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Exciting low carbon future for former Swansea Valley primary school thanks to Lottery funds

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A key regeneration project developed by Awel Aman Tawe (AAT) in Cwmgors in the Swansea Valley, has received a huge funding boost this week.

National Lottery have awarded £400,000 to ‘Hwb y Gors’ – this is name for the redevelopment of the former primary school in the village.

Hwb y Gors also recently received a grant of £250,000 from the Welsh Government Community Facilities Programme.

Hwb y Gors will create a thriving low carbon enterprise centre. It will contain office accommodation, artists’ studios, education and community facilities. The centre will be a base for sustainable projects that support local people, organisations and businesses to flourish.

30kW of rooftop solar has already been installed and heat will be provided via a ground source heat pump.

Mary Ann Brocklesby, Chair of Trustees said “We are delighted by this news. It’s important that the former primary school is retained as a community asset”.

Sonia Reynolds, County Councillor for Cwmgors said “The building has been derelict for a few years now so it’s great that it’s going to be redeveloped with community use at its heart.”

Jeremy Miles, Senedd Member for Neath said “Hwb y Gors has got real momentum now. The Welsh Government has already awarded £250k to the project so I’m really pleased that that this has helped lever further support from the Lottery.”

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Rebecca Blanche, Funding Officer at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “National Lottery players continue to make an incredible contribution to supporting communities in Wales every time they buy a ticket. It’s fantastic to see National Lottery players enabling people to make an big difference in their communities thanks to projects like this.”

Some examples of what will happen inside the building are:

  • Youth Club in partnership with Canolfan Maerdy, a leading local charity
  • Community electric vehicle car club and charge points
  • Studio workshops: Activities such as pottery, textiles and art facilities which will be open to the public. Rentable studio spaces for artists
  • Internet Café /Homework area for young people. The café will cater for local community, businesses and organisations. Space and access to laptops for young people to do homework, particularly in light of the recent experiences from Covid 19. Potential to incorporate a Creative Café (pottery making) for some sessions/weekends
  • Canolfan Maerdy are looking to expand their Food Hub to the centre and we will facilitate cooking/nutrition classes
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Background

Awel Aman Tawe (AAT) is a community energy charity which has been operating for 20 years. Our prime drivers are tackling climate change, job creation and engaging people in energy. We’ve set up two co-ops, Awel and Egni which have over 1500 members including 75 schools and community organisations such as Merched y Wawr, Friends of Pontardawe Arts Centre and local regeneration charities such as Canolfan Maerdy, Black Mountain Centre and the Cwmllynfell Millenium Hall.

Egni Co-op funds and manages PV installations in Wales. Here’s a recent film made by double BAFTA Cymru winner, Mike Harrison about the largest rooftop solar project in Wales on the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome in Newport

Egni has now raised £3.5m so far from a community share offer. We also secured a £2.12m loan from the Development Bank of Wales to fund the installs which are ongoing.  This is the biggest rollout of rooftop solar in Welsh history www.egni.coop

Egni has installed more than 4MWp on 83 sites in Wales which:

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  • Saves £105k/year in electricity costs
  • Reduces carbon emissions by over 1,000t/year

The Awel Aman Tawe team have also delivered the award-winning Awel Co-op, a 4.7MW community wind farm which was commissioned in Jan 2017. It was funded by a £5.25m loan from Triodos Bank and a £3m community share offer www.awel.coop.

Egni Co-op won Outstanding Renewable Energy Project in an award sponsored by Welsh Government & Awel Aman Tawe was recognised as Environmental Organisation of the Year in the Social Enterprise UK Awards.


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Environment

Cadle Heath is alive with the sound of critters

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From endangered bats to moths, beetles and unusual critters, a Swansea suburb is giving locals an opportunity to discover exactly what’s living on their doorstep.

The Cadle Heath BioBlitz event funded by the Swansea Nature Partnership on Saturday, May 14, is a day packed with scavenger hunts, guided walks, opportunities to learn about the wildflowers, bugs birds, reptiles and mammals and help to gather important nature data by recording the unusual species living in this urban heath.

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This nature reserve is one of Swansea’s best kept secrets and stretches from behind Swansea Community Farm on Carmarthen Road, to popular shopping-destination, Pontarddulais Road Retail Park.

The event, which is organised by Swansea Community Farm, South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre and Penderi Green Regeneration project, will take place between 10am and 3pm at the farm. Followed by a bat walk at 8.30pm, giving people the chance to listen for the elusive, red-listed, Lesser Horseshoe Bat in its natural habitat.

Kate McCabe from Pobl, leading on the Penderi Green Regeneration Project, said: “This is an exciting event for us. Cadle Heath is one of the best examples of urban heathland in the country and we are proud to have such a rich, exciting space for nature in the heart of Swansea’s Penderi region. The fact that the heath is home to a red-listed bat species is something we should be really proud of and something we should protect and celebrate.”

“Cadle is in such a highly populated part of Swansea that it is often overlooked, and people don’t often realise the hidden haven that exists for local wildlife. This family-friendly event will really bring the area to life, giving people a unique opportunity to really explore the area with the guidance of passionate scientists and nature experts.”

Katharine Aylett, from Swansea Community Farm, said: “We are proud to be hosting such an important and exciting event for the area, and to be partners of Pobl’s Penderi Green Regeneration Project. At Swansea Community Farm, we know the positive effect activities like this have on the community and local wildlife; it’s about raising awareness of the natural world and bringing people together, outdoors. 

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“The Penderi Green Regeneration Project itself, is vital to the area and is already having a clear impact on this part of Swansea. We’re looking forward to working with them on future events and initiatives.”

The Penderi Green Regeneration Project is an initiative to support local people in their desire to improve green spaces in their area which will help boost health and wellbeing. Through a series of physical and educational opportunities, the initiative will bring the wider neighbourhood together to regenerate green spaces in the Penderi area of Swansea.

Funded by UK Government, under the Community Renewal Fund (CRF), Pobl Group is able to deliver the Project with the help of key partners, Swansea Environment Centre, Room To Grow and the Conservation Team at Swansea Council.

For more information on the free event, visit: www.swanseacommunityfarm.org.uk

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Environment

First Minister celebrates 10 years of the Wales Coast Path

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The First Minister will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Wales Coast Path with a visit to meet volunteers and walkers.

A year long programme of events and activities celebrating the Wales Coast Path will take place throughout 2022, including walking festivals, virtual challenges and art installations.

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Since its opening in 2012, the Wales Coast Path has established itself as a beacon of our nation’s natural beauty.

The 870 mile path guides walkers along Wales’ picturesque coastline, weaving its way past a hundred beaches and sixteen castles.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The coastal path is one of the crowning glories of Wales and one of the proudest achievements of devolution.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the management of the path. Particularly the staff and volunteers, who are out in all weathers, working hard to maintain the path to such high standards.

“If I had to choose my favourite stretch of the path, the portion between Pendine and Amroth would be a candidate: starting in my own home county of Carmarthenshire, and ending in Pembrokeshire. It may not be the most well-known part of the path, but it offers huge variety: some challenging climbs, outstanding variety of flowers, secret coves and plenty of historical interest”.

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The Welsh Government will build on the successes of the first ten years so that more people are able to enjoy the path, from more backgrounds, more easily, and with more benefits for local communities, businesses and the environment.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, asked Huw Irranca-Davies, MS for Ogmore to undertake a review of the Wales Coast Path.

A small group, drawn from academia and the public, private and voluntary sectors was established to undertake the review.

The Group reflected on the key achievements over the last decade and identified how to maximise opportunities for the future.

Their report has been published on the Welsh Government website today (11 May).

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The review recognises the potential value and challenges of the Wales Coast Path. It contains 19 recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider when developing its future strategic approach to the path.

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Dyfed Powys Police

Man banned from driving for 12 months for fishing offence

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A man from Merthyr Tydfil who travelled to the River Loughor, near Llanelli to fish using a barbaric and illegal method, has been banned from driving for 12 months as part of his sentence.

Vu Quang Tien pleaded guilty to an illegal fishing charge and also to a charge of obstruction of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Fisheries Enforcement Officer on 26 April at Swansea Magistrates Court.

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Mr Tien and two other anglers were witnessed by NRW Fisheries Enforcement Officers deliberately using the illegal foul hooking method of fishing – also known as snatching – at the river Loughor on 15 August 2021. NRW officers attended the site after several reports of illegal fishing were made to NRW’s 24/7 incident call centre by concerned members of the community.

When approached and questioned by NRW officers, Mr Tien and his accomplices showed significant hostility and reluctance to share identification documents which eventually had to be extracted by use of reasonable force.

All of Mr Tien’s fishing tackle and fish, along with his associates’ fishing tackle was seized by NRW Officers at the time of the incident. The district judge on the day at Swansea Magistrates Court gave permission to NRW to confiscate these items permanently from each of them.

The District Judge disqualified Mr Tien from driving for 12 months due to seriousness of the incident, and the premeditated and deliberate action of travelling such a distance to commit the offence.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £2,334 in fines, NRW costs and a victim surcharge.

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Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “We would like to again thank Dyfed Powys Police, the local communities and also the law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities.

“Foul hooking is a truly barbaric form of fishing carried out by a small minority of anglers in Wales, who have no regard for fish welfare.

“NRW and the Police take these incidents seriously as do the courts.

“Hopefully, the small minority of anglers who may in future, think of using any illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines and driving ban in this case issued by the courts.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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