyclists, walkers and visitors; and cost a huge amount of public money.

“It would not be acceptable to simply postpone further developments or stages of this scheme. We need to see closure and the road scheme cancelled.

“Hopefully Vale council officers and their consultants, having analysed and published the thousands of objections, will soon recommend to councillors and to the Vale cabinet that the M4–A48 road link scheme be scrapped.”

South Wales Police is proposing to increase the money it takes from taxes by an inflation busting 5.5%.

Proposals set to go before the South Wales Police and Crime Panel on Wednesday, February 3 are recommending the increase of £1.25 a month in the police precept for Band D properties.

The proposals include a revenue budget for 2021/2022 of £327.9 million and a capital programme for 2021/22 of £43.7 million including the use of £7.9 million of capital reserves.

The report set to go before the panel highlights that a majority of council tax payers in most of the force’s local authority areas will pay much less than this such as 87% of households in Merthyr Tydfil which will pay less than this.

The total police precept on council tax in 2021/2022 would be worth £144.2 million if the proposals are approved.

Here’s what the increase in precept will mean for each area of the force

  • Cardiff would pay around £42.5 million with £147,794 coming from Band D properties
  • Swansea would be the next largest contributor paying £27 million with £94,051 coming from Band D properties
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf would contribute £22.2 million with £77,917.81 coming from Band D properties
  • The Vale of Glamorgan would pay £17.6 million with £61,412 coming from Band D properties
  • Bridgend would contribute £15.6 million with £54,329.46 coming from Band D properties
  • Neath Port Talbot would pay £13.8 million with £48,163.46 coming from Band D properties
  • And Merthyr Tydfil would contribute £5.3 million with £8,430.74 coming from Band D properties

This would mean Band A properties each paying a police precept of £191.81, B paying £223.78, C paying £255.75, D paying £287.72, E paying £351.65, F paying £415.59, G paying £479.53, H paying £575.43 and I paying £671.34

The inflationary and other cost pressures that South Wales Police normally faces are worth £12 million but for 2021/2022 the pay freeze will reduce the amount to £7.5 million.

The Home Office has provided a flat-cash settlement, with no allowance for inflation for the current South Wales Police infrastructure and this puts pressure on the precept increase in order to produce a balanced
budget for the year, the report said.

The report also said that the Home Office has also given “flexibility” to police and crime commissioners in England to increase the precept by £15 for a Band D property, without the need for a local referendum.

For South Wales Police, this equates to a 5.5% increase which the report said recognises the fact that that the proposed settlement, including the increase in the precept and on the back of 40% real terms cut in police grant funding since 2010, is “essential just to maintain current levels of provision.”

Alun Michael the police and crime commissioner for South Wales said in the report: “I have weighed up all the relevant issues and the significant risks, balanced with the need to both protect and be fair to the taxpayers of South Wales, before coming to my proposal of a £1.25 per month increase per Band D properties in line with Home Office announcements. This will ensure a balanced budget.

“Our council tax property analysis shows that 68% of the residents in the South Wales Police area are below Band D and the majority would pay between 19 pence and 26 pence extra per week, excluding receipt of any council tax discounts or benefits.

“It is important to note that South Wales Police will continue to have below average cost for policing in Wales in terms of Band D property and is mid table in terms of percentage of precept to budget, across England and Wales.”

A public apology has been made by a former councillor who was given an election ban for violent Facebook posts.

Phil Baguley, who stepped down from Sully and Lavernock community council last September, was recently disqualified from standing again for 15 months.

Three Facebook posts, “promoting violence” against three female MPs, led to his temporary ban by the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

Now the former councillor has publicly apologised for the posts and said he has “learned a valuable lesson”.

Mr Baguley said: “I would like to issue a public apology for the hurt and offence which may have been caused by the comments I made on my private Facebook page.

“Anyone who knows me will confirm I am not remotely sexist or racist. What I am is very passionate in my beliefs and I have made the mistake of making comments whilst feeling very upset about a particular issue and am now aware that my tone is aggressive and offensive.

“I can confirm wholeheartedly that I never wanted these comments to be taken literally and anyone who knows me will confirm this is the way I speak. I have learned I need to think much more about the true message that I intend to say before saying it and have learned a valuable lesson.

“Whilst I have learned a lesson I have also realised that I never want to get involved in local politics again. Once again I wish to apologise for any harm I have caused.”

Schools in the Vale of Glamorgan continue to receive hundreds of pounds less of funding per pupil compared to schools in Cardiff.

For the current financial year, the delegated schools budget means schools in the Vale receive £4,496 per pupil, compared to £4,981 in Cardiff — a difference of £485.

The difference used to be starker: £547 last year, and £500 the year before that. But now renewed calls have been made to fund schools in the Vale more fairly.

Matt Smith, Conservative Senedd candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan, has called for more funding to go towards schools in the Vale.

He said: “The Welsh Labour government has prioritised Cardiff and other areas they think more important, even with a Welsh Labour MS representing us for over 20 years. Frankly, it is insulting.”

This year, Cardiff received the third most funding for its schools in the delegated schools budget, behind Denbighshire and Blaenau Gwent.

The amount received by the Vale of Glamorgan however is fourth from the bottom of the table, ahead of Flintshire, Caerphilly and Newport.

Mr Smith added: “I will work with residents and families in the Vale of Glamorgan to get the funding it deserves from the Welsh Government, and make sure that we are not put to the back of the queue.

“At this year’s Senedd election, a vote for me will mean a vote to ensure that you and your families will get the funding that is deserved. And to ensure your children receive a properly funded education.

“And to know that by simply living within the Vale you are not receiving less per person than if you lived in Cardiff”.

A row over school funding broke out in 2018 when the previous leader of the Vale council, John Thomas, wrote to parents in the district as well as Kirsty Williams, the education secretary.

Cllr Thomas said then that the formula used to calculate the level of funding each local authority receives is based on out-of-date information gathered in the 1991 census.

The Vale of Glamorgan is a key swing seat in the upcoming Senedd elections in May. In the last election, in 2016, Labour won a slender majority of just 777 votes, with the Tories coming in second. Labour MS Jane Hutt has represented the area since 1999.

A former councillor has been temporarily banned from standing for election after posting on Facebook calling for the killing of three politicians.

Phil Baguley stepped down from Sully and Lavernock community council last September, but has been disqualified from standing again for 15 months.

His ban, by the Adjudication Panel for Wales, was previously reported earlier in January, but the contents of the three posts which were found to breach the code of conduct were then not yet known.

Now, a new report into the ban has revealed Mr Baguley publicly called on Facebook for the killing of three female MPs: Yvette Cooper, Anna Soubry and Diane Abbott.

Responding to an article about Yvette Cooper, Mr Baguley said: “This b*tch is driving remain when the people of her constituency overwhelmingly voted out. A traitorous cow and I hope she ends up with a noose around her neck.”

Posting an article about Shamima Begum, a British-born woman who went to Syria aged 15 to join the Islamic State, Mr Baguley said: “I hope she does carry out some atrocity; Anna Soubry would be my chosen target.”

Commenting on a video of Diane Abbott, Mr Baguley said: “F*cking idiot! Get me a gun please.”

The three posts were made between January and March 2019, while the Adjudication Panel made the decision to ban Mr Baguley in December 2020. The 15-month disqualification begins from that decision, so he can stand again in next year’s local elections in May 2022.

In a statement, Mr Baguley said he stands by the comments he made on Facebook, claiming it was not sexist to call for the death of three female MPs.

He said: “I stand by my comments and I do have a deep and historic dislike for the Labour party and its MPs; in particular their attempts to derail Brexit and their failure to represent the traditional Labour areas who voted primarily for Brexit.

“I would also point out that the posts were neither sexist or racist, which is what the original complainant (anonymous) claimed and I will take legal action against anyone claiming they are.

“I want a life ban, not 15 months, and never ever want to be a part of Sully and Lavernock community council, as it’s a dysfunctional and toxic council which provides nothing for the community.”

The report revealing the content of the Facebook posts was published ahead of a meeting of the Vale of Glamorgan council’s standards committee, on Thursday, January 28.

Writing to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, who referred the case to the Adjudication Panel, Mr Baguley said he agreed his comments about hoping Ms Cooper would be hanged “were a bit strong”.

He added the comments about a gun and Ms Abbott were supposed to mean: “I would rather turn a gun on myself rather than listen to her.” He also said he thought the posts were private, not public.

The Adjudication Panel found the comments “went far beyond what could reasonably be considered to be political expression … and were inflammatory and an expression of views which were extreme, threatening in nature and promoted violence towards individuals.

“The comments could not be dignified by the description of political expression. The comments were personal, disturbing and gratuitous verbal attacks, not political expression.

“The Case Tribunal concluded that the three Facebook posts were so egregious, inflammatory and violent, that they offended against all notions of peace, safety, decency and democracy within society.”

The panel added the 15-month ban was needed to “maintain confidence in local democracy”. They said Mr Baguley was “unfit for public office” and needed to “reflect on his conduct before contemplating re-entering local politics”.

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