Please find below my monthly newsletter for March.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the Coronavirus outbreak.
The common-sense advice is the same as during the ‘flu and cold season: catch it, bin it, kill it. So, to protect against infection, wash your hands frequently with soap and water or a sanitiser gel. Catch coughs and sneezes with tissues, which should be thrown away immediately afterwards, and wash your hands after disposing of tissues. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and avoid close contact with people who are unwell. People who think they may be affected by Coronavirus should call the NHS 111 number phone service.
I hope you find this month's newsletter informative and as always, if you would like to be updated on matters which I haven't mentioned in this newsletter, please do feel free to contact me on 01686 610887 or by emailing email@example.com
Russell George AM
Member of the Welsh Parliament for Montgomeryshire
Urgent and immediate action is needed to manage the flooding issues downstream of the Clywedog and Vyrnwy reservoirs.
Flooding and the wettest February on record
Areas across Mid Wales and the border in Shropshire are still in the process of recovering from the wettest February on record and three seasonal storms – Ciara, Dennis and Jorge – which hit over three successive weekends, causing much disruption.
From my perspective, I would like to express my gratitude to the emergency services and I have also been scrutinising the Welsh Government on what it can do to provide assistance to those affected.
While I accept that Government can’t control the weather – and nor can it prevent all flooding – it is responsible for developing an holistic plan with concerned parties to do all it can to prevent – and then mitigate the effects of – flooding, because storms, rain, and floods will, of course, come again.
It has been 10 years since the since the publication of the last flood risk management strategy so we need an update to the flood risk management strategy, to make it fit for the 2020s and onwards.
I have also highlighted further the need for urgent and immediate action to manage the flooding issues downstream of the Clywedog and Vyrnwy reservoirs which have once again left local landowners frustrated at the lack of action from Government agencies.
The fact that we see continuous overflowing over the top of each reservoirs, demonstrates the lack of control of water discharge. Over a number of years, I have spoken of the necessity of a long term solution to resolve the flooding issues which causes so much frustration and consternation for local residents and farmers, but the recent storms have again demonstrated that not enough has been done to improve the flood risk management arrangements in spite of earlier commitments to discuss the section 20 operating agreement that is currently in place, to provide greater flood attenuation.
There needs to be a greater drawdown of water during periods of dry weather and I have called on the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, the Environment Agency and Hafren Dyfrdwy to put in place measures which will better manage both reservoirs. This week, I have had a positive conversation with the CEO of Severn Trent water who owns the Clywedog reservoir, and I am due to meet NRW to discuss this further in a couple of weeks.
Reselection for 2021 Welsh Parliament Elections
I'm delighted and privileged to have earned the confidence again of local Conservative members who reselected me at their recent Annual General Meeting as the Welsh Conservative candidate for the Welsh Parliament elections next year. I say Welsh Parliament because the name of the National Assembly for Wales will change to the Welsh Parliament in May of this year.
I am now looking forward to the forthcoming election campaign and I of course hope to earn the trust of you all so that I can continue to represent you to the best of my ability both locally and in Cardiff Bay. I look forward to meeting many of you during the course of the campaign!
There continue to be challenges ahead and I will campaign to ensure that the local provision of healthcare for the people of Powys is maintained and strengthened; people have a say on proposals to change our education system; that we drive forward long term economic development and other transport projects here in Powys to ensure that our communities are connected; we support our rural economy here in Mid Wales; and that we do more to close the digital divide by ensuring that all of our communities have the high speed broadband and mobile connectivity which people in other areas take for granted.
Shared Rural Mobile Network
There was some positive news for mobile phone connectivity earlier this week after confirmation that an agreement has been reached between the UK Government and all four mobile network operators on a shared rural network.
This is something which I have been encouraging for some time after meetings with the mobile operators myself. This should now improve mobile phone reception here in Mid Wales.
This is a £1 billion announcement which will see 4G mobile coverage extended to 95% of the UK’s landmass including many rural communities. The Shared Rural Network proposal will be delivered by focusing on eliminating virtually all partial not-spots where there is coverage from one or more operators. This will be made possible by all four mobile network operators sharing each other’s infrastructure.
To facilitate this, the Welsh Government also has a role when it comes to planning policy and Permitted Development Rights which will help prepare for 4G and 5G deployment and speed up the process for new mobile phone masts as long as they are in appropriate locations.
The Welsh Government has a role in creating the right regulatory, political and commercial conditions necessary for mobile operators to invest in digital connectivity so I will continue to press the Welsh Government to use the devolved policy levers at their disposal to support the rollout of the Shared Rural Network and end the frustration of residents and businesses in North Powys who are unable to use 21st century technology on which we all rely.
Newtown Rotary Club Swimathon
Following the success of last year’s event, Newtown Rotary Club will be holding another Swimathon between 1.30pm and 4pm on Saturday 21st March at Maldwyn Leisure Centre. Although I'm not taking part, I will be pleased to attend and support the event.
The idea is that teams of up to 6 of all ages ranging from primary and secondary schools, guides, scouts, cadets, sports clubs, youth and other groups, organisations, businesses and families enter the event and raise money which is split 50-50 with their chosen charity or good cause and the Newtown Rotary Club’s chosen charities and good causes. Each swimmer is asked, through sponsorship, to raise as much money as possible and the aim of the Swimathon is to support local and international charities/good causes. The Rotary Club is keen to hear from any schools or clubs that are looking for financial support for a project they are undertaking.
Teams swim in a relay at their own pace (it is not a race) for 30 minutes. All entrants must be over 8 years of age and able to complete 2 lengths of the 25m pool. If you have a disability or are unable to swim 25m of the pool but would still like to take part, please contact the team to accommodate your needs.
At the end of the session, the number of lengths is added up and the teams are awarded certificates of achievement and goody bags.
If you are interested in taking part by forming a team to join in the fun and laughter of the day, please contact Jenny Cassidy on 07525 538291 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Buttington Incinerator & The Circular Economy Strategy
It is still expected that a planning application for an Energy Recovery Facility Incinerator (located in Buttington Quarry near Trewern), will be submitted in due course. The proposed incinerator could burn up to 150,000 tonnes of commercial waste. The size of the Buttington Incinerator means that Welsh Government Ministers, under the Developments of National Significance Process, will make the decision on its approval rather than Powys County Council, the Local Planning Authority.
County Councillor Amanda Jenner, the local Member for Buttington and Trewern, and I have previously called for a moratorium on the development of any new large scale incinerators. We believe that the Welsh Government should take some time to consider whether the current processes and rules surrounding waste incinerators are fit for purpose, and in so doing, develop a national plan. The Welsh Government must ensure that waste is dealt with strategically and in the most environmentally conscious way as possible. The decision making processes should also allow for communities to have a strong voice; it is local people who understand best how developments may impact them and it is local people who know whether their road networks are suitable for large scale developments.
Currently, the Welsh Government are carrying out a consultation on its “Circular Economy Strategy” which aims to ensure that no waste is sent to landfill or incinerators by 2050. This consultation includes the proposal of legislation banning key recyclable material from being sent to landfill or incinerators. Welsh Government Ministers also say that they will work with the UK Government to explore the idea of an incinerator tax.
The public consultation on the Welsh Government's Circular Economy Strategy will run until 3rd April 2020, with events being held across Wales to seek people's views (including one in Machynlleth on 26th March). For details on how to respond to this consultation and of the events that Welsh Government are organising, please visit: https://gov.wales/circular-economy-strategy
With the Welsh Government’s ambition of sending zero waste to incineration by 2050, I have again urged the Welsh Government to put in place a moratorium on any new waste incinerators whilst this consultation and the responses to it are considered. A move towards a circular economy should reduce the need for any increase in the capacity of waste incineration.
Road Closures near Machynlleth
I'm aware that residents and businesses in Derwenlas near Machynlleth have been denied access to the road, which is currently under maintenance, in spite of assurances to the contrary from the Trunk Road Agency that the road would still be accessible for the emergency service vehicles, public service buses, rail replacement buses and local residents / businesses.
This is unacceptable so I have asked the Welsh Government Minister and his officials to take this up as a matter of urgency and ensure access for residents is maintained. Whilst we all recognise the need for road maintenance, residents still need to be able to access their properties in certain circumstances between 7.30pm and 6.00am particularly when there is no alternative route available for residents apart from a very lengthy diversion through Llangurig and Llanidloes which is a distance of 60 – 70 miles.