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Second Homes and Empty Properties consultation launched

Second Homes and Empty Properties consultation launched

Carmarthenshire County Council is consulting with its residents on the review of the Council Tax Premium Scheme for long-term empty properties and second homes.

Click here to access second homes and emptY properties consultation

Concerns have been raised at both a local and National level about the perceived impact of growing numbers of second homes and empty properties on our communities.

The Council is working to increase the provision of affordable housing in Carmarthenshire and is proposing a Council Tax Provision on properties that are largely empty, to bring long-term empty homes back into use and provide safe, secure and affordable homes that will enhance the sustainability of local communities. 

Approximately 1,300 properties in Carmarthenshire are classed as long-term empty properties whilst there are around 860 registered second homes in the county. This equates to 2.5% of all domestic properties in Carmarthenshire being potentially liable for the premium charge.

Welsh Government research in 2021 indicates that second homes can raise the demand for houses and consequently increase local property prices. Alongside house price inflation, the clearest direct impact of second homes was to reduce the housing stock.

The Welsh Government announced a three-pronged approach to address a “second homes crisis”. The approach reasons that it has fairness at its heart, to ensure that everyone in Wales can have access to good quality, affordable housing.

The three-pronged approach focuses on:

  • support – addressing affordability and availability of housing,
  • regulatory framework and system – covering planning law and the introduction of a statutory registration scheme for holiday accommodation;
  • a fairer contribution – using national and local taxation systems to ensure second home owners make a fair and effective contribution to the communities in which they buy.

The Welsh Government has devolved discretionary powers to local authorities to charge, or vary, a council tax premium of up to 300% above the standard rate of council tax on certain classes of second homes and long-term empty properties.

At present, the Council do not apply a council tax premium scheme; second homes and long–term empty properties are currently charged at the standard council tax rate.  

Currently, 11 local authorities in Wales, apply a premium scheme with the level of the premium set by each authority varying from 25% to 100%. 

Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “We want to make our communities a fairer place to live for our residents and particularly our young people. In order to achieve this we need to provide more affordable houses within our communities to keep our young people living and working in Carmarthenshire and this is why we are proposing to introduce a Council Tax Premium on long-term empty properties and second homes in our county.

“We must ensure fairness for all interests and are now consulting on this to hear people’s opinion on our latest approach to bring long-term empty homes back into use.”

“By addressing the issue of empty homes in Carmarthenshire, we can help address housing problems through the provision of additional accommodation. This will reduce pressures on housing waiting lists and provide homes on both a short and long-term basis.

“To address the impact that second homes has on our housing stock, the Council Tax Premium will allow owners of second home properties to make a fairer contribution to the local community, through an additional revenue stream to support council services, from which they benefit.

“We also hope that this will also act as an incentive to bring dwellings that are occasionally used, or are disused but standing furnished, into use as a normal place of residence, whilst excluding properties that are unsuitable for year-round occupancy.”

The Council Tax Premium on Second Homes and Empty Properties consultation opened on January 17 and allows people to have a say on the Council’s proposals.

People can share their views online www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultations or by visiting a council customer service Hwb in Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford town centres

The consultation closes at 5pm on Friday, 17 February 2023.

Machynlleth Library survey – Powys County Council

Machynlleth Library survey – Powys County Council

2 February 2023

Image of library books in a library

Residents in Machynlleth and the Dyfi Valley are being urged to give their views on the possibility of relocating Machynlleth Library once the town’s brand-new school has been built.

Powys County Council has been working on plans to build a new school for Ysgol Bro Hyddgen since 2017 at the school’s secondary school site to replace the current primary and secondary school buildings.

The council wants to build the new 540-place school which will incorporate early years facilities, areas for primary, secondary and post-16 education, a community room, an additional learning needs centre, wellbeing areas as well as external areas and a 3G pitch.

The design could also include a space for a public library if required.

Now the council wants the views of residents living in Machynlleth and the Dyfi Valley on whether the town’s library should relocate to the new school building before designs are finalised.

Cllr David Selby, Cabinet Member for a More Prosperous Powys, said: “The new building for Ysgol Bro Hyddgen will be the council’s first all-through Passivhaus school building and will provide excellent facilities the next generation of learners.

“The new build also gives the council the opportunity to provide space for a public library if required.

“However, we would like to hear from residents in Machynlleth and the Dyfi Valley about the idea of moving the library to the new school building.”

To take part in the survey visit www.haveyoursaypowys.wales/ysgol-bro-hyddgen-new-school-development

The survey will close on Tuesday 28 February.

Powys Library Service is asking residents to ‘Dip into Reading’ and reap the wellbeing benefits this winter

Powys Library Service is asking residents to ‘Dip into Reading’ and reap the wellbeing benefits this winter

2 February 2023

Dip into Reading

Powys Library Service is teaming up with national charity The Reading Agency to promote the link between regular reading and improved health outcomes this winter.

Supported by Welsh Government, libraries across Wales will be involved in the public information campaign ‘Dip into Reading’ which aims to promote small amounts of reading each week to support people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Research shows that adults who read for just 30 minutes each week are more likely to report greater life satisfaction, self-esteem and are better able to cope with difficult situations[1], with library users reporting better overall health than non-users.[2]

Cllr David Selby, Cabinet Member for a More Prosperous Powys, said: “It’s fantastic to be teaming up with national charities to help raise awareness and support mental health and wellbeing around our county.

“I would like to encourage all residents to ‘Dip into Reading’ this winter. A little bit of reading each week could be just the tonic you need; and all for free in your local Library.”

Karen Napier MBE, CEO, The Reading Agency said: “The link between regular reading and improved wellbeing is well-known, and we are delighted to work with our partners in Wales to spread this message to the public and celebrate reading this winter. We know that the work we do to inspire engagement in reading across the UK is made possible by the commitment of our library partners and are delighted to be working with them on Dip into Reading.”

To find out more, visit your local library or go to www.readingagency.org.uk and click on Dip into Reading.

For suggested reading materials, visit your local library, www.storipowys.org.uk or Powys Libraries Facebook page.

Walkers say weekly stroll is changing lives for the better

Walkers say weekly stroll is changing lives for the better

It is just one of lots of free or subsidised activities available for older people looking to get out of the house, be active and socialise during 2023 thanks to Swansea Council’s partnership and involvement team.

They also include discounted cinema screenings, ten-pin bowling, one-off day trips and a newly launched Ageing Well Choir.

People can sign-up for a newsletter that gives them a weekly update of all that is going on by visiting:  www.swansea.gov.uk/ageingwellemail

Those who regularly attend the Thursday walk, which sets off from the Swigg just before 10.30am, said it has become one of the highlights of their week.

It is a chance to get some exercise and make new friends with walkers crediting it for transforming their lives for the better.

Watch our video to see what they saying.

Swansea Council Cabinet Member for Community Support, Hayley Gwilliam, said: “My heart is just bursting hearing how something so seemingly simple as a group walk and coffee can have such a meaningful and positive impact on people’s lives.

“Our partnership and involvement team, working with partners, have developed a really full and varied programme of activities and events and these are being added to all the time.

“If you’ve not signed up to the newsletter I’d encourage you do so to keep up to date with all the fantastic opportunities on offer.

“We want older people to be healthy, to be safe inside and outside the home, to enjoy life, to have a voice and make a positive contribution to help improve Swansea.”

New funding round launched to help communities thrive

New funding round launched to help communities thrive
West Street Gym

The opportunity is part of Crowdfund Swansea, a scheme that helps deliver innovative community-led ideas to improve the city.

Crowdfund Swansea is run by the council with the UK’s leading civic crowdfunding platform Spacehive. It aims to fund and deliver exciting and innovative ideas from the local community and for the local community.

Eligible projects could receive a council pledge of up to £5,000 towards their crowdfunding target.

To be in with a chance of securing the support, local groups should create and launch their projects on crowdfunding platform Spacehive and pitch to the Crowdfund Swansea Fund by March 29.

Those who have succeeded in previous funding rounds have included West Street Gymnastics Club which helped fund crucial renovations to its base in Gorseinon. Its Crowdfund Swansea fundraising reached £25,204, with 120 backers making donations.

The club’s Judith Williams said: “We thank all those who supported our bid and helped us achieve our target.”

Cabinet member Andrew Stevens said: “The more people involved in Crowdfund Swansea the more amazing places we can create together.”

Those interested in taking part in the next funding round, as a funder or to develop a project, can join a free online launch event workshop – on February 8. To reserve a place register here: www.bit.ly/CSworkshop8223 

Photo: West Street Gymnastics Club, Gorseinon.

Free emergency first aid course for Powys motorcyclists

Free emergency first aid course for Powys motorcyclists

31 January 2023

Image of a motorcycle helmet on the road and the Biker Down Cymru logo

Biker Down! Cymru is a free emergency first aid course for motorcyclists wishing to enhance their knowledge and broaden their experience in dealing with incidents or collisions that may require first aid at the roadside.

The course includes topics such as:

  • initial on scene management
  • first aid for motorcyclists
  • the science of being seen

The course is delivered by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and is available free of charge to residents and road users of Powys thanks to Road Safety Grant funding from Welsh Government.

Cllr Jackie Charlton, Cabinet Member for a Greener Powys, is an advocate for the free course. “Bikers tend to ride in groups or pairs, it is usually the case that when one is involved in an accident the first person on the scene will be a fellow biker.

“This Biker Down! Cymru course aims to give participants a better understanding of what to do if they witness or come across a road traffic collision involving motorcyclists, and how to manage it safely.

“Or county’s picturesque and expansive road network are a magnet for bikers, so equipping them with the skills to keep safe and manage emergency situations is vital. Along with our Enhanced Rider Scheme, we are doing our best to make sure Powys roads are as safe as possible.”

Course dates: 3 February, 3 March and 31 March 2023
Time: 18:30 – 21:30
Venue: Newtown Fire Station, Llanidloes Road. SY16 1HF

Spaces for these free courses are limited and fill up quickly. Please get in touch to reserve your places as soon as possible: 01597 826924 or [email protected]

Marine construction specialist appointed for Mumbles sea defence work

Marine construction specialist appointed for Mumbles sea defence work
New Sea Wall Plan

The work, to help protect the community’s homes, businesses and people from rising sea levels for decades to come, will take around 18 months.

It also aims to improve Mumbles as a destination, with new lighting, litter bins, seating and better links to Mumbles Road.

A range of actions will be taken to limit the scheme’s disruption to householders, businesses, events and visitors.

The project is being delivered by Swansea Council in partnership with Welsh Government.

Funding for preparatory work has been met through grant funding with the Welsh Government supplying 85% towards construction through its Coastal Risk Management Programme.

Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “This work at Mumbles will improve flood and coastal erosion protection to around 130 properties and is another great example of the work delivered thanks to our Coastal Risk Management Programme.”

Andrew Stevens, the council’s cabinet member for environment and infrastructure, said: “We’re delighted to have appointed Knights Brown through a competitive tender process. Their experience and expertise in marine environments is impressive.”

Knights Brown divisional director Andrew Eilbeck said: “We’re pleased to have been awarded this major sea defence project at Mumbles. It will protect and enhance the local area and its amenities.”

Recent sea defence civil engineering undertaken by Knights Brown includes significant projects at Aberavon, Burry Port and Porthcawl.

Some existing sea defences in Mumbles are in a poor condition and the flood risk level is expected to increase in the future due to predicted sea level rises.

A lack of action would put around 130 homes and businesses at risk.

Work on site is due to start in the next few days, initially with Knights Brown setting up a compound close to the prom and the Oyster House hotel.

Work will see parts of the prom closed to the public in a phased manner throughout the work.

Access to homes and businesses will remain throughout. It is planned that work directly adjacent to businesses abutting the prom will be limited during the peak tourist season, in order to limit any disruption.

Construction noise is likely throughout the major project although it is planned that this will be in daytime where possible.

Other measures taken to limit disruption during the work are planned to include:

  • Efforts to minimise a temporary decrease in parking space
  • Regular public communication about work progress and travel options
  • Consideration of options for the route of the council’s seafront land train
  • Consideration of options for the partial re-routing of athletics events
  • Timely communication to tourists and the local tourism trade

The council and its contractors plan to keep the public and businesses informed with face-to-face drop-in sessions, newsletters and updates online and in the press.

Full plans – www.bit.ly/MSDplanapp

Photo: Swansea Council cabinet member Andrew Stevens, left, with Knights Brown divisional director Andrew Eilbeck at Mumbles seafront.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free social media tips for Swansea businesses

Free social media tips for Swansea businesses
Social media icons

Organised by Swansea Council, the expert-led event is taking place online at 10am on Thursday February 2.

Focusing on how best to schedule social media posts, the session will be led by Rebecca Wade from Purple Dog – a digital marketing company based in South West Wales.

It’s the latest of the free power hour events run by the council, which give tips to Swansea businesses in areas ranging from marketing, recruitment, human resources and legal considerations to websites, accounting and funding opportunities.

The council also organises a free enterprise club to give tips to start-up businesses in Swansea.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “We’re so appreciative of our fantastic businesses in Swansea, who do so much for local employment and the city’s economy.

“Setting-up and running a business can be very challenging though, with so many things to consider, so these expert-led, free sessions have been set-up to give guidance and advice on a range of topics.

“Over 300 businesses have benefitted from taking part in these events over the last 18 months or so, and our business support team will continue to be on hand to help in any way they can.”

Businesses looking to attend this Thursday’s online social media scheduling event are asked to head here to book a place.

All previous start-up enterprise club and power hour events have also been uploaded to the Business Swansea YouTube page for businesses to access at any time.

 

 

 

 

 

Make recycling your new New Year’s resolution

Make recycling your new New Year’s resolution

30 January 2023

Image showing a recycling icon

Healthy eating, keeping fit, reading more books… whatever you are tackling this January, we are asking you to also add ‘recycling’ to your list of New Year’s resolutions.

Research suggests that nearly all of us will have abandoned our original New Year’s resolutions by now, so we would like you to consider adopting a new and easy promise to ‘recycle’ more in 2023. By pledging to make some positives changes, such as recycling more, we can not only feel better and more in control of our own actions, but also make a big difference to our environment.

“To many of us, recycling now comes naturally, we don’t even give it a second thought.” says Cllr Jackie Charlton, Cabinet Member for a Greener Powys. “In fact, Welsh citizens are some of the best recyclers in the world, with Powys residents currently recycling around 68.5% of their waste.

“However, the next Welsh Government targets require us to do even better, and by 2025 we must reach a county-wide recycling rate of 70%. This means, that we all need to make a determined effort to reduce the amount of waste we throw away and make sure we recycle as much as possible.

“By staying true to the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra, we should all be able to stay on the right track, do our bit and help tackle the current climate emergency. Something positive to feel good about this new year.”

A few simple tips to get you on your way to a more sustainable and rewarding lifestyle could be:

Reduce: When food shopping, choose products that have less, or more sustainable, packaging such as loose fruit and vegetables rather than pre-packaged items. Reduce the amount of food waste you have by using up leftovers in homemade soups or other meals, there are some great recipes on www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

Reuse: Opt for a reusable water bottle or coffee mug to help reduce the number of single-use bottles or cups you get through. Consider buying items second-hand rather than new and selling or donating items you no longer use instead of throwing them out.

Recycle: Make every effort to recycle as much of your household waste as possible. It’s amazing how much stuff can be added to your recycling boxes for the weekly collection – if you’re not sure if it’s recyclable or not, check out our handy guide online: A to Z of waste and recyclable items

“We already know that we are a county of conscientious recyclers who take great pride in doing our bit for the environment, and we have no doubt that together we will continue to make every effort to increase our recycling further and build a more sustainable future for the generations to come.” added Cllr Charlton. “However, Welsh Government figures suggest that there is still room for improvement, with an estimated 36% of the residual domestic rubbish thrown out still made up of items which can be recycled in the weekly kerbside collections, over 21% or which includes food waste.

“Just imagine what a difference could be made to our recycling rates, and the environment, if we all added recycling to our New Year’s resolution list!”

For more details of what can and can’t be recycled through your weekly recycling collections and at our Household Waste Recycling Centres, please visit Bins, Rubbish and Recycling

Stop the Welsh Government imposing 20 mph speed restrictions

The Welsh Government has plans to change every 30mph road in Wales to 20mph and we here in Buckley are one of 8 unluckytowns whose councils decided to sell them down the river and bid to be the “pilot towns”.

It is causing chaos, people avoiding the area and people having to take new routes.

Many of these roads aren’t suitable for a 20mph speed limit. They are busy access roads on steep hills. The lorries are struggling to get up the hills in such a low gear and sticking to such a low speed downhill is hard on the brakes. This is doing nothing to reduce emissions, instead there will be more pollution from more cars struggling in a lower gear for a longer time.

Despite the Welsh Government having spent nearly £30,000 on sinage alone, these signs have not been thought through, there are completely unnecessary signs at the start of 50m long, single track, unadopted and untarmaced roads that you physically couldn’t drive down over 10mph, and yet there is completely inadequate signage at the start and finish point on the previously 30mph main roads – people are confused and are spending so much time looking at their speedometers that it is actually a cause of dangerous driving!

It has caused bus delays; making environmental commuting more inefficient than it was before. It is also going to affect property values on specific routes and traffic to be diverted into more residential areas to bypass this limit.

There have not been high occurrence rates of road traffic accidents, deaths or injuries on roads in and around Buckley that require a change to our regular 30mph limit on these roads. It’s entirely unjustified and was not supported by the community making it a non-democratic change. The community already support the 20mph zones outside schools and other significant areas and would fully support keeping these in place.

Flintshire residents were not part of the closed Welsh Government survey, and we feel the questions asked were completely misleading. We all agree slower driving is appropriate in specific areas (schools, hospitals, around shops) but nobody supports a blanket 20mph zone across all our roads. It doesn’t make any sense and is leading to significant inconvenience, distress, and dangerous road conditions. We ask that more research is conducted, and a wider survey completed with more appropriate questions prior to this pilot taking place in Buckley. No research indicates that a 20mph limit will reduce accidents in Wales.

As you’ll know, setting speed limits should be “evidence-led and self-explaining”, according to the Department for Transport. Speed limits “should also be seen by drivers as the maximum speed rather than as a target speed at which to drive irrespective of conditions”. The evidence used in the Welsh 20mph Task Force Group Final Report appears to be based mostly on dangerously out of date research and statistics. Using a reference from 1991 to back up this statement “Child pedestrian deaths in deprived neighbourhoods are over four times those in affluent neighbourhoods.” is appallingly bad practice. If the information is older than 5 years it’s no longer current or relevant and new research studies should have been completed prior to the scheme being considered.

According to national statistics, there is one death per 20,000 cars on the road, making the UK’s road safety rating one of the highest in the world. Therefore, it is shocking that the Welsh Government would be so out of date that it would bring in a limit that was last seen in Law in 1903 (Motor Car Act). This law was scrapped when cars were made more safely with the current 30mph limit taking effect in 1934. Buckley is not alone in not wanting the 20mph limit. Motoring organisations the RAC and the AA have expressed support for 20mph limits outside schools, but completely oppose a blanket change from 30 to 20 based on their own research.

Improved road engineering, better cars and better brakes have brought about a significant decrease in deaths since 1934. These improvements have decreased accidents, not speed limits. The speed limit change in Buckley has caused more accidents in the 3 days it has been live than we would usually see in a year, including a child being hit on Bryn Road, now a 20mph. People are now spending more time looking at their speedometers than they are on the road ahead. This scheme is entirely counterproductive. The only road in Buckley to have a RTA resulting in a fatality in the last 10 years is one of only 3 roads to have had the speed limit left at 30mph.

We also feel this change is unlawful. Section 82(1)(a) (of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (RTRA 1984)) defines a restricted road in England and Wales as a road which is provided with “a system of street lighting furnished by means of lamps placed not more than 200 yards apart”. Section 81 specifically makes it an offence for a person to drive a motor vehicle at a speed of more than 30 mph on a restricted road. Therefore, whilst Wales are now able to set speed limits, what law change has taken place to make this 20mph zone legally enforceable in courts?

The signage is also not clear and given this is a brand new change, we would expect forbearance for a period of 6-12 months for residents to get used to a whole new way of driving. Especially as we live on the border of England where more sensible road speed limits currently apply meaning residents may be even more confused.

One of the biggest issues we have had with the scheme in Buckley is that Phase 2 was also not consulted on. Flintshire County Council pushed it through, opening the consultation period on the 17th December and closing it on the 7th January WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE. The county councillors didn’t know. The town councillors didn’t know. Because no one knew, no one could object. Therefore the main access roads, through roads and main commuter routes were all lowered to 20mph AGAINST the wishes of the town council.

People were also voting in favour of improved links between the primary schools and cycle paths to allow more children to be able to walk and cycle to school safely, thus also reducing congestion and emissions – this has not happened at all. Yet the Welsh Government are hell bent on “inviting the community into the roadspace” a line which no one has been able to give an explanation to as yet. The community has the pavements. The road users should have the roadspace!

We are also looking to seek legal support on the enforceability of this limit given it’s not UK Law but Devolved law. For a town on the Wales/England border, this is very confusing and dangerous.

Finally, the people of Buckley are absolutely disgusted with their MS, Jack Sargeant’s, repeated attempts to abdicate from responsibility of this scheme. This is a Welsh Government scheme, Jack is our elected Member of the Senedd, elected to represent the people of Buckley and to be their voice to feed back to the Welsh Government on issues that affect them. His copy-pasted responses denying any responsibility and offering no help or support to his electorate have been brief and disappointing. The people of Buckley already feel deeply let down by the Welsh Government in all it’s guises, we have seen no financial investment to the town centre, no youth services and despite all the lip service and fanfare, still no mobile bank.

A poll was conducted in the Facebook group over the first 3 days after the scheme went live. The results were 70% of respondents were in favour of returning the 30mph speed limit to the main access roads in and out of Buckley and the surrounding areas, such as Mold Road, Liverpool Road, Church Road and Bannel Lane and keeping the 20mph limit only outside schools and in heavily built up residential estates such as St. Matthew’s Park. 10% of people want the 20mph to stay outside schools only and almost 20% of people wanted to scrap the scheme entirely. Just two people, in a town of 21,000, were in favour of the scheme as it stands.

Calling it a “pilot scheme” is truly insulting when the government has said “20mph is a legislative change across the nation” coming into force 2023. A Pilot is done as an experiment or test, evaluating the results before making plans to implement more widely.

They made plans to implement it nationwide before the pilot was even in place.

The Task Force Group Report says that the Welsh Government should commission an independent study, five years after the implementation of the national default 20mph speed limit for restricted roads, to provide an assessment of the programme both in terms of outcomes and process. It should be recognised that the programme is an internationally-important intervention in generating data, not just for Wales.

5 years is NOT an experiment. It is not a pilot. It is not temporary. Not when the Welsh Government is aiming to achieve the following key milestones to enable a 20mph default speed limit on restricted roads to be introduced across Wales by April 2023:

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