Monday, 23 January 2012

More trees and green spaces, less waste of money

Ceredigion County Council is planning on using Welsh Government funding to make changes to the prom in Aberystwyth. You can see their current plans for the large pot of money here. We''ll summarise our thoughts on some of the ideas below.

It is amusing that the Council show photos of the worst-looking bits of the bandstand as a way of making their case, when the reason they look like that is because Ceredigion County Council neglect the building. Would they look after a new building any better? There's no reason to believe they would. Currently it is a building with some history (built in 1935). It should be repaired, and more importantly, clear permanent information on how to book it and what events are coming up in the next month or so, and costs (with no charge for local, non-profit events). There is no point having a community building and then putting up barriers to its use - the community pay for this, and deserve a better service. Sure, tart the building up a bit, more windows or better natural lighting or eco-features like solar panels. If someone can't make use of what they have then don't let them waste money on some new toy to mismanage.

Street improvements

Strangely, this includes features such as an 'eating & drinking area outside Belle Vue Hotel' - obviously for their customers, from the image above. Hold on a minute - are we talking about using public funds to enhance a private business and those who stay there, whilst making the pavement narrower for Aberystwyth residents? Is that an 'improvement'? An improvement would be some greenery or trees, not favouritism and favours for commercial concerns.

Paddling pool facilities
This suggestion seems like another rush to spend money unnecessarily, but it includes a truly bizarre element - "creation of an artificial beach". Huh? The Council want to spend money making and maintaining an artificial beach - right opposite a real one? Even ignoring the fact that the artificial beach sand would end up blowing everywhere and be yet another maintenance task that the Council would fail to do, there is something so fundamentally screwy about this idea that it must be a joke.

Interactive water feature
Public money to be spent on an interactive water feature. Hold on a minute, Aberystwyth already has some! The main one is called the sea, and it is supported by two others called the Rheidol and the Ystwyth. Let's focus on the amazing things we have and keep them clean and litter-free, not try and copy what some land-bound town has to do to make up for not having the natural features which Aberystwyth does.

Street furniture
The images show lovely and distinctive blue street signs and benches, and sturdy pots for flowers; also curve-edged benches which are ideal for our children to walk over, or free runners to incorporate into their parkour. Great! Oh, that's what the council wants to replace, even though there is nothing wrong with them. Don't they know that the rules are: Reduce consumption, then Repair, then Recycle. Nowhere in the green mantra does it say 'throw things away rather than maintaining them and use resources to replace them with new things performing an identical function'. Keep things in good order, and make sure there are enough, yes - but don't waste money on replacements just for the sake of it.

Sadly, none of the money is proposed to be spent on greening the area to make it look more natural, even though this is an area of outstanding beauty (well, the bits that the Council have yet to allow housing estates, supermarkets or industrial estates to be built on). Often the council seems to go the opposite way, e.g. even covering the bits of soil and grass around trees with red rubber, as if they can't stand having anything natural showing. Or digging up the one green area of bushes near the bus stops so that it can concrete them over as an 'improvement' without sharing the plans with people first. It is an 'improvement' just like the nearby roundabout which stole a green area at the end of Plas Crug and covered it in concrete instead.
Aberystwyth bus stop after the bushes were grubbed up -
it now looks much worse than this!
Apparently they will be covering up most of the soil
with concrete and resorting to plant pots afterwards...

All too often these things smack of waste, or clawing at money which has the stipulation that has to be used for 'new' things, not existing commitments, and as a result projects are dreamed up just as a means of spending that money. There is never any questioning of whether it is really doing any good, and whether it might not be better to counteract increasing costs of public transport, or reducing the tax we pay in the first place. Mis-spent money is just a waste.

We recently heard about further plans to spend a large pot of money (c. £200,000) on building a road between the National Library of Wales and the Aberystwyth University Campus. Of course, this would mess up a green area. Further, there is currently pedestrian access between the two. Any true green agenda promotes walking over vehicle use, but here we see the Welsh Government wanting to build yet more unnecessary roads and make vehicle use easier, the opposite of a green agenda. If the two organisations which want this silly plan to go ahead are that determined to have it then they should pay for it themselves.

Whatever your thoughts on these proposals, you can email Ceredigion County Council and Huw Lewis (the Welsh Housing, Regeneration & Heritage Minister who apparently supports these projects).

A letter in the Cambrian News, Thursday 12th January 2012 - 
we agree with many of the sentiments

Mill Street car park - do you object to yet more supermarkets in Aberystwyth?

Don't forget the public meeting about the proposed Aberystwyth Tesco's and Day Care Centre debacle this Thursday, 26th January, 7pm, in the Morlan. See the end of this post for more details.


green investments said...

I studied in London in the late 80s. During a weekend, several of us took a trip to Wales. The beauty was just stunning and almost spiritual. It was the highlight of our gap year studying abroad. Do not lose your green spaces, do not let the big bosx stores take over, As a Yank, I can assure you this has destroyed much of the unique regional identity of our country - do not make the same mistake!

Sandra said...

I agree with this, most of those things would eb a waste of money. The Aber bus depot looks like a mess now, what were the council thinking? What a waste of money. It's as if they're run by idiots.