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Swansea Bay Metro: Ideas for regional transport improvements discussed

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Early ideas on potential rail and bus service improvements for passengers throughout the Swansea Bay City Region have been discussed.

A presentation from regional local authority heads of transport covered aspirations for the future as well as current transport projects being delivered in Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea.

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The presentation, which was given at the Corporate Joint Committee for South West Wales, will help prepare for the development of a regional transport plan once the early ideas have been further explored and detailed guidance from the Welsh Government is made available later this year.

Further partnership work with the Welsh Government, Transport for Wales and transport providers would also take place to identify transport priorities for the region.

When it’s developed in detail, opportunities will be made available for local people, local businesses and other organisations across South West Wales to give feedback and help shape the regional transport plan which – subject to approval – would enable bids for funding.

As well as improving rail and bus services, priorities could include further decarbonising the public transport fleet, introducing more electric vehicle charging points, and creating even more high-quality cycling and walking routes. This would help tackle climate change by further cutting the region’s carbon footprint.

Rail improvements, including new stations were discussed

Cllr Rob Stewart, Chairman of the Corporate Joint Committee for South West Wales, said: “A huge amount of investment is happening across the Swansea Bay City Region to improve skills and create jobs for local people, but higher quality, better-connected and more frequent bus and rail services are also needed to support this activity.

“Not only would these improvements benefit people of all ages, but they’d also help tackle climate change by encouraging less car journeys and focusing on more decarbonisation of public transport.

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“Building on many transport projects already complete or in development in South West Wales, a co-ordinated regional transport plan would help secure funding that could deliver further improvements of this kind. That’s why early ideas have been discussed, paving the way for more detailed work alongside transport providers, Transport for Wales and other organisations once Welsh Government guidance is made available in the autumn.”

Cllr Steve Hunt, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, said: “Transport has a major role to play in supporting economic growth across the Swansea Bay City Region, including the valleys and rural areas.

“Many people rely on some form of transport to get to work or school, to access services, and to connect with friends, family and their community. Therefore, the feedback we receive from residents, businesses and community groups will be key to helping us shape what we do when the plans are published.

“The environmental effects of transport are also significant, so we must ensure the plans are developed in line with the region’s targets for decarbonisation and reducing air pollution.”

Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro proposals were also discussed at the meeting. Subject to approvals, funding and consultation, they include potential new railway stations at several communities in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, which could follow-on from current work to re-open the railway station at St Clears in Carmarthenshire.

Station improvements are also proposed as part of the metro vision for Neath, Swansea, Llanelli, Carmarthen, Whitland, Haverfordwest and Milford Haven, along with more frequent trains to better connect Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire with Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and beyond.

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Other metro aspirations include improved and better-connected bus routes in many parts of the region, both rural and urban.

Cllr Stewart said: “The establishment of a metro to provide affordable, reliable, integrated public transport options for people living and working in the region is a major priority.

“As well as new railway metro stations, this will include the operation of hydrogen buses, integrated ticketing systems and excellent links with the region’s active travel network of walking and cycling routes.”

The South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee is aimed at further driving economic prosperity across the region. It’s made up of the Leaders of Carmarthenshire Council, Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire Council and Swansea Council, as well as senior representatives of the Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire National Park Authorities.

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Carmarthen

Fire Service in search for new Carmarthenshire firefighters

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Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service has launched a hunt for new firefighters to join its Carmarthenshire fire stations.

It’s looking for people who live within 10 minutes of fire stations in Carmarthen, Llandysul and Newcastle Emlyn to become On-Call firefighters.

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On-Call firefighters get paid to respond to emergencies. They do not staff the fire stations 24 hours a day, like full-time firefighters, but get notified of an emergency call via a personal pager, which they carry with them when they are on duty.

Most On-Call Firefighters have other jobs with an agreement from their employers to leave to attend an emergency call if required. Others are available outside typical working hours like evenings, weekends, or between school runs.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service say they’re looking for people wh consider themselves to be reasonably fit and healthy, who want to be of service to your local community.

They say applicants should be someone who can always be relied on to be somewhere on time, committed to maintaining your physical fitness, maintaining and developing your skills.

You should be someone who has the sensitivity to deal with members of the public when they are distressed, confused, or being obstructive, can get on with people from different backgrounds and cultures and work as part of a close-knit team.

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You should also be someone who works well under pressure, think on your feet and solve problems.

In return, if you become an On-Call Firefighter, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service say they will provide all the training and support required to respond to emergency incidents such as property fires, road traffic collisions, and incidents involving flooding, rescues from height, and many other specialist emergency calls. You will also receive training to deliver Community Safety advice that will help keep people safe in their homes and communities.

In addition to having an exciting career, you will earn a salary-based pay and, from your induction day as an On-Call Firefighter, you will be able to contribute to the Firefighters Pension Scheme

The fire service say they work with local employers to release their staff to respond to emergency incidents.

To apply or for more information visit Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s website.

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(Lead image: Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service)

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Business

Fashion students design sustainable leggings for Commonwealth Games thanks to Llanelli manufacturer

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Two Fashion Design students at the University of South Wales (USW) have designed leggings for Team Wales athletes – made from sustainable materials – to wear at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Bethan Jones and Olivia Soady, both in their final year, won a design competition set by Commonwealth Games Wales in partnership with USW.

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The students worked closely with Onesta, an award-winning sustainable clothing brand based in Llanelli, to bring their designs to life, and in total, Onesta manufactured 360 pairs of leggings for Team Wales.

They were officially revealed last week (Friday 1 July) when the Queen’s Baton Relay passed through Llanelli and stopped at the Onesta studio, where the baton-bearer, Wales Women’s rugby international Jasmine Joyce, modelled the Team Wales kit.

Onesta has only been trading since June 2020 but is already kitting out the likes of Rosie Eccles, Anwen Butten and Alys Thomas as they represented Wales at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The collaborative project was developed with funding from the USW Exchange Partnership and Engagement Programme, which enables organisations to directly benefit from scoping and feasibility support, as well as access to USW’s academic expertise.

Following a brief from Team Wales, Bethan and Olivia’s designs focused heavily on sustainability, ensuring the leggings are practical, long-lasting and have a clear Welsh identity.

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Olivia said: “From the offset it was made very clear in the brief that these leggings were meant to be worn and to last, which is something that Bethan and I took into consideration throughout the design process. I’d read an article on all these amazing things which had originated in Wales, which gave me the idea of our country being small but mighty.”

Bethan and Olivia’s legging design
(Image: University of South Wales)

Bethan added: “Olivia and I both had a very similar concept. Mine was all about Welsh power symbols, and being proud to be Welsh, alongside the importance of sustainable production. So we merged those ideas together and got something very contemporary, which we’re really proud of. Being able to work on this project with Team Wales is such an exciting opportunity for me, and something which really aligns with my values as a person and as a designer.”

Owner and founder of Onesta, Gabriella Diana, said: “We are proud to have been selected as the manufacturer of casual leggings for Team Wales, designed in collaboration with USW students.

“Manufacturing in Wales not only lowers the carbon footprint of our clothing, but also puts money back into our local economy, strengthening industry here in the UK, and providing skilled jobs to local people and graduates. Plus, we know all our garments are made by happy hands.

“Working on this project with Team Wales has been really exciting, and we have loved being involved in developing sustainable sportswear for the Commonwealth Games.”

Stacey Grant-Canham, lecturer in Fashion Design at USW who worked with Bethan and Olivia on this project, said: “The designers are fully immersed in the industry from day one on the Fashion Design course here at USW; both taking advantage of our option of a year out in industry, they have the commercial awareness and creativity underpinned with a strong knowledge of circularity for fashion. It’s a real winning combination. The fact that they opted to collaborate is testament to the holistic way they see their place in this global industry too.”

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Bethan and Olivia’s legging design
(Image: University of South Wales)

Cathy Williams, Head of Engagement at Commonwealth Games Wales, added: “’The partnership between Commonwealth Games Wales and USW has become stronger and stronger over the past few years, and it’s great that once again we can bring in young and talented individuals like Bethan and Olivia to create something special for the team.

“We first ran this competition with USW for the Gold Coast 2018 Games, and we’ve built on that success, and we love seeing the athletes wearing the finished design.”

Chris Jenkins, CEO of Commonwealth Games Wales, said: ‘’Working alongside USW on such projects is really important for the organisation; not only does it provide a platform for young designers and university students to get a feel for the industry in the ‘real’ world, but for us, it opens up our support network to people who wouldn’t necessarily be drawn into sport.

“The Commonwealth Games is more than a sporting event – it’s an opportunity to bring in communities across the country and support Wales on a global platform. Congratulations to both designers, and I’d like to thank USW and Onesta for all their hard work.”

Since it commenced trading, over two years ago, Carmarthenshire County Council has supported Onesta, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but also to realise the company’s long-term ambitions. In June 2021, Onesta was awarded an Economic Resilience Fund grant of £2,500 by Carmarthenshire County Council as support to cover the business bills during the COVID-19 restrictions of May and June 2021. They were also awarded a £2000 Non-Domestic Rates Grant during the COVID-19 support schemes in February 2022.

In April 2022, Onesta was awarded a Business Growth & Recovery Grant of £10,000 to assist with the purchase of manufacturing equipment and workshop and office furniture. The grant money will fund a cutting table, overlockers, cutting machine, industrial iron, industrial sewing machine and lockstitch, which would assist in the manufacturing of the clothing for the Wales Commonwealth Team for the 2022 Games.

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The company’s founder, Gabriella Diana, was nominated by the Council for the Wales Start Up Awards in 2021 in which she went on to win the Rising Star category.

Since then, Onesta has also won the Marie Claire Sustainability Award for Best Sustainable Small Brand 2021, UnLtd Social Entrepreneur Award, and was a finalist in the Cardiff Life Awards 2021 and the GBEA Awards 2021.  

Onesta was highly commended in the Heroes of Net Zero competition at a special awards ceremony, hosted by Intuit, at the COP26 international climate change summit in Glasgow. More than 160 businesses entered the competition, making a commitment at the UK Business Climate Hub to achieve net zero by 2050, in line with the government’s own climate commitment. They were highly commended in the micro business category for demonstrating a range of measures taken on their journey to net zero, including sourcing eco-friendly materials locally, removing toxic chemicals used in manufacturing and re-purposing fabric scraps to make sustainable products for Surfers Against Sewage.

Gabriella Diana, Founder and Owner of Onesta added: “I’m very grateful to Carmarthenshire County Council for the financial support we have received to, not only survive the COVID-19 restrictions but also to build the business and strive.”

Since launching the Business Growth & Start-Up Grant scheme in early 2022, Carmarthenshire County Council has approved 61 business grants to Carmarthenshire businesses. Of which 44 approvals were Business Growth & Recovery Grants, totalling £299,225.17 and 17 approvals were Business Start Up Grants, totalling £117,924.31.

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Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism said: “As a local authority, we are delighted to have been able to invest in Gabriella and her company to enable her to grow the business. We are also very proud to have provided financial support to Onesta, and other companies based in Carmarthenshire, to weather the difficult COVID-19 restrictions of the past two and a half years.

“We have all enjoyed watching Wales’ athletes compete at the recent Commonwealth Games and the fact that they are wearing a kit that is made in Carmarthenshire has been a source of much pride for Carmarthenshire County Council.”

(Lead image: University of South Wales)

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Cadw

Mysterious Discovery Digs arrive at three Welsh Castles

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The last Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, (also known as Llywelyn the Last) is a national hero – but his life and times are shrouded with a 740-year-old mystery… The location of his long-lost crown jewels.

Could they be hidden at a historical site in Wales?

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Cadw is inviting visitors to dig into the history of Llywelyn the Last this August – as a series of archaeology-inspired events arrive at the Castles of RhuddlanLaugharne and Beaumaris.

Visitors to Cadw’s series of three and four day ‘Discovery Dig’ events will be invited to uncover ‘artefacts’ — from coins to crown fragments and shield splinters — as Cadw launches a search for families to find the long-lost crown of Wales.

Visitors are being encouraged to uncover ‘artefacts’ — from coins to crown fragments and shield splinters

Llywelyn the Last is well known for his conflict with the English crown — but it’s his final battle against King Edward I which  is the backdrop for Cadw’s series of events.

At the start of his final defence against King Edward I in 1282, Llywelyn left his coronet — the Welsh crown, with the monks at Cymer Abbey in Dolgellau, for safe keeping.

Yet, following his death in battle, the coronet is said to have been captured from the ruins of the Principality of Gwynedd and taken to London as a token of the Principality’s defeat.

Centuries later, it’s widely believed that under the orders of Oliver Cromwell,  the coronet was destroyed alongside many of the English crown jewels… But others believe the monks had stepped in long before this could happen, and the crown is still hidden somewhere in Wales.

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Junior archaeologists will get an official Discovery Digs’ certificate for their finds

Suitable for children of all ages, visitors to Cadw’s Discovery Dig events will rediscover long-lost stories from Welsh history, all while learning about real-life archaeology in staged dig-sites.

Junior archaeologists that hand in their findings will return home with an official ‘Discovery Digs’ certificate — but it’s hoped that they’ll also leave with a newfound love and awareness of Welsh history.

In support of this, selected events will feature bilingual performances from theatre company, Mewn Cymeriad — bringing the story of the last native Prince of Wales and his grandfather, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (also known as Llywelyn Fawr), to life.

It’s all part of Cadw’s Rediscover History campaign, which aims to tell the stories of Wales in a new way, while igniting an interest in archaeology — which links the 21st century to centuries upon centuries of history.

Laugharne Castle in Carmarthenshire is one of the locations hosting Cadw’s Discovery Digs

Head of Marketing and Tourism Development, Gwydion Griffiths, said: “Archaeology has played — and continues to play — an integral part in our understanding of historical Wales, so it’s wonderful to be simulating the activity with budding, young archaeologists across the country.

“Interactive and sensory events such as the Discovery Digs introduce a new way for children to get involved and interested in learning more about the culture, heritage, and the rich history of Wales. I hope this event series inspires people of all ages to learn about Llywelyn the Last and encourages a life-long love of heritage among future generations.”

To learn more about the Discovery Dig events and other activities happening at Cadw sites across Wales this summer, visit: https://cadw.gov.wales/visit/whats-on.

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Lead image: Laugharne Castle (Image: Cadw)

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