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Neath Port Talbot

Free waterfall park and ride returns for the Summer

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A popular park and ride scheme aimed at easing tourist traffic congestion heading to waterfalls near Pontneddfechan in the Neath Valley is returning for the Summer.

Neath Port Talbot Council is working in partnership with Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and local transport operators DJ Thomas and Forge Travel to reintroduce the free Waterfall Country Park Ride Service this summer.

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Starting at Lancaster Close Car Park in Glynneath, the service will run on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Monday from Saturday 23rd July to Sunday 4th September 2022. 

Originally introduced in 2021, the Waterfall Country Park and Ride pilot project has been extended for a further two years with the aim of having a positive impact on the local community by easing intense visitor parking pressures in nearby Pontneddfechan, one of the main starting points for walks in Waterfall Country. It will also improve the visitor experience by avoiding the need to drive down crowded lanes and searching for space in very busy car parks. 

Visitors will be able to catch the service from the Lancaster Close Car Park and designated bus stops between Glynneath and the Village Hall in Pontneddfechan. 

In response to visitor feedback, this year will also see the introduction of a second bus service operating between Glynneath and Gwaun Hepste Car Park which is located within the National Park and is the starting point for the very popular Four Falls Trail. 

It is hoped that in addition to parking at Lancaster Close, visitors will take time to explore the town of Glynneath and the many independent shops and cafes that operate in the town.

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Waterfall Country is a hugely popular visitor destination which hosts a range of beautiful waterfalls. In recent years the small villages within Waterfall Country have seen a huge increases in visitors, leaving the local community unable to cope with the number of cars attempting to park in the area.

Cllr Steve Hunt, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, said: “We are pleased to be able to extend the Waterfall Country Park and Ride pilot for an additional two years and to expand the service up to Gwaun Hepste Car Park. We wold urge visitors to make use of this free and convenient service and to be mindful of the impact that high levels of visitor traffic can have on local residents within Waterfall Country.”

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Chief Executive of the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, added: “A range of ongoing measures have been implemented by our partners and ourselves to ease visitor pressures across Waterfall Country and the impact on local communities. Last year’s Park and Ride Service was a success and we are asking visitors to be mindful again this summer and utilise the service where possible, to assist our local communities.”

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Business

Energy intensive industries could get further relief under new Government proposals

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High electricity using businesses like steel and paper mills could see further relief under new proposals to help subsidise their electricity costs.

The UK Government is consulting on the option to increase the level of exemption for certain environmental and policy costs from 85% of costs up to 100%.

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This reflects higher UK industrial electricity prices than those of other countries including in Europe, which could hamper investment, competition and commercial viability for hundreds of businesses in industries including steel, paper, glass, ceramics, and cement, and risk them relocating from the UK.

The proposal would help around 300 businesses supporting 60,000 jobs in the UK’s industrial heartlands. Looking at ways to reduce the cost of doing business for key industries would help secure the future of domestic manufacturing and maintain a competitive business environment in the UK, ensuring economic growth and protecting thousands of jobs across the country.

The Energy Intensive Industries Exemption Scheme provides businesses with relief for the costs of renewable levies, including Contracts for Difference, the Renewable Obligation and Feed in Tariffs, in their energy bills.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “British manufacturers are the lifeblood of our economy and central to our plans to overcome this period of economic uncertainty.

“With global energy prices at record highs, it is essential we explore what more we can do to deliver a competitive future for those strategic industries so we can cut production costs and protect jobs across the UK.”

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Director General of UK Steel Gareth Stace said: “The publication of this consultation is a significant step forward in delivering competitive electricity prices for the UK steel sector and should provide some much-needed relief in the face of extremely challenging circumstances at the current time. While there remain difficulties, this announcement demonstrates that UK Government understands the challenges of British industry and continues to support steelmakers and steel communities across the country.”

(Lead image: Gareth James / Geograph / Creative Commons 2.0)

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Lifestyle

Gardening and litter-picking brings joy to our post-covid neighbourhoods says new research

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person in brown shorts watering the plants

Finding joy and wellbeing are phrases we are all familiar with, whether it’s ways to avoid working from home burnout or how to combat the stress of changes over the last few years, many of us have looked for ways to build happiness.

But new research has shown that the key to happiness is within our local communities and through getting involved in local groups we can not only create joy for ourselves but also give back to those around us. 

Most of us will have joined the local pub quiz or aerobics class once or twice, but a recent poll of 3,000 adults by community retailer SPAR revealed it is group activities with shared interest and local charity causes that bring us together and make us feel part of something larger. 

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The activities that had a particularly strong impact on those saying they were very happy in their community included groups where we are giving back or connecting with others on our passions:

  • Dog walking groups (53%)
  • Book clubs (50%)
  • Community gardening clubs (50%)
  • Public walks (49%)
  • Litter picking groups (49%) 

When looking at the types of activities we get involved in and a snapshot of our community groups, the most attended events across the UK included: 

  • Jumble sales – 16.7 million attend
  • Fitness groups – 13.5 million attend 
  • Baby & Mum Clubs – 10.8 million attend 
  • Community get togethers e.g. pub quiz – 9.7 million attend 
  • Local charitable causes – 9.1 million attend 

The report studied how we feel about our community and what positive effects it can have on us and our neighbours. A third of those surveyed (32%) said it was important to them to feel like they were needed in the community, and 21% added that they want to feel they are a part of something. A huge 57% added that they want to make a positive difference to the local area and 42% said that the community takes care of each other. 

The research also found that an impressive 31% of us are involved in activities for local causes including improving the area for others, with the top events attended including coffee mornings (49%), jumble sales (43%) and community fun walks or runs (39%). Gen Z came out top as the most charitable, with 18-24 year olds most likely to be involved with local community projects, such as litter pick-ups, with nearly a quarter (24%) helping others.

New community activities have also taken the nation by storm in recent years so if dog walking or book clubs aren’t your thing now is the time to sign up to a new group.  Bird watching groups have become more popular with 16% saying they attend and groups like Flock Together taking the twitching world by storm. Even activities such as vintage fairs and jumble sales are a way to get involved, and it seems we are a nation of bargain hunters as boot sales came out top as the most popular activity across the UK (31%).

John Drury, a social psychologist, specialising in the study of collective behaviour at the University of Sussex, commented: “These findings underline the role that local community plays in people’s lives, finding a strong association between the number of groups that people were involved in and their increased happiness in living more locally.”

“It’s no coincidence that the activities that were found to drive happiness most – such as gardening clubs and dog walking – are all activities that allow people to extend their social circle and form new friendships. It’s also worth noting that some of the most popular activities locally, such as litter picking and community gardening, serve to improve the community environment and produce a virtuous circle of happiness in the local community.”

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The best way to stay up to date with events and groups in your area is to join local Facebook pages – 53% of people find out what is going on in their community via these groups, followed by the local paper (48%) and details in local shops and cafes (41%). Joining is simple and you will soon get to grips with how things work in your neighbourhood. 

SPAR, who have over 2,600 stores across the country, commissioned the poll which also revealed the most community driven locations in the country, including: 

  1. Neath Port Talbot
  2. Norwich
  3. Dunfermline
  4. Swansea
  5. Barnsley
  6. Hackney
  7. Derry/Londonderry
  8. Plymouth
  9. Chelmsford
  10. Preston

Find out more at https://www.spar.co.uk/community-cashback

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Port Talbot

Port Talbot panto princess search over as Princess Royal Theatre make ‘royal announcement’

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The search for a princess has come to an end, as MTAZ Productions announces a princess for the forthcoming Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime at Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre has been found.

MTAZ productions has welcomed Briony Harris to the cast of the eagerly awaited show which goes ahead in December 2022 at The Princess Royal Theatre.

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Briony is currently in her second year of a three-year course at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts, Epsom, Surrey, where she is studying Musical Theatre and Dance, having been awarded a full scholarship.

Briony previously trained at Bridgend College, in Musical Theatre and Dance as well as attending TDM Stage School in Port Talbot, and Caroline Brown Ballet School in Bridgend. She is also vocally trained by Porthcawl singing teacher, Patricia O’Neill-Wheatley.

Anthony Argyle, the artistic director of MTAZ Productions, said: “I believe we have found a star of the future and I’m proud to see that she will be beginning her career locally at The Princess Royal Theatre.”

MTAZ Productions are looking forward to bringing the traditional family pantomime to Port Talbot from the 1st until 10th December. Jack and the Beanstalk will tell the classic story of poor Jack, who is sent to market by his mother to sell the family’s treasured cow.

Little does he know that swapping his dear cow for a bag of magic beans will lead to an adventure he will never forget. From fighting to save the beautiful Princess, outwitting the evil giant and winning riches beyond his wildest dreams.

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And does he gain the hand of the girl he loves?

Applications are now open for the children’s chorus. MTAZ Productions is now offering the opportunity for children aged 7-16 to take part in Jack and The Beanstalk. The show producers are looking for three teams of 10 children to take part.

An audition day will be held on September 18th from 10am – 2pm at The Princess Royal Theatre. The audition will require applicants to dance, sing and take part in acting workshops. An online booking form is in place for people wanting to book a place at the audition.

Cllr Jeremy Hurley, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Wellbeing said: “I’m delighted the princess has been found and also very pleased that Jack and the Beanstalk is building up to be a great production this year for our residents to enjoy.”

Jack and the Beanstalk is at The Princess Royal Theatre from 1 to 10 December 2022.

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