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Andrew Peters

Journalist writing news stories for Bro Radio.

Plans to lease the tennis courts in Romilly Park, Barry, to Tennis Wales have been met with hostility from many residents of the area, though the Vale Council has said that the joint project between them, Tennis Wales and Sport Wales is “essential to ensure tennis facilities remain a feature of Romilly Park”.

Councillors say a formalised booking system with charges will ensure a high level of court maintenance, avoid queues and deter vandalism at the site.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council allocated £75,000 to refurbish the site, which will be partially funded by a £45,000 grant from Tennis Wales and a £30,000 grant from the Welsh Government’s ‘Sport and Leisure Covid-19 Recovery Fund’.

Work will see the courts transformed, with ultra-modern surfaces installed and a new booking system to ensure no-one has to wait for a game or risk not being able to play and, according to the Council, this refurbishment is “essential to ensure tennis facilities remain a feature of Romilly Park” adding in a statement on the matter that “it is hoped the move will encourage more people to use them”.

Critics of the plans are concerned that children will be discouraged from using the courts, and argue that free-to-use courts are used by many people who can’t afford to pay fees or membership rates.

Speaking about the upcoming refurbishment, Vale of Glamorgan Council Leader Neil Moore said: “If we can upgrade them and a recognised body can run them on our behalf on a lease basis, then that’s fine by me.”

Following the completion of works, the site would be managed and maintained by Tennis Wales via a seven-year lease.

Cllr Kathryn McCaffer, Vale of Glamorgan Council Cabinet Member for Leisure, Arts and Culture, said:

“The Council is committed to providing the best possible facilities for its residents to enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle. 

“This objective is shared by both Tennis Wales and Sport Wales who are key partners in the proposed refurbishment of the courts at Romilly Park.

“The project is firmly committed to increasing the number of people regularly playing tennis at this much-loved location.”

However, Katie Walmsley, commenting on social media, warned the end of informal, open access to the courts, and the introduction of charges, risked discouraging children and families from using the facilities. “For me the cost might not be too high, but I think for kids/ parents/ anyone at a loose end on the weekend, the informal, free access to the court encourages people to play.”

“My concern is this will be a barrier to access to people who just want to have a go, or kids who are looking for something to do.”

“The council and Tennis Wales should have engaged with the local community on this – there aren’t even any notices around the courts flagging the legal notice. They ‘apologised’ to Cardiff residents for not talking to them before doing this there – but they’ve not spoken to residents in Barry about this either.”

The Vale Council has said that they have always set charges for the use of their courts, but that they have not been collecting fees for a number of years as it has not been economical to do so. Additionally, the Council has assured residents that the courts will operate on a non-profit basis, with money reinvested into maintenance and any surplus used to fund tennis activity in Romilly Park and the wider Vale. 

Those opposed to the plans have been asked to submit their objections to the intended disposal in writing. But this week, some were still waiting for responses from local councillors.

“No public consultation is shocking,” said Bev Jones.

“Seems like a done deed. Romilly Park was gifted to the public and the courts should be kept for informal use. What’s the point in pre-booking if the weather becomes bad?”

In a letter to a concerned resident, the operational manager: leisure and tourism David Knevett said:

“Tennis Wales will proactively engage local community groups to provide free access tennis opportunities all year round that will encourage more people to play.

An extensive community coaching programme will also operate from the courts enabling more people to play the sport.”

Jamie Clewer, Head of Participation for Tennis Wales, said:

“Safeguarding and investing in park sites across Wales is a key part of our tennis opened strategy to ensure that park courts remain open and safe for the long term as an opportunity for people to play the sport locally. Park courts are a crucial location where many people first play the sport or play socially with friends and family.

“Romilly Park is a much-loved location in Barry and we want to ensure tennis remains a key part of the parks attraction for local people. We’re going to work with the local community to provide free teacher training and tennis equipment into local schools, offer community coaching programmes for adults and children to engage more players and ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to try tennis and see it as the sport for them.”

Four women are taking on a 400 mile walk to raise money for a charity that saves lives at sea. 

Volunteers Rosie, Margaret, Avril and Lis’ charity, Barry Dock RNLI, has been unable to run its usual fundraising activities for twelve months because of Covid-19. 

It ended up with a huge shortfall for the charity and so far 2021 is looking the same. 

Now Rosie, Margaret, Avril and Lis are embarking on a South Wales walking challenge in support of the charity, which is staffed by volunteer lifeboat crews.

“We wanted to do something that would raise some funds for Barry Dock Lifeboat,” Margaret McMillan told Bro Radio’s Vale Breakfast. 

“A group of four of us decided we could challenge ourselves to walk every day for the whole month of May and see how far we can walk.

“The four of us have got different abilities for walking, so we’ve decided how many we think we can each walk.”

The four women are just below half-way to raising their £2000 target. 

Together they will walk a total of just over 400 miles, which if they were walking around the coast from lifeboat station to lifeboat station, would take them as far as Aberystwyth. 

The walk is part of the Mayday Mile, a month-long RNLI fundraiser taking place across the UK. Supporters cover at least one mile in any way they choose, raising vital funds to keep people safe on our coastline. 

People walking around Wales’ shoreline have been warned of the dangers after lifeboat crews last year saved 70% more people than before Covid. 

The RNLI – which has 30 stations around the Welsh coast between Penarth and Flint – saved the lives of 24 people between June and August 2020, compared with 14 the year before. 

“The money is always very important,” said Ms McMillan. 

“We are very fortunately that people do make donations to Barry Dock Lifeboat. But it helps us keep our lifeboat station going in Barry and it helps our volunteer crews to save lives at sea.” 

The RNLI get no funding from government and depend on voluntary contributions. 

You can find out more about the challenge and support Barry Dock RNLI here: 

https://themaydaymile.rnli.org/fundraising/barry-dock-lifeboat-smiley-milers

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One of three new Members of the Senedd for South Wales Central has told Bro Radio that her first priority will be an independent enquiry into the 2020 floods in Pontypridd, Sully and Dinas Powys.

Plaid Cymru MS Heledd Fychan told Bro Radio’s Vale this Week that she would like to see the Welsh Government “look at what went wrong and why” in order to “better protect homes and businesses in the future”.

The new South Wales Central member, who campaigned to save the Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd in 2018, wants to understand why the area has had “such awful flooding”.

It comes over a year after Storm Dennis brought historic flooding to Pontypridd in January 2020 and further heavy rain brought flooding to Sully, Dinas Powys and surrounding areas in December 2020, just days before Christmas.

Flooding in a property in Sully – December 2020

2020 saw some of the worst flooding to hit parts of Wales in 40 years, as homes and businesses across the region were left devastated by extreme weather.

In December, downpours on Christmas Eve saw South Wales Fire and Rescue Service deal with 500 calls in a matter of hours.

Ms Fychan dealt with severe flooding as a Councillor in Pontypridd and is leading calls for an independent enquiry.

Her election comes as environmental campaign group XR Cardiff accused the Welsh Government of “not taking the action it promised in the Paris agreement of 2015 to reduce greenhouse gases”.

“We know with a climate emergency that flooding is going to become far more frequent,” Ms Fychan told Bro Radio.

“We need to understand why that is the case and what homes and businesses are at risk.

“That’s why I’ve been pushing for that independent enquiry to see, do we have the resources and the staff in the right places to be able to cope with this.”

Ms Fychan said that the devastation across different parts of South Wales Central meant “we need action” and that extreme weather had already cost the Welsh Government and councils hundreds of millions of pounds.

“So many people can’t get insurance now because their homes and businesses are at risk.

“Unless we have that national conversation and agree what the steps and investment that are needed to address this, then people are going to be living in fear. Every time it rains heavily now, they are going to be worried sick that their homes or businesses are at risk. And we can’t promise to them that they won’t be flooded again.”

“And for me that’s an unacceptable situation and Welsh Government should be doing more to address it.”

The sun was beating down on beer gardens across the Vale of Glamorgan as the Welsh government confirmed a further easing of lockdown rules this week.

But there were no customers to soak up its rays. 

Instead, from an empty pub, owners Kelly and Jay Jones spoke to Bro Radio. 

“So, how excited are you to be reopening on Monday?” asked Bro Radio’s The Vale This Week, Matthew Harris. 

“It’s a mixture of both, I think,” Mr Jones said. “Excited, trepidation, nervous. I know this is the second time round opening after a lockdown but it doesn’t make it any easier.

“You worry, especially after seeing the pictures from the Senedd, how people are going to react and act. But yeah we are looking forward to it.” 

He pauses. He’s being very honest considering the impact of the pandemic on hospitality businesses and that pubs will officially reopen outdoors from next Monday. 

Mr and Mrs Jones run The White Hart and the Tudor Tavern in Llantwit Major. 

For publicans, uncertainty over government advice is one more thing to worry about on top of reopening. 

For customers, a fast-moving situation is adding to the difficulty of planning a visit to their local. 

The recent changes mark the second time the road out of lockdown has been changed ahead of schedule. Six people from six households will now be able to meet outdoors in Wales from Saturday. 

The Tudor Tavern in Llantwit

The Welsh Government has brought the new rules forward, but Mr Jones is still feeling under pressure. 

“It’s been very hard because the Welsh government haven’t been very forthcoming with advice. It was either Friday or Saturday morning we got the regulations through, which was obviously two households maximum with six people. Last night they went and changed it again.” 

His partner, Mrs Jones jumped in with her concerns. 

“It’s just the frustration of it all. You don’t know whether you’re coming or going. You plan for one thing and then those plans have to change. 

“All those people that have booked are most probably so frustrated now because, perhaps they booked within the guidelines from yesterday and now all of a sudden they can have extra people, they can’t see their friends because they’ve already made the booking. So it’s going to be frustrating for them as well.” 

This is not what the Welsh government had planned. In fact, this is what the taskforce established to help guide the sector through the pandemic had hoped to avoid. 

An al-fresco reopening was the only way. Any set-backs will be a disappointment for a government that has been widely praised for its handling of the Covid-19 outbreak. It’s aggressive approach to vaccinations appears to have paid off. But even with all those measures, the risk was still too great to restart indoor hospitality. 

“When we opened up in the last lockdown it was all new to us all,” says Mr Jones. 

“We’ve done a lot of improvements with screens. Put up a lot of extra lighting because we knew it would be outside space. We managed to get a lot more tables in and seating to enable us to have more customers outside.

“We’ve had to take the decision at the start we’re not going to do food. We’re only going to do drinks. It’s all freshly cooked, so we can’t have thousands of pounds of stock sitting in fridges in the hope that people are going to turn up for it. We need to open with just drinks to see where we go.” 

Sam Smith Travel in Cowbridge received hundreds of summer holiday enquiries over the Easter weekend, following the UK Governments announcement of a traffic light system for international travel.

The plan will add green and amber categories of countries to the current red list, depending on how they are dealing with coronavirus.

However, travel companies were disappointed with the lack of clarity on whether foreign travel will reopen on May 17.

Suzanne Cumpston, sales and commercial manager at Sam Smith Travel in Cowbridge, called the new traffic light system “hugely important” and “a good thing”.

Ms Cumpston said: “The whole of the travel industry probably wanted more from Boris’s speech yesterday. However, he did state that he wanted to get the country flying again.”

On the UK government’s road map, foreign trips are banned until May 17 at the earliest.

“I think that this is a work in progress. In my opinion, travel will get going on May 17 – a tentative start potentially,” said Ms Cumpston.

“My understanding is that green are pretty safe destinations to go to with no quarantine, potentially testing. Amber: potentially testing and quarantine, unless you release yourself with early testing. And the red list’s the same as it is now.”

“Obviously, we are waiting for the dates from the government as to when travel can restart and what the stipulations for travel will be in the traffic light system.”

The news comes as travel to and from the rest of the UK to Wales is poised to be allowed again from next week, with many looking to book holidays at home.

“We’ve been inundated,” Ms Cumpston told Bro Radio’s Vale this week.

“I would say we’ve had over 500 enquiries between last Wednesday and today. People are just desperate to get away.”

With flights abroad currently limited to essential travel only, she has seen a marked spike in customers looking for a Welsh break.

“We’re starting to call it the Welsh triangle. Pembrokeshire to Brecon Beacons up to Lake Bala. Those three areas seem to be the most popular at the moment.”

Easter has been particularly busy. But following the easing of restrictions across Wales, holiday makers are anxious to avoid disappointment.

“We’ve spoken to so many different families and couples who are desperate for a break after the last year. If they can’t travel, everyone wants to make sure they’ve got a plan b,” said Ms Cumpston.

“I’m very confidant that people will be travelling. I’ve booked my own holiday for September to Greece and I think I’ll go. If I don’t, then we will be able to amend or refund if need be.”

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