A plan commissioned by Monmouthshire County Council to benefit bees, other pollinating insects and their habitats has picked up a much sought-after award.

 The Green Infrastructure Action Plan for Pollinators won the President’s Award at the Landscape Institute’s annual ceremony in London on Thursday 25th November.  The plan is the first of its kind and sets out how land owners can manage their property more effectively and work together to tackle the decline of bees and other pollinators.

 It was produced by Cardiff-based TACP landscape architects and project-managed by Mackley Davies Associates Ltd to create new habitats for pollinators on behalf of the local councils in Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire and Torfaen. The plan was one of a number of individual and collaborative projects that formed part of the Pollinators for Life project coordinated by Torfaen council, delivered by the four local councils and financed by the Welsh Government’s Nature Fund programme. Monmouthshire’s lead on the Green Infrastructure Action Plan for Pollinators was complemented by the development of its pollinator garden at Usk and inspired by its new green infrastructure policy approach to development and management.

The plan was praised in particular for the benefits brought by collaboration between neighbouring councils, social landlords, emergency services, schools, land owners and other community groups.  It outlines actions to encourage bees and other pollinating insects.  These include cutting grass to different heights at different times of the year and the development of wild flower meadows or formal planting areas.

 Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for bio-diversity and sustainability Councillor Phil Hobson said: “The plan will support and inspire landscape projects on public land to redress the decline in biodiversity and provide environments favouring pollinators.  It’s evident that bees and other pollinators are becoming less healthy and abundant and a lack of action will have serious implications for food production.”

 Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs congratulated TACP Landscape Architects and all involved in the project: “The Green Infrastructure Action Plan for Pollinators in South East Wales will fit in with the Welsh Government’s new Bee Friendly initiative.  I’m proud that support from Welsh Government under the Nature Fund enabled local authorities and communities to help Wales take the lead in supporting pollinators.”

 Bob Wellington CBE, leader of Torfaen County Borough Council added: “We are delighted to be associated with this award in the world of landscape architecture this is as prestigious as it gets.  Pollinators are on the decline all over the world, and the Pollinators for Life project aims to increase biodiversity across the four counties and reconnect people with nature through the planting of wild flowers and trees.

 “This plan forms part of that project and can be used to help anyone responsible for managing land and open space to do it in a way that creates sustainable, healthy habitats for pollinating insects.”

 Director of TACP, Jo Wall commented: “We’ve been privileged to work alongside Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent councils in the development of the GI Action Plan for Pollinators.  The user-friendly outputs evolved to encourage active participation with the goal to increase planting for pollinators in all spaces from gardens and schools to public spaces.”

 

“What’s good about your community?” That’s the question many Monmouthshire residents have been talking about over the past few months.  Public services in the county have been spending time in schools, community centres and shopping centres to try and understand what people value about their local areas and what needs to be improved.

In 2018, organisations including the local authority, NHS, police, fire and rescue and Natural Resources Wales will have to set shared priorities and tell residents about the things they will do together.  Their plans have to be based on a clear understanding of local areas, based on statistics, the views of local people, research and an understanding of future trends in things like transport, technology, climate and healthcare that will affect how people’s needs could be met differently in the future.

So far more than a thousand people in the county have shared their thoughts at events or posted them online.  Things people have been talking about include:

  • Ensuring there’s enough affordable housing to enable people to live and work locally
  • The challenges of transport in a rural area.  People who don’t have access to a car can struggle to get around.
  • People value the landscape and being able to get out and enjoy the countryside – we need to look after these assets.
  • The need to maintain some of the things that make Monmouthshire such a good place to live for future generations, things like theatres, museums and independent retailers, pubs, restaurants and eateries.
  • There are some great shows and events but there should be more things for children and young people to do.
  • The subjects of waste collection and the cleanliness of streets divided opinions, although there was a more positive attitude towards recycling with Monmouthshire having one of the most impressive rates in Wales.

Residents can see more detail about what people have been saying on www.monmouthshire.madeopen.co.uk  If these aren’t the things that matter to you there’s still time to have your say by visiting http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/our-monmouthshire or posting your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #OurMonmouthshire.  You can also leave comments at the council’s community hubs in Chepstow, Caldicot, Monmouth, Usk and in the Abergavenny one-stop-shop.

 

Councillor Phil Hobson, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community development formally opened a welcome facility in Monmouth last Friday (2nd December) to ease pressure on the town’s car parks.

 The Rockfield Road car park can accommodate 100 vehicles and will provide extra capacity for people visiting Monmouth’s shops and tourist attractions.  The car park opened in time for Monmouthshire’s first free Saturday parking date on December 3rd, intended to provide a boost to the county’s economy by enticing Christmas shoppers into Monmouth, Chepstow and Abergavenny.  Free parking will also be available in the three towns on December 10th and December 17th.

 Parking in the new Rockfield Road car park will be free.  Councillor Hobson commented: “Monmouth is a busy shopping centre and draws walkers and other people to its many attractions so consequently its car parks are frequently over-subscribed.  The new Rockfield Road car park will create further capacity thus aiding local businesses in line with one of the council’s major priorities of supporting enterprise and job creation.”

 The car park was constructed by the council’s Highway Operations team.

 

Monmouthshire County Council is to urge the Welsh Government to postpone draft proposals for massive hikes in the county’s draft business revaluations.  This call, made at a meeting of the county council on Thursday 1st December, aims to allow time for a thorough review of the methodology and results of the revaluation.  It comes after Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Bob Greenland, officers and a local chamber of commerce representative met with senior officials of the (Valuation Office Agency) VOA at County Hall on 30th November to discuss the matter.  Recently-proposed rateable values are based on the rental value of properties at 1st April 2015, reflecting changes in the property market across the country since the last revaluation came into force in 2010 based on 2008 rental values.

The Valuation Office Agency has published the draft valuations now to give businesses the opportunity to go online and check their proposed assessments. If businesses think the information about their property is factually incorrect and they therefore do not agree with the proposed level of assessment they can contact the VOA by e-mailing them at: nsorevalenquiries@voa.gsi.gov.uk  – the VOA will aim to respond within 40 working days. The valuations are effective from 1st April 2017 and only at that point can a formal appeal be made but ratepayers are encouraged to get in touch about their valuations for an informal review as soon as possible. To find and review their rateable value and get an estimate of the 2017-2018 bill, businesses should go to https://www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates but note that a new transitional relief scheme is planned, though this has not been factored into the online assessments.

If a business believes its revised assessment is factually incorrect, it should contact the Valuation Office immediately.  Any appeal launched after 1st April 2017 will have to go through the formal challenge process which can be time consuming. Businesses are urged to act quickly.

Deputy Leader Bob Greenland said: “Having sought clarity from the VOA on the business revaluation hikes we urge businesses to take immediate action to address any revaluation errors.  This revaluation is of such importance to our businesses in Monmouthshire that it was discussed by all members in Council on Thursday, 1st December when I successfully proposed a motion urging Welsh Government to postpone these draft proposals to allow time for a thorough review of the methodology and results of this revaluation. Alternatively we call upon the Welsh Government to postpone any increases until the results of the appeals are known.  And finally, we look for sympathetic transitional arrangements for all businesses.  The Welsh Government has announced a transitional scheme for small businesses, but has not done the same for larger businesses which will be harder hit.

“I have also made representations to Welsh Government, sending a letter to the First Minister and drawing his attention to the serious consequences for many of our businesses in the county. While most council areas in Wales, including Cardiff, have seen net reductions in rateable values through these proposals, in Monmouthshire we have seen over 65% of business rates increased, some hiked by as much as 300% with a few even above that. We will continue to work with our Assembly Member and Member of Parliament to get a fair and just settlement for our businesses.”

David Cummings, Chairman of Monmouth and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce was authorised by business organisations in the county to represent all 3,167 businesses with rateable premises at the meeting.  He said: “Following our very constructive meeting with the VOA, the council and I have agreed a joint strategy to work together in the best interests of businesses badly affected by the rate revaluation.  This strategy relates to our approach to the VOA as well as our dealings with the Welsh Government on transitional relief and on possible changes to existing Small Business Rates Relief.“

 

Are you part of the glass recycling box trial?

If so, we want your feedback about using the glass recycling box.

To have your say, please complete our short online survey here.

All responses will go into a prize draw for 1 of 3 £25 shopping vouchers.

The survey will be available until Monday 19th December 2016.

 

A paper copy of the survey is also available at Usk Community Hub (Library) and Abergavenny One Stop Shop (Market Hall). Or you can download a copy here to print and hand in at a community hub.

 

If you have any queries please email: recycling&waste@monmouthshire.gov.uk

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Two lucky youngsters are proud owners of a much sought-after prize after winning the draw in Usk’s community hub for The Big Friendly Read – Summer Reading Challenge 2016.  Tristan Dorey aged five of Usk Primary School, and Branwen Davies (8) of Ysgol Y Fenni each received an Acer tablet from the Mayor of Usk, Tim Keenan and Councillor Caroline Watts of Llangybi Community Council.

To participate in The Big Friendly Read, children signed up at Monmouthshire’s community hubs and read at least six books while making a number of visits throughout the duration of the challenge.  They received a special collector’s folder and collected a special card featuring original Quentin Blake illustrations as they finished two books.

Over 60 children completed The Big Friendly Read in Usk, receiving a certificate, medal, bookmark, key ring and a pair of rainbow glasses.  In addition, the generous support of Usk Town Council and the community councils of Llangybi and Llantrisant Fawr Community Council meant that two tablets featured in the prize draw.

County Councillor Bob Greenland, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs said: “Reading can take a back seat during the long summer holidays if children don’t have regular access to books and encouragement to read for pleasure.  This can cause problems for schools in the new term but the annual Summer Reading Challenge is a highlight of the holiday for many children and can only be beneficial if it inspires them to get stuck into a good book.”

The Summer Reading Challenge is produced by the Reading Agency and delivered by library services throughout the UK.

More information is available from the council’s community hubs, or by contacting: FionaAshley@monmouthshire.gov.uk – telephone 01633 644906.

An Abergavenny resident received a substantial fine in Newport Magistrates Court on 25th November after pleading guilty to fly-tipping.  Monmouthshire County Council’s environmental health officers were alerted to household waste dumped on the side of Tredilion Lane near Abergavenny earlier this year and prosecuted Mr Alberts Rimjans of 19 Greystones Crescent, Mardy following an investigation.  Mr Rimjans, who had been paid by a local resident to dispose of the waste, pleaded guilty to fly-tipping and for carrying the material while not a registered waste carrier.  Newport magistrates issued a fine of £800 and ordered Mr Rimjans to pay the council’s costs of £750.

 Council Leader Peter Fox said: “This substantial fine reflects the general public’s concern with fly-tipping and the ensuing eyesores.  Thankfully only a minority of persons offend but our officers are proactive and will investigate incidents and prosecute whenever possible.  This is the sixth successful prosecution in recent years resulting in nearly £10,000 in fines and costs awarded by the courts’’.

 Call Natural Resources Wales on 0300 0653000 or visit naturalresourceswales.gov.uk to check if a person is a registered waste carrier.

 For more information on fly-tipping log onto Monmouthshire County Council’s dedicated web pages:

http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/fly-tipping

 

Monmouthshire County Council and the area’s communities have been praised for their involvement in this year’s National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny.  The National Eisteddfod Council received the evaluation report of the 2016 Monmouthshire and District Eisteddfod at Aberystwyth last weekend (Saturday 26th November) which highlighted how the council and residents worked to ensure that the celebration of Welsh language and culture was a huge success.

Presenting his final report to the Council, Executive Chair Frank Olding said: “It was a great pleasure to welcome the rest of Wales to Monmouthshire over the summer, and I’m delighted that so many people enjoyed what the county and the Eisteddfod had to offer.”

Mr Olding added: “A good relationship with the local council is vitally important to the success of the Eisteddfod, and this was certainly true with Monmouthshire County Council, which decided from the start that the festival would be a great success.  We thank the council for its co-operation and vision throughout our journey, from the first discussions over a decade ago until the very end of the project.”

Mr Olding’s report drew attention to the hundreds of activities and events organised across the county in the approach to the Eisteddfod, and the sum of £300,000 raised for the Local Fund with the support of the county council.  The Proclamation Festival held in brilliant sunshine in Caldicot in June 2015 gave the Severnside area a taste of the Eisteddfod and the ceremony in the castle grounds with a town centre performance stage were well-received.  Hundreds of local people and visitors enjoyed a fantastic atmosphere.

The report thanked the county council for its organisation of the park and ride facilities around Abergavenny which meant traffic flowed freely around the town and gave a special mention to the team of friendly drivers who were “brilliant during the week”.  Also mentioned was the part the council played in communications campaigns to raise awareness and attract local residents to the festival.

This year was the first time the National Eisteddfod had been held in the county for over a century.  Council leader Peter Fox said: “I’d like to thank the many people who contributed to the success of the Eisteddfod from the willing volunteers to the National Eisteddfod Council itself chaired by Frank Olding with whom we developed a fruitful relationship.  We were delighted to welcome Eisteddfod-goers to Monmouthshire and we look forward to them visiting the county again.  Many people commented on how the setting lent itself to such a successful week and a magnificent atmosphere.  Even the weather contributed to such a brilliant time by providing us with warm sunshine!”

Councillor Phil Hobson, cabinet member with responsibility for the Welsh language added: “The success of the 2016 Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod proved that we could host such an event in an area less traditionally associated with the Welsh language.  We received huge support from both Welsh and non-Welsh speakers and the legacy of the Eisteddfod has resulted in a surge in demand for people keen to learn yr iaith Gymraeg/the Welsh language.”

For more information visit: https://eisteddfod.wales/archive/looking-back-2016

 

A Chepstow shopkeeper has been found guilty of six charges including the possession for supply of counterfeit and illegally-labelled tobacco along with possession and exposure for supply of canisters of nitrous oxide deemed to be unsafe.  Farhank Ameen, the owner of the European Mini Market, Welsh St, Chepstow was fined £1,400 and ordered to pay £1,100 costs at Newport Magistrates Court on Friday 25th November.

 The prosecution followed an investigation by Monmouthshire’s trading standards officers after they received information from members of the public that the shop was selling cheap cigarettes which were believed to be counterfeit.

Trading standards officers visited the store on more than one occasion earlier this year seizing over 900 packets of cigarettes and more than 500 pouches of tobacco.  A proportion of these was found to be counterfeit and the rest failed to satisfy required safety warnings.  Officers also seized over 1,100 canisters of nitrous oxide – a product commonly known as laughing gas – which lacked correct warning labels and were suspected of being sold for the purposes of intoxication.

 Trading Standards Team Leader Gareth Walters said that tackling the supply of illegal tobacco was a Trading Standards priority and that his officers would continue to investigate any reports received.

 Council Leader Peter Fox added: “Our officers will take action and prosecute cases where there is evidence and we will do all within our power to protect residents from this type of illegal behaviour.”

 

Monmouthshire County Council has jointly submitted a bid for a new railway station in association with the Magor Action Group on Rail (MAGOR).  The bid – for a walkway station at Magor with Undy – has been made to the Department for Transport and it aims to enhance rail links for the Severnside area.

Population expansion in the area and employment growth in Cardiff and Bristol have led to an increased demand for public transport. The proposed station would be served by train to both places as well as Newport, Chepstow, Gloucester and Cheltenham.

The population of Magor with Undy is expected to rise in the next ten years with 10,000 residents living within one mile of the preferred site. The bid presents an opportunity to establish an integrated walkway station serving the local area.  There are also recommendations for an adjoining community centre to cater for ticketing, toilets, food and drink and car parking.

The proposed station would comprise 150 metre platforms on the outside of the current relief tracks running parallel to the main Swansea to London line with shelters, lighting and CCTV. The existing footbridge and underpass will allow passengers to access the further platform. The footbridge was rebuilt when the line was electrified recently and will not require modification, but work will have to be undertaken on access ramps and the underpass to ensure disability compliance.

The Leader of Monmouthshire County Council Peter Fox said: “The return of railway travel for Magor with Undy after many years will be welcomed by the community and offer many benefits. It will bring employment, retail, healthcare, education and leisure opportunities closer for residents and reduce traffic growth on congested local roads. It will significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from transport and promote sustainable integrated travel.”

Laurence Hando, who chairs the MAGOR campaign added: “We are encouraged by the progress made so far, grateful for the help and support given by leaders in the county council and Welsh Government and are delighted that we have been able to work collaboratively with officers of the council to enable submission of the application to the New Station Fund.”

Contact Monmouthshire’s Transport Planning and Policy Officer Christian Schmidt – ChristianSchmidt@monmouthshire.gov.uk – for further details.