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Ben Dain-Smith

Ben Dain-Smith presents Vale Drive and writes online content for Bro Radio. You can email Ben at: ben.dain-smith@broradio.fm

The recently-re-elected First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, will today confirm that the country will move into Alert Level Two as of Monday 17th May, as coronavirus rates stay low and vaccination rates remain the best in the UK.

It was also announced earlier this week that, from the same date, indoor hospitality businesses and indoor entertainment venues will be able to re-open, and there will be an increase in the number of people able to attend organised indoor and outdoor activities.

In his address today, the First Minister will also confirm the resumption of international travel from Monday, with extra safeguards put in place for people returning from some countries to prevent coronavirus re-entering Wales.

These safeguards will come in the form of a traffic light system, aligned with England and Scotland, where countries will be classified as Green, Amber or Red. Travel to countries given Green classification will not result in a period of quarantine, whereas visitors to foreign destinations not on the Green list will still be mandated to self-isolate following their return.

Additionally, from Monday 24th May, a paper-based vaccination status will be available for people in Wales who have had two doses of vaccination and need to urgently travel to a country that requires covid vaccination proof, however, the Welsh Government continues to advise people to only travel abroad for essential purposes.

Delivering the news of Wales’ imminent move to Alert Level Two, First Minister Mark Drakeford will say:

“Thanks to everyone’s hard work and ongoing efforts, we can take another step towards relaxing the coronavirus restrictions and move to alert level two on Monday.

“Indoor hospitality will be able to reopen, a move that will be welcomed by many of us as we look forward to enjoying a drink, a meal and the company of friends and family in a café or pub.

“By sticking with the rules and our successful vaccine programme, we are making really good progress in controlling the virus and keeping rates low.

“But the pandemic isn’t over – the new, so-called Indian variant of concern is another unwanted twist in this pandemic, which we are monitoring closely.”  

Amongst the announcements earlier this week, the Welsh Government also shared news of further financial support for businesses still affected by coronavirus restrictions. These businesses will be able to claim up to £25,000 more in support to help meet ongoing costs. The announcement was the first to be made by the incoming government and was the first phase of a £200m package earmarked to help businesses affected by the pandemic.

The changes to the coronavirus restrictions, which will come into force from Monday 17 May include:

  • Indoor hospitality can re-open – six people from up to six households (not including children under 11) can book;
  • All holiday accommodation can re-open fully;
  • Entertainment venues, including cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor-play centres and areas, casinos, amusement arcades, and theatres can re-open. Cinemas, theatres concert halls and sports grounds can sell food and drink as long as it is consumed in a seated area for watching the performance;
  • Indoor visitor attractions, including museums and galleries can re-open;
  • Up to 30 people can take part in organised indoor activities and up to 50 people in organised outdoor activities. This includes wedding receptions and wakes.

As ever, the Welsh Government has shared the main features of what the next three-week review will consider and, should public health conditions remain positive, residents of Wales can expect news regarding:

  • Further changes to meeting people in private homes;
  • Increasing the number of people who can meet outdoors and the number of people who can attend organised activities and events, including wedding receptions, to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors;
  • Permitting larger-scale events to take place indoors and outdoors.

Alun Cairns MP for the Vale of Glamorgan has written to First Minister Mark Drakeford stating that he is “disappointed and frustrated” that none of the recently-announced events open to spectators will be taking place in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The MP joins a growing number of people frustrated by the choice of events that have been picked for the trials to reopen sporting and cultural activities to spectators, with many wondering why fixtures featuring Welsh football teams playing in the English leagues, such as Swansea City and Newport County, have been included in the plans, but none of the upcoming fixtures in the JD Cymru Premier, Wales’ top football division have made the grade.

In his open letter to the Leader of the Senedd, Cairns stated that, although these trials should be “recognised as a positive step”, it is important that they “must offer something to communities across Wales, including the Vale of Glamorgan.” Addressing the Welsh Government’s plans, the MP continued:

“Football is the most popular sporting activity in Wales and there are currently no Welsh football teams playing in a Welsh league included in your proposals. Only Welsh football teams that play in English leagues are included.”

In his statement, Cairns went on to highlight the Vale of Glamorgan’s JD Cymru Premier team, Barry Town United, who have long been calling for a return of fans for their games:

“Barry Town United for example has worked hard to adhere to social distancing rules and ultimately feel that they’ve been ignored. Allowing smaller scale events to be hosted would also provide good feedback going forward to similar-sized outdoor venues across Wales. They would also offer a key financial lifeline after the most difficult of periods.”

Barry Town United’s Supporter Liaison Officer, Ian Johnson spoke to Bro Radio’s The Vale This Week about his disappointment at the announcement and the omission of Barry Town United and the JD Cymru Premier as a whole in these plans:

“I think we’re disappointed at the announcement from the Welsh Government and there’s two reasons for that. One of those is on a sporting basis, so we’re talking about next week, the play-offs will be taking place and Swansea City will be able to have fans in their ground and Newport can have fans in their ground as well, whilst, at the same time, the Cymru Premier European play-off games will be taking place, you know, they’re actually on the same day as Swansea, and yet Penybont and Barry, who will be probably the two clubs that have home advantage, won’t be allowed to have fans in their ground, even though they would be in smaller numbers that would be easily organised and can be easily managed.

“The second point is in the wider context of where society is at, in terms of how we recover from Covid and how we have people in society doing things. It’s a sunny day next Saturday, you might have ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty thousand people milling about on Barry Island and mingling, but you are not able to have 400 people, which would be 20% of the ground capacity of Jenner Park, even though that’s something we could very easily organise, we’d have the contact details for everybody who would be in that ground and we have made preparations for being able to open up since the start of the season, back in September last year.

“You also have the further, quite odd scenario where, if we have indoor hospitality opening up next week, then we’re in the situation where people can sit in the clubhouse at Jenner Park, indoors, watch the game on TV, but you can’t watch the game outside, 20 metres away, and that seems like a bit of a common-sense check, and I think that’s really why we’re hoping that the Welsh Government will reconsider that decision next week.”

The club has also been particularly active on social media, tweeting in response to the announcement from the Welsh Government:

“Our supporters have been volunteers and ensured games have run safely during this pandemic yet the @CymruLeagues have not been considered as a test event. Another kick in the teeth for Welsh football clubs.”

Additionally, Barry Town United FC manager Gavin Chesterfield has added for calls for Jenner Park to host a trial event. Chesterfield stated:

“It is a kick in the teeth for Barry Town United FC and all those involved in the Cymru Premier League. Like others across the league, our hard-working volunteers and supporters have not watched a live game in a long time. Allowing supporters to attend, would be a huge boost and provide a small thank you to all.

“I’m hoping that common sense prevails and that supporters of all clubs involved are allowed to attend the play-off semi-finals (22nd/23rd May) and Final (29th May).”

The demolition of the old Whitmore High School building has begun, it has been revealed by Morgan Sindall, the construction group in charge of the project.

Students moved across to their brand new, state-of-the-art £30.5 million school building last Thursday and now work can begin to raze their former home to the ground.

In a post on social media sharing the images of their progress, the company behind the construction of the new school build and, additionally, the demolition of the old building, said:

“We’re well under way with the demolition. The soft strip of the Science Labs, DT rooms and Drama class is looking good.”

The new building, which was completed ahead of schedule, accommodates 1,100 pupils and sees teaching space spread across three storeys, with 70 general classrooms and two drama studios within the 11,000-meter square site. 

Speaking to Bro Radio about the project, Steve Langford, Project Director for Morgan Sindall said that the company’s focus was always on the students:

“It was all around the pupils, really, and the learning experience. The current building is fragmented – in some places you’ve got to walk outdoors and the pupils have to walk in the rain sometimes to their classes – whereas here, it’s all under one roof – the teachers have to walk very short distances to their class, the pupils end up going round in a circle, which has also helped with Covid as they’ve got one-way systems and larger corridors, so it’s all been focused around the pupils and the delivery of classes.”

You can follow the progress of Morgan Sindall at Whitmore High School on Twitter, here.

Applications for the Pupil Development Grant, available to assist families on low income buy school uniforms, equipment and more, are now open.

The grant is available to pupils who are eligible for free school meals or are looked after children who are entering the following years:

  • Reception Class, Year 1, Year 3 or Year 5 of a maintained primary school at the beginning of a new school year
  • Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, Year 10 or Year 11 of a maintained secondary school at the beginning of a new school year
  • In Reception, Year 1, Year 3, Year 5, Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, Year 10, Year 11 or equivalent in a special school, special needs resource base or a pupil referral unit

The grant can be used to help with the purchase of school uniforms including coats and shoes, equipment such as school bags and stationery, specialist equipment where new curriculum activities begin such as design and technology and more.

The parent/guardian making the application must be receiving one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Job Seekers Allowance (JSAIB)
  • Income related Employment Support Allowance (ESAIR)
  • Child Tax Credit, with a household income of £16,190 or less
  • Pension Credit (guarantee element)
  • Universal Credit with net household earnings of less than £7400 p/a

Working Tax Credit is not a qualifying benefit and if you are in receipt of Working Tax Credit you will not be eligible for a Pupil Development Grant even if you get this together with one of the income above.

You can apply online via the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s website before the 30th June 2021, here.

Whitmore Bay, the beach at Barry Island, has been awarded a 2021 Blue Flag award placing it among the gold-standard of beaches in Wales.

The certification guarantees the quality of the bathing water and facilities at the beach, with the main criteria taken into account when assessing for the award including:

  • Environmental Education and Information
  • Water Quality
  • Environmental Management
  • Safety and Services

Sharing the list of winners for 2021, Blue Flag said of the awards:

“The Blue Flag Beach Award is widely considered the gold standard for beaches. Awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education, the Blue Flag is internationally recognised.

“Whilst most people are aware that Blue Flag certification guarantees the quality of bathing water, this is only part of the criteria. At this point, it is worth stressing that a Blue Flag beach is not necessarily any better than other beaches. In fact, quite the opposite is true of many of Britain’s smaller, picturesque coves.

“The Blue Flag award is ideally suited to resort beaches with plenty of facilities. It is for this reason that the other awards granted in the UK may be of equal or more use in choosing a suitable beach.”

The certification process for Blue Flag status is carried out every year and beaches can lose or gain their status.

The Big Fill team is back and will be working Saturdays and Sundays to repair the Vale of Glamorgan’s potholes but they need your help.

The return of the Big Fill was announced on the Vale Council’s website, with the team scheduled to target different areas of the county throughout the rest of May and the start of June.

The team are asking residents of the Vale to report the potholes in their area before the deadline so that they can be repaired. Residents are advised that if they see a pothole marked in white, the Big Fill are already on the case and there is no need to report it.

The Big Fill will be operating in the following areas on the specified dates:

  • Gibbonsdown – 08/05 – 09/05 – Report potholes by 30/04
  • Llantwit Major – 22/05 – 23/05 – Report potholes between 10/05 -14/05
  • Llandough – 05/06 – 06/06 – Report potholes between 24/05 – 28/05

You can report potholes in your area and find out more on the Vale Council’s website, here.

Two 9-year-olds, Sophie and Ruairi, are completing an impressive 40 miles of walking this month, trekking the equivalent distance of the journey around some of South Wales’ RNLI Lifeboat Stations.

The passionate pair will be mirroring a journey from Porthcawl Lifeboat Station to Penarth station and then Barry Dock Station, a total of 40 miles, around the local area, after school. On the weekends, Sophie and Ruairi will be visiting the stations, having stopped off at the RNLI’s Penarth Lifeboat Station just last weekend.

In a post on their social media page, RNLI Penarth Lifeboat Station said of the visit:

“Huge thanks to Sophie and Ruairi who stopped off at the station this weekend on part of their 40-mile walk to raise money for RNLI Penarth Lifeboat Station, Barry Dock RNLI and Porthcawl RNLI Lifeboat!”

The children, who describe themselves as “little people with a big passion”, are raising money through their walk for the RNLI via a JustGiving page, aiming to raise a total of £500. At the time of writing, they are a mere 7% away from reaching their target, six days before the conclusion of the fundraiser. The money raised from donations will be split between the three stations. They have walked just over 25 miles so far.

A post on the kids’ JustGiving page explains their motives for completing this challenge, stating:

“Too many people are still drowning. More than ever we need the RNLI’s help. As a charity, the RNLI depends on our donations so it can go on saving lives and keeping us and our loved ones safe. RNLI lifesavers are our lifeline. They’re the lifeboat crews who provide 24-hour search and rescue right around the UK and Ireland. The lifeguards keeping watch on 240 of the busiest beaches in the UK and Channel Islands. And the RNLI safety teams and educators working tirelessly to stop people getting into trouble in the first place.”

You can find Sophie and Ruairi’s JustGiving page here.

The UK Chief Medical Officers and the NHS England National Medical Director have agreed that the UK alert level should move from level 4 to level 3 following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data.

A statement shared by the CMOs for Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the NHS England National Medical Director has said that it is imperative that we continue to follow the guidance but it is thanks to the vaccination programme and the efforts of the UK public that this is possible:

“Thanks to the efforts of the UK public in social distancing and the impact we are starting to see from the vaccination programme, case numbers, deaths and COVID hospital pressures have fallen consistently. However, COVID is still circulating with people catching and spreading the virus every day so we all need to continue to be vigilant. This remains a major pandemic globally.

It is very important that we all continue to follow the guidance closely and everyone gets both doses of the vaccine when they are offered it.”

Here in the Wales, the vaccination programme continues in earnest with more than half of people in their 30s and 76.6% of people in their 40s having had their first Covid vaccine dose. So far, Public Health Wales figures show 846,180 people have had a second jab, which is 26.8% of the population.

Senior Council officers had an encouraging meeting with their counterparts in Welsh Government this week to discuss possible funding arrangements to protect up to 200 properties in Dinas Powys from the future effects of flooding.

Over 100 properties in Dinas Powys and Sully were flooded internally on 23rd December 2020 and the Council has already secured £149,270 from Welsh Government via ‘small scale flood risk management grant’ to progress the implementation of property flood protection measures to 22 individual properties in the Sully area which will reduce the risk of floodwater entering homes using a combination of products such as flood doors.

Officers are urgently completing a report to Welsh Government detailing the investigations into the recent flooding in December last year. The report will comprise specific details relating to flooding history, analysis of the rainfall event which occurred and possible or likely causes which gave rise to the flooding as well as identifying the relevant responsibilities of the risk management authorities and the role of any other authority. Individual property level protection can provide additional assurance and protection to residents, some of whom are living in constant fear of being flooded every time that it rains heavily, however, not all properties are necessarily suited to the implementation of such measures.

Cllr Peter King, Vale of Glamorgan Council Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport, said:

“The impacts of flooding are devastating and the Council is keen to work with relevant risk management authorities to reduce the risk of domestic property flooding in these areas in the future. Excessive rainfall over a short period and consequential runoff from agricultural catchments adjoining residential developments, appears to be the main reason for the flooding in Sully, whereas flooding in Dinas Powys appears to be largely related to capacity of the river Cadoxton.

“Our officers were successful in bidding to the Welsh Government’s ‘small scale flood risk management grant’ scheme for the Sully flooding to implement property flood protection measures and, whilst the flooding in Dinas Powys does not relate to an asset for which the Council is responsible and involves in excess of 100 properties, they have now been given the green light from Welsh Government officials to submit a funding application for an outline business case aimed at progressing similar property level protection works in Dinas Powys in partnership with NRW. My hope is that, if the bid is successful, it would give residents in Dinas Powys a certain level of property protection whilst Natural Resources Wales considers and implements longer-term solutions to reduce the flood risk in the area posed by the river.”

The Council is due to submit its application to Welsh Government for funding in Spring /summer 2021.

Cardiff & The Vale University Health Board are offering last-minute, first dose coronavirus vaccination appointments for people as young as 18 today.

The health board shared the news on their social media pages yesterday, saying in a post:

“We still have available slots for adults aged 18+ to receive their FIRST DOSE of the COVID-19 vaccination today, and tomorrow.”

Additionally, those already on the waiting list in Cardiff and the Vale are being called on about the available slots.

Those wishing to try and arrange an appointment should call the booking line on 029 2184 1234.

The Welsh Government is aiming to offer a first dose of the vaccine to all eligible adults in Wales by the end of July.

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