Ventures I have supported

Power for the People not the profiteers

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I am a candidate on the regional list with Plaid Cymru. The election is spring 2016. Here is news on rebuilding and working for the area I live in. I plan to add news over the coming months for the whole enormous rural area known as Mid and West Wales. Its stretches from Porthmadog to Llanelli, from Cardigan bay to the borderlands. 

Energy is a crucial resource for homes and for work. We need to move out of fossil fuels and become energy self-reliant. We need to build an energy system fit for our children, not leave them with nothing which is the present plan. Community groups like Transition Bro Gwaun around Fishguard took matters in hand. After a painful battle with the planners this July- an historic erection : 

Many hands to erect the first large community wind turbine in the West.

Aeolus 29, is the turbine's name, of the Endurance family. She is expected to produce 528,000 KWh per year, enough for 263 households like mine (with electric car) and my 2 nearest neighbours or 130 average households. She is some 30 metres tall and surveys the land near Fishguard where live her 31 investors (groups and individuals).

Aeolus is owned half by these local share holders and half by the farming couple who own the land. The hefty £570.000 costs should be repaid within 8 years, thereafter the profits will pour in, bringing benefits to the area. When Transition Bro Gwaun told me they had to raise £285k in a hurry, I thought they would be lucky. I was wrong. It took 2 or 3 months. The money will be repaid plus 5% interest.

Sadly there are no arrangements to use the power locally. By my calculations the kilowatts cost 5p each over 20 years, plus the cost of maintaining their mother. Turbines are not the easiest to keep sweet. They get worn by the wild vagueries of the wind, its direction shifts, storms and lulls. They cost in maintenance. But for our Aeolus there is a contract to cover all costs.

It is one of the earliest community wind turbines in Wales. I have supported the group behind it with publicity, being a cook in their cafe and investment. Transition Bro Gwaun has worked steadfastly for

I organised the first meeting about Transition Towns before the group started. Its future founders were inspired there.

The 225 kw turbine lifts its head to view the scene. It is the ACT - Abergwaun Community Turbine and many shareholders dug deep to bring it to birth.

Home saved from the Bulldozers

Charlie and Megan got permission from the planning inspector to keep their home. The message arrived one morning in July, Megan read it several times to take in the momentous news. It has been a long 3 years for the young couple, in the glare of public opinion. Some hostile but for every hostile voice thousands were more than ready to face the bulldozers to save their home.

Is it strange that 300,000 people cared so much for one family's home? Not really, they are mostly young people who long for a home of any kind, especially like this.

The jilted generation.

30 years ago most young people in the UK owned and most old people rented a home, now it is the other way round. Most young people face never owning a home and always struggling to rent an insecure home. Or live with their parents. The few council houses left cannot equal the joys of the dream home with garden to love and develop over your lifetime. The home-sourced food and power mean that people can survive on small local incomes or none with a quality of life no wealth can buy.

£15,000 was what it cost them to build their home on Charlie's parents farm. The caravan was damp and they were expecting their first child. A more funky beautiful personalised home is hard to imagine. They got permission under a policy called One Planet Development. I had a lot to do with getting it in.

 

 

 

Interior, hand made, you could not plan it! Using local materials shaped as they grew.

Megan is bringing her son up in Welsh, her mother is a Welsh language teacher in the neighbouring town of Newport Pembs. The couple applied and got permission after 3 years pain, at appeal under the fairly new policy, the One Planet Development. This requires the owners to live very sustainably in a home made of local natural materials. They must produce over half of their necessities from the land, and some income.

How did this policy happen? It was a grass roots initiative forced onto government. 

In Wales, and only in Wales you can live anywhere If you can do this, and have a researched and thought out plan as part of your application. This is usually about the size of a corporation master plan. The first Ecovillage carried their14 ringbinders to the hearing in two wheelbarrows.

There is help available to turn OPD aspirations into a planning application.

Everyone else has to build within the development zone, a tight black line around official settlements. The price of land within the line is beyond. A plot where I Iive is around £80,000 and you can get at 10 of these to an acre. Developers buy up the land and cram in houses, gardens the size of a few bins and a couple of chairs.

Outside the black line land has hope value - who would sell even for £10,000 an acre if the land could be worth up to £800,000 in within your lifetime, as settlements expand.

OPD opens a door to young people from Wales to stay or return, if they like this idea. All you need is land that will make this way of life practical, and a plan. the rest is paperwork and process. Help is available. It shows the power of people to change rules and inspire a generation.

About 15 years ago (I forget dates) I took a group of people to speak at a planning inquiry. We were asking for a policy to allow people to live simply and sustainably on the land in their natural homes that would leave no footprint, do only environmental good. 

I brought a world renowned architect, a pioneer of alternative living and earning, and an ex-councillor who looks and lives like Beorn and started the roundhouse renaissance.  They were may expert witnesses and boy were they expert. The barrister for the planners played silly games and refused to listen. Her only passion in life was smoking, she got visibly twitchy and angrier as the fag break approached. 

Some years later Beorn (Tony Wrenc)h built his house. There followed a 10 year battle that reached international airwaves. Life was hell for the National Park who were in the firing line from nations as well as UK, this was before the age of social media. Instead they opened the office door to a floor covered in fax messages. 

Wisely they co-funded consultants to look into the need for a new policy. The consultants took 6 months and found in favour. So they funded a second study which took another 6 months (Consultants are paid at £200 per day - bless em)

This lot too said absolutely yes, and the policy was born. At first it was just in Pembrokeshire. Then we had that famous Labour/Plaid coalition and it went nation wide (Wales only). History has been marching on. I have helped along the way from time to time. In fact Charlie was one of the young people in a band, I told 'This policy is being used by people coming to Wales to use it, that is fine, but its you, the children of our communities that should be using it. I would go to my grave to defend your right to." And some years later he did, and a generation woke up to smell hope.

Now its time to open the next chapter.

Anyone like to come on a tour of homes like these? Get in touch tours in Septembe 2015

 

A natural bilingual upbringing

HOSPITALS - Only the Election can Save them?

Plaid has a health strategy in which everywhere in Wales is closer than an hour from emergency treatment.

Ten years ago Withybush Hospital was secretly being shrunk by the Health Trust. A courageous consultant, Chris Overton spoke up. He was sacked. The other doctors went on strike and he was reinstated quickly.

Since then he has campaigned doggedly to save down-grades in Withybush, the general hospital for Pembrokeshire. Eight years ago Plaid Cymru's John Osmond joined the fray. He ran a Save Withybush election campaign. This for the first time ever put Plaid ahead in the county's capital, Haverfordwest. It increased Plaid votes and lost Labour a seat. This meant Labour could not govern without Plaid, and the coalition was born. The 2009-2011 Labour/Plaid coalition was a success. It led to the first and last era of real progress in Wales, showing what Plaid can do in government, working with the progressive bit(s) of the Labour party. One thing Plaid did was stop any more hospital downgrades in Wales during this period of peace. (Plaid failed to make sure everyone knew what they had done, so they lost out in the next election)

During the Westminster election John Osmond (Plaid) and Chris Overton (Save Withybush) made news again.

 

Plaid candidate John Osmond (left) with Dr. Chris Overton (right). John walked out on the British Medical Association in protest

I organised three of the six hustings in the Preseli ward. Ours were great. But the British Medical Association hustings refused to let Chris Overton the doctor candidate speak! Although he was a rival, our Plaid Cymru candidate, John Osmond walked out in disgust.

He told the meeting it was an “affront to democracy” and invited other candidates to follow his lead.

“I was given to understand that this was a hustings which voters could freely attend and to which all candidates had been invited. The fact that the BMA excluded one of their own members, who is standing as an independent candidate on an issue of great importance for the constituency at present – the very future of our District General Hospital – is outrageous.

 “I could not take part in such an anti-democratic event and left the meeting in support of Chris Overton. I am disappointed that the other candidates did not show the same respect to Chris,” said Mr Osmond.

He added that the policy would mean that anyone wanting to get involved in politics would be excluded if not part of the main parties.

Excluding any candidate is “wrong”, he added but particularly Mr Overton who has been at the forefront of the campaign for Withybush for a decade, the future of which is one of the main concerns expressed by constituents is “egregious” and “extraordinary”.

This made headlines in the local papers. John Osmond is the constituency candidate iin this 2016 Assembly election for Preseli Pembrokeshire. I am a regional Plaid candidate, I need a lot of people to vote Plaid to get in.

 Plaid is committed to accident and emergency, including doctor led maternity within an hour of anyone in Wales. Speed is of the essence in these cases. Reducing hospitals to save money is absurd where there is a huge area around a solitary hospital. 

There are other ways to save money AND improve health dramatically. And a drastic need in Wales. The UK government is not right to berate the Wales health service because both are groaning at the seams and failing. The Cowarservatives are dodging blame by trying to get everyone to attack the Welsh service: 'We're better than them, look at Wales.'  The maturity of debate!

 

 

A hustings in Fishguard, April 2015. Me far left and Moira another Plaid activist in red far right, we are having the crack. The candidates are lined up facing.

DEMOCRACY COME BACK! or Start for the Very First Time

WE hope to restore democracy with the help of meetings and internet. Plaid has made a great start with the million ideas web pages. Well worth browsing. And add your ideas, your comments on peoples ideas, and vote for those you like most. Its only step one, but healthy beginning. Watch this website for next dramatic strides.

 

Please get in touch to ask anything. vicky@ecocymru.org or ring 01239 820971 or text 07791 809810

photo below: speaking in Hyde Park along with young people I brought from Wales to speak to the crowds to help Bradley Manning. Wales initiated the international campaign to get him out of a situation of torture into a relaxed prison where he now writes for the New York Times. It took us one month. Go Wales!

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soo | Reply 12.07.2015 23.47

If the stile of friendly image full flow of your magazine articles came thew hear ,what you are saying wood come across much better

D.Duck | Reply 09.06.2015 00.21

A little modesty wouldn't go amiss!

vicky 09.06.2015 00.56

actually how do you present what you have to offer as a candidate without listing what you have done? Advice genuinely wanted

vicky 09.06.2015 00.46

Well pointed out, have to get out the shears

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22.01 | 19:00

Hi, do you have any adze in the shop at the moment? thanks

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14.04 | 09:58

Have you or can you suggest any use for rosettes awarded at the agricultural shows please?

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23.03 | 18:06

Hi from Ellie at Pembs. FOE I can't make it to your Green Fair ,but will try and bring some info. about latest campaigns etc. this Friday for a display board.

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01.12 | 23:31

Is there an local organisation in SouthWest Wales for smallholders and allotment holders to sell excess produce from their holding for income?

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