The Merthyr Liberal Democrats first became aware of Covanta’s proposals for an incinerator in 2008 and immediately organised a public meeting in the town centre.
From then on we have been trying to raise awareness of this issue.
This is not what some might describe as Nimbyism (‘Not in my back yard’). This is making sensible arguments against proposals that are too large and clearly contradict Welsh Assembly Government policy.
For example, the Government’s policy on waste states that any incinerator needs to function at 60% efficiency (or better) in order to be environmentally acceptable. To achieve this, incinerators must generate electricity and fully utilise the heat as heating for homes and for industry. These proposals suggest this will not be the case.
The size of the plan would demand that Assembly Government accept this single incinerator to deal with all the residual waste in Wales. That would require waste to be moved from all aprts of Wales. This is also against Assembly Government policy.
The incinerator planning process is an example of democracy not working. The consultation with local residents has been poor. It is startling the number of people I have spoken to who weren’t aware of the proposals, or at least were not aware of the size of the development planned.
I must question the Assembly Government’s role in these proposals.
Only recently I quizzed the First Minister on his Government’s involvement in the proposed incinerator. He informed me that it was “not a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government” !
In the past the First Minister has said that he would not be able to intervene because his Government was not a statutory consultee in the IPC’s (Infrastructure Planning Committee) application process. However, on the IPC website, it clearly states that the Assembly Government is a statutory consultee at both the pre-application and examination stage of the process.
The fact is that the Assembly Government could have influence if it wanted to. Carwyn Jones needs to explain why his Government has decided to stay silent on this.
The IPC suggest it may be useful for the local authority to receive comments from local people to help them compose a Local Impact Report. I believe there is a strong moral obligation for Merthyr Council to do this and I suggest that residents send their views to the Leader of the Council.
The incinerator would create a handful of jobs, but this would be incredibly short sighted: A recent report showed that increased recycling could provide more than 3,000 new ‘Green Jobs’ in the Heads of the Valleys. The research said that recycling creates 10 times as many jobs as incineration and the region could have a green, successful and thriving future. This is the direction the region needs to be heading, rather than the unsustainable incinerator.
Welsh Liberal Democrats Veronica German AM and Councillor Bob Griffin last weekend took part in a ‘No Monster Incinerator’ action group day in Merthyr town centre.
Over the course of the day, 600 local residents completed and signed the IPC (Infrastructure Planning Commission) registration forms in protest against the incinerator.
Ms German, Assembly Member for South Wales East commented:
“I am pleased with the support local residents are giving to the campaign against the proposed incinerator. In fact, people felt so strongly on this issue that they were actually queuing up to register their objections to the plans. Recent community public meetings have been packed, illustrating the strength of feeling of local residents.
“The incinerator might create a few jobs, but this would be incredibly short sighted. A recent report illustrated that increased recycling could provide more than 3,000 new ‘green jobs’ in the Heads of the Valleys. The research showed that recycling creates ten times as many jobs as incineration and that the region could potentially have a green, successful and thriving future. This is the direction the region needs to be heading, rather than the environmentally unfriendly incinerator.
“There also seems to be a big problem over the lack of consultation with local residents. It was startling the number of people I spoke to who hadn’t been aware of the proposals, or at least were not aware of the size of the development planned. Covanta held some meetings which according to many residents lacked any sort of detailed information. Since then, the IPC have held some meetings that were poorly advertised and also lacked any proper information. There is a sense of feeling in the local community that their voices are not being heard.”
Veronica will be meeting a group of constituents who are visiting the Senedd tomorrow afternoon after they have presented a petition to the Infrastructure Planning Commission.
Veronica German, Assembly Member for South Wales East, has pressed the First Minister to do more to tackle inequalities in Wales so areas such a Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent are not left behind.
In First Minister’s Questions, Ms German noted that over the last 14 years the difference in life expectancy between the highest and lowest local authority has actually increased, whilst the difference between Wales and the UK has also widened.
Ms German, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, commented:
“Despite 13 years of a so-called ‘progressive’ Labour government, the gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen. Those areas that were poorest 14 years ago are still the poorest now.
“The Labour-Plaid Government must look at how they plan to improve the health of the poorest in Wales so as to improve healthy life expectancy. A review similar to the Marmot Review that was held in England would be a step in the right direction. The last figures released on Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) showed that in some wards in Wales people can expect to live for around 20 years healthier than someone who might live in Merthyr.
“For too long many people in Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent have suffered from high levels of deprivation. Reducing health inequalities is a matter of fairness and social justice. The Welsh Assembly Government needs to be doing all it can do put an end to the disgraceful inequality that currently exists in Wales.”
Veronica German AM has spoken out regarding South Wales East having many areas in Wales that has the worst rate of severe child poverty in Wales
A report, released by Save the Children, has shown that around 14% of children in Wales are living in severe poverty. This is higher than any other nation of the UK. Around 90,000 children were living in severe poverty in Wales, making up more than four in ten of all children.
Blaenau Gwent had the worst rate of severe child poverty in the whole of Wales. Torfaen, Newport and Caerphilly were joint second with 18% of children living in severe poverty. Merthyr Tydfil was also above the Welsh average, with 16% in severe child poverty.
Ms German, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister and Assembly Member for South Wales East, commented:
“Whenever lifestyle and health figures are released is it is nearly always the same areas that are suffering the most.
“A number of targets have been set to eradicate child poverty, but these figures illustrate the lack of action and firm commitment from the Labour-Plaid government in tackling this issue. It is all very well setting targets, but these targets mean absolutely nothing to the people that have to live with such disadvantages in life.
“Inequality in Wales continues to be huge problem. There are huge discrepancies in life expectancy across Wales, where there is a clear correlation between those areas that are poorer and those with lower life expectancy. After over ten years in power, the Labour party has completely failed to tackle the issue of inequality.
“Child poverty limits future life chances for employment and training. The Labour-Plaid government needs to get a grip on this continuing problem as whole areas of Wales are being left behind. ”
Residents have recently been in contact with me regarding the location of the sessions you have recently held in the Merthyr area. I appreciate the aims of the events, which were to allow local residents the chance to learn how to submit their opinions to you. Nonetheless, I must question the choice of location for your event held at the Blaen Dowlias Rugby Club on Friday 18th February 2011. Blaen Dowlais, on the edge of the Merthyr Borough, is not particularly easy to get to. I find it strange that the one event that was actually held in Merthyr was not in the town centre, but instead on the northernmost edge of the area. The other two sessions held seems as if they were also not designed with the aim to allow easy access for residents of Merthyr Tydfil. Neither Fochriw or Rhymney, both outside the Merthyr catchment area, have good transport links from Merthyr town centre.
I welcome the fact that residents of both Fochriw and Rhymney were consulted on this very serious issue that will also affect them. I also welcome that both of the events held outside Merthyr were held at a reasonable time for residents to attend. But why was the Merthyr session held on a weekday between 09:00-12:00? This is clearly not a sensible time as obviously a number of people would be at work. So not only was the event held in an unsuitable location, it was also held at a time that allowed few people to attend.
Residents have contacted me regarding their disappointment in the actual session that IPC provided. There was a lack of information before the session which led to many residents believing that IPC would be engaging the public in discussion about the application itself. This was not the case, which led to residents making lengthy journey’s in hope of learning more about the application, but instead they left none the wiser with the feeling of confusion. I have been told that no information was available whatsoever at some of your sessions. How are people supposed to submit their opinions when they believe they are not well enough informed to do so?
There also seemed to be a problem with the advertising of the sessions being held. The vast majority of residents had no knowledge that the sessions were taking place, let alone where and when. I appreciate that details were made available on your website, but more efforts must be made so residents are fully informed on what is being planned.
I am aware that Covanta themselves held a public consultation, but local residents and elected member felt that it was lacking in detailed information.
This is clearly a contentious issue and the perception is that the views of local people are not being heard. I would be grateful for your comments regarding this matter.
I recently attended the Friends of the Earth’s launch of a report on the possibilities for Green Jobs in the Heads of the Valleys area. Here is Julian explaining the potential for Green jobs in Merthyr.
Assembly Member for South Wales East, Veronica German, this week attended the Friends of the Earth’s launch of a report on the potential for Green Jobs in the Heads of the Valleys area.
The launch, which took place on Monday 17th in the Dowlais Engine House in Merthyr Tydfil, featured a number of local campaigners and politicians from all parties.
After speaking at the event, Veronica German AM commented:
“Sadly, Merthyr is an area that suffers from high unemployment, which is why it is such an excellent choice of area to be launching this report. The report has a number of great ideas and shows that through local action on climate change and recycling, Merthyr could increase the amount of jobs on offer to local people as well as leading the way for Wales to improve its recycling rates. Increasing recycling rates offers an excellent economic opportunity and new jobs could be brought to Merthyr through a determined effort to boost recycling.
“I am very much against the incinerator that is being proposed in the area. Merthyr Tydfil already has Europe’s largest opencast coal mine and by building a huge 750,000 tonnes capacity incinerator, the local area is only going to suffer even more. As well as being environmentally unfriendly, the incinerator will certainly not provide anywhere near as many jobs when compared to the green jobs that could potentially be made available”.
Veronica German, Assembly Member for South Wales East, recently visited Pen y Dre High School in Merthyr Tydfil to take a closer look at a number of community group activities that the school has organised.
Each year group has adopted a charity. Throughout the year speakers are invited to raise awareness of numerous charities and weekly loose change collections are supplemented with staff coffee mornings and bonus ball collections. A total of £5000 was raised throughout the year, which has been donated to various charities. As well as helping charities close to home, the school also has a ‘Linking arms across the world’ scheme where the school works closely with Eqinisweni Secondary School in South Africa.
The school has also started a number of peer schemes where students are trained in mentoring skills in order to help other pupils with drug awareness, adjusting to school life and other issues that are important to the students
After the visit, Ms German commented:
“The school has such a fantastic atmosphere. It is great to see young people from all age groups working together for so many different charity projects. It is clear that the weekly coffee mornings are something that everyone looks forward to.
“I have also been deeply impressed with how the pupils work together to help out those pupils that might be struggling with school life. Young people often don’t want to talk to their parents and their teachers, this scheme gives them someone else to turn to. A special mention must go to head pupil Rebecca Hughes for all of her hard work in ensuring that these schemes have been such a success.”
Pen y Dre High School is situated in the Gurnos estate, which itself has been on the receiving end of some bad press, such as the Sky News documentary ‘A Town Called Merthyr’.
Ms German added:
“I was deeply frustrated by the documentary’s take on Merthyr Tydfil as it wasn’t at all balanced. It’s a great pity that Sky News didn’t bother to take the time to come and film the brilliant work that is being done right here at Pen y Dre school. Residents of Merthyr have every reason to be proud. ”
Veronica German AM for South Wales East spoke today of the need for the Labour-Plaid Government to review the rules and the funding of their flagship mortgage rescue scheme following the news that parts of South Wales East have the highest number of mortgage repossession claims in Britain.
Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil are in the top four in the league table of mortgage repossessions, highlighting that this is still a major problem in Wales.
The £9 million mortgage rescue scheme put in place by the Welsh Government has exhausted its funding less than halfway through the financial year and although an additional £2 million has been found for it, the new rules that have been put in place mean that very few people will now be eligible for help.
The new criteria state that the applicant (or a member of the household) must have a disability and that their home must have been adapted before they can benefit from it. Yet, information from the Welsh Government reveals that only 16 of the 336 approved applications since 2008 would have met the new criteria leaving open the prospect of a huge underspend on the new money whilst families have their homes repossessed.
Veronica German said: “I think it is absolutely ludicrous that people in South East Wales are not able to get some desperately needed help because they do not qualify under these new, far too narrow, criteria
“I don’t doubt that people with adapted homes need support, but the reality is that this money will go unspent whilst struggling families all over South Wales East will not get the help they deserve.
“The Labour-Plaid Government needs to address how the scheme operates and how much money is put into it. It is inexcusable for this £2 million to remain unspent whilst families are losing their homes.
“This is an important scheme and it is completely wrong that is has to be frozen so early in the financial year when there is such need for it.”