Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Old Maes verses the New

This month we ran a survey about how people felt about the new Maes and how it compares to the Old one and after two weeks of voting, the results are alarming!
Over 90% of you think it has been a total waste of money and was better with the roundabout and buses being allowed in.

To be honest I am not surprised as in my personal opinion the Maes now looks drab!
I make no apologies for saying this, because I like to say it as it is and by all accounts most of you feel the same way.

£2.4 million has been spent on this and for what? It certainly is not going to attract more visitors to the town now is it? I personally feel this money could have been better spent in town and the empty shops and dilapidated buildings could have received a face lift to improve the general feel good factor in town.

As I write I have asked Gwynedd Council (under the Freedom of Information Act) how much they have spent on the Sian Shakespeare "Nawns am Le Project". To date we are still awaiting a response and it is a little alarming that it takes so long to answer a simple question. But we wait with baited breath.

Whatever the figure may be, and my guess is that it will be well into five figures. The survey will now be useless as it was done without the knowledge that the town was to become a Prison town!
With this information now available, the guess is that the survey would have fundamental flaws in it as it did not take the new prison into consideration.
More on this when we receive the figures.

Back to the Maes then, so what now? I hear through the grapevine that further funding is being earmarked to carry on the work up Pool Street. Is this throwing good money after bad?

When Gweledigaeth and Caernarfon Online filmed the interviews on the Maes a few weeks back, I thought that Owain had filmed it in Monochrome (Black and White).
But after further viewing I noticed that this was not the case. The problem was that the Maes was grey in colour and looked very drab on film.

On closer inspection one can also notice bad cement staining on the surface which should have been addresses as the work was carried out. This "staining could be removed by "polishing" but this in turn would have "health and safety" issues as the surface would then become slippery and dangerous under foot.

We are aware of many claims already being made against the council and one in particular contacted COL with details of their visit to town and they are now in the process of suing for compensation and vowed never to return to the town again.

News like this is disastrous to the livelihood of the town and one which has to be addressed sooner rather than later. Last year the Herald reported and incident where and elderly woman suffered serious injury having fallen on the uneven surface.

A big concern by many apart from the fact that the cobbled pathways are uneven and difficult for both the elderly and disabled to manoeuvre was the fact that when vehicles enter the Maes they are totally lost and unsure of where to go.
As a professional driving instructor I agree that this system is very dangerous and signage is inadequate.
This is an accident waiting to happen and I hate to say iItold you so on here, but I foresee a major accident on the Maes which could even result in a fatality.
I hope I am wrong, but as it is, this is a time bomb waiting to go off.

Whilst filming on the Maes we contacted Gwynedd Council to see if they were prepared to send out an officer to talk with us, but received a response that said all officers were busy at that specific time.

To be frank, I think the Maes and Caernarfon has now lost all its character and focal point.
Us older Cofis all remember the Maes a bustling centre of activity and a centre where everyone met up. Now all we have is an open space.

One little boy asked me this week:

Qu. What do you say to a "Space Man"?

Ans: You tell him it's the "New Maes Dude"

Have your vote here

Back to COL

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen Overspend

In the news this week - Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen Governors are blamed for over spending to the tune of half a million.
It seems that the Governors are to blame because the ASSembly chooses to run the country to the ground!

I have to admit I voted NO for the Assembly for Wales as I thought they would find it difficult to run the country and true to form, we see that this certainly seems to be the case.

Let's deal with Ysgol Syr Hugh first.
As a school Governor myself, I sympathise with what has happened at Syr Hugh and all because they are trying to do what's best for their pupils.
Quite simply if Syr Hugh Owen has overspent by £500,000 then perhaps the question should be:
Are they receiving enough money?

I can tell you that Governors at Ysgol Yr Hendre meet on a regular basis and even though our headmaster is doing a grand job, we would welcome more cash in our coffers and cringe at the thought of some schools actually underspending! Not much is said about this in the press!!!

We all owe it to our children to give them the best possible education they deserve and we can give them.
Ysgol Syr Hugh has nearly 1,000 pupils and the level of education they give either makes or breaks them.

OUR KIDS DESERVE THE BEST and if this costs then so be it.

No one should be pointing the finger at anyone at Syr Hugh.
The people in charge have the best interests of our children at heart. If the Assembly chooses not to give enough money to run a school of this size then perhaps they themselves should be looking at why they are giving so little!

Less money = less service
This month we learnt that Gwynedd has to increase our Council tax by nearly 4% YET at the same time they have to cut our services because of a poor settlement by the (yes you guessed it) Assembly!

We can blame the current situation on the credit crunch and the current world climate, but quite frankly Gwynedd's dire position is down to what they give us at Cardiff!

There is no point blaming Gwynedd here, if they have less money to work with, then something has to give - QED!

If the average family of four has two wage earners and bring in on average £500 per week then the family budget spending will reflect this.
If one wage earner looses their job then the income will be less. THIS MEANS THEIR BUDGET MUST CHANGE AND CERTAIN ITEMS OR "ESSENTIALS" WILL HAVE TO GIVE WAY.

This is the same at our schools, with the Assembly giving less (due to bad management perhaps?) then certain essentials will have to go. (THIS MEANS THE QUALITY OF TUITION A SCHOOLS WILL SUFFER).

Enough is enough. It's time for the people of Wales to realise that this lot at the Assembly can't organise a p**s up in a brewery!
Unfortunately we voted (very narrowly) FOR the ASSembly and we are therefore now counting the cost.

Back to COL

Friday, 20 February 2009


Today I received a phone call from Gwynedd Council's Dilys Phillips (Head of Administration) stating that she was concerned about the comments made by Sean Goddard on the Prison Article.
In it Sean raised a few questions about corruption and even though he did not name names, suggested that certain officials had acted incorrectly.
It seems that Sean is not entitled to his opinion as I was asked kindly if it could be removed.

I have, (in the best interest of everyone) removed his comment, and have contacted him by email to let him know.
I do however have some reservations about the whole matter as it seems to infringe Sean's freedom of speech.
At Caernarfon Online we try to put in favourable articles about some of the good work Gwynedd Council carries out and will endeavour to continue to do this. But surely a member of the public can also have his voice heard and express an opinion?
Sean can also be seen on our video about the prison expressing his opinion.

I maintain that all has not be revealed to the public in the prison issue and this only makes me feel that there is more to this than meets the eye.

For the record, I did not agree with all that Sean had to say, but I respect his right to be allowed to say it. He pointed the finger at the council in general - he did not name anyone!

Over to you.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

New Prison

Before I get on my Soap Box take a look at what Michael Sol Owen had to say on his Blog last month. Click Here (Check out the "Go To Jail" section)

Click Here to see videos of what some Cofis had to say.

Well, it seems that Caernarfon is to become a "Prison Town" and, as we are led to believe, this will mean plenty of jobs for local people... But will it?

Will these highly trained positions go to local workers? Or will they draft in others who are already qualified?
Will it mean a flood of English speakers moving into our area, thus diluting the language even further?
Will the prison use local traders or use their existing sources?
Was this deal sorted long ago, before they conveniently started building the new court in Caernarfon?
What about the proposed by-pass for Caernarfon, was this just a part of the jigsaw we didn't know about?
There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we all accept this "new saviour" into our struggling town.

It seems to many that this has been railroaded in on us. It was amazing how quickly it all came together..... and judging (no pun intended) by the response to the poor account Hywel Williams gave of himself on Radio Cymru's "Taro Post" this week. It seems that not all locals are happy that we have not been given all the facts and more importantly has the Government and Gwynedd asked the public what they really want?

Our online poll is suggesting that (as I write) 84% of the public are against the prison coming to Caernarfon (vote here) whilst Hywel, Plaid and Gwynedd re rejoicing.
Cwmbran are throwing street parties as they feel they have "WON" because they are NOT getting this "fantastic all saving" prison.
How can we be accepting this with open arms, whilst others wouldn't touch it with a barge pole?

Listening to the debate on Taro Post yesterday I was surprised to hear Hwyel Williams suggest that he would not have been happy with houses being built on the brownfield site because of the asbestos issue.
Yet he is fine with a prison being built on the site??? This doesn't add up to me...

Another problem I have with this whole affair is, how much will this affect our house prices?
Will a house valued at £150,000 still be worth £150,000 now that people know a Category C prison is to come here. OR WILL IT DROP £10k to £20k in value?
(Category C means they will accept muggers, knife attackers and criminals found guilty of GBH AS WELL AS prisoners with far serious crimes who have served a large part of their sentence and have since been down graded to Category C!!!)

Finally, can I ask,
Now the Government is going to purchase this land from Bluefield Caernarfon Ltd will either compensate the former TGWU workers unfairly sacked by Friction Dynamics and protested for three years at the site?

Will the Government help out these men and women who lost their livelyhood?

It is time for MP's etc to stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes and tell us the truth. and perhaps dip their hand in their pockets to help out the former Ferodo workers.

They tell us that this MAY be good for the area (Financially) but at what cost?

Will we lose out on the value of our homes?
Will we be up against others moving into our council houses?
Will they get preference over locals?
Will our area be safer once the prison is up and running?
Will ex convicts be settling down in Caernarfon at the end of their sentences?
Will most of the workers be local or from outside the area?
Will the prison service only use local produce etc?

Will someone please give us the answers?

One final point, we have been campaigning for years to have Caernarfon to be better signposted on the North Wales Coast.

For as long as I can remember different groups have tried and failed to get Caernarfon signposted thus encouraging visitors to the town.
Excuses given?
Caernarfon was not directly on the major road and that if they gave signs to Caernarfon then other towns would demand the same, even though Caernarfon is the major tourist attraction and a World Heritage site in North Wales.

How quick will we now see new signs erected,? And pointing to HM PRISON CAERNARFON?
No doubt we will soon be hearing about these new wonderful signs "selling" Caernarfon.
Shame they couldn't have done it when we asked all those years ago.
Is this what we want?
Will this affect our World Heritage status?

I remember in the past people being "Sent to Coventry", it looks like now they will be sending them to Caernarfon instead!!!

Try this out.... Make a search of "Risley" on Google and it gives you information about the Jail!
At the moment if you enter the word "Caernarfon" then Google will list and as the top searches.

In a few years time we should see the search engines pointing visitors first to the CAERNARFON JAIL.

Is this what we want?

I rest my case me lud !!!

Bye for now.

Back to COL

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Caernarfon struggling like many other towns!

Hi Everyone,
First of all let me apologise for taking so long to update my blog on Caernarfon's favourite website, but as you can guess, CaernarfonOnline has become very time consuming with all the new people we have on board and it is taking more and more time to keep up to date. I am so grateful to Michael Sol Owen and Dylan Jones for providing us with exceptional Blogs and they, in turn, are guaranteed many readers by the simple fact that they are on COL.
BLOG Yourself?
If any of you readers would like to have a free Blog on COL then drop me a line and I will set it up for you. You don't need to be involved in politics or a councillor or anything really, but if you feel you have anything to say or want a soap box then get in touch with me today.
I promise that we will be back to speed next week regarding the website by providing you with up to the minute news and articles about everything going on in town.

Last year I wrote about the top 20 hits and misses we had in Caernarfon but this year I've decided not to repeat this as in this present climate it is not really a fair judgement on our town as we are in the middle of a recession not forgetting the dreaded credit crunch which is hitting nearly everyone I speak to.

As I write the pound is only worth $1.32 (compared with $1.85 the same time last year) and for the first time ever the pound is now on par with the Euro! This is bad news for the economy and one which has indeed been self made with banks and credit card agencies charging what they like on desperate customers who are trying to make ends meet. It was inevitable that something had to give and it looks like it may take years for us to get things anywhere near normality.

Gwynedd is really up against it this year because the Assembly has given them such a tight budget to work with. This will no doubt mean more cuts to our services. Therefore pointing the finger at Plaid Cymru is a none starter, they are the scapegoats and easy target in all this. (and no I am not a Plaid supporter - completely neutral that's me)- Agreed they've made mistakes and some have been very costly. but this is the same for Labour and Conservative run councils around the country. Everyone seems to be getting on the bandwagon about the loss in Icelandic shares, yet no one would have complained if this had turned out to make a packet for us. We are all trying to make ends meet, we bring in a wage and we try to balance what we spend. Some of us choose to put our money in the bank, others choose shares, others dabble in higher risk investments. Whatever we try to do, we try to do it to make more money, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. This is life and now we must deal with it in what has now become hard times.

Last year a lot was said about the Doc Fictoria complex. I still hear through the grapevine that some councillors are continuing to have a moan about this place instead of now looking at ways of making it all work for the benefit of the town.
Sure Gwynedd sold it for a £1.00, but how much money has the Watkin Jones Group ploughed into the complex? Keeping it in mind that houses are not selling nationwide at the moment, how long will it be before they even break even? It is not the ideal time to sell property as prices are dropping by the day. But no one seems to care about the big businesses these days, it seems that more noise is made about the little corner shop closing down.

The loss of Woolworth is going to have a massive impact on Caernarfon. Woolworth has (for a long time) been an institution and the heart of the town. When the Nelson burnt down in Caernarfon many moons ago we lost something very important to the community, luckily at the time, we had the likes of Woolworth's, Burton's, Currys, Fosters and many more big names to attract shoppers into town. NOT ANYMORE!

The Chair of the Traders Association in Bangor has decided this week that enough is enough and is closing his shop in the High street, stating that the age of the small shop is over, that is clearly bad news for Caernarfon, because most of our shops are small.
Woolworth's closing means that we cannot rely on the usual "punters" coming into town, also the word is that up to 60 workers may be made redundant at Cibyn. also the abattoir has been struggling for years and its still only January!

Empty Shops
Walking around the town it's alarming how many empty shops we have. Some have been empty for years and no offers are being made.
Many of you have written in to ask who will take over the empty Woolworth store and many of you seem to have heard different things. Stermat have been mentioned, then Iceland and the latest is another Pound Shop.
Whatever we get (if anything) we need it and we need it fast, otherwise more and more shops will be closing.
Ty Bach Twt on Bangor Street has already spoke of their concern that business is down drastically and they may have to open only on selected days during 2009 and many others may choose to do the same.
Caernarfon is fast becoming a seasonal holiday destination which operates only a few weeks a year.
No one seems to be saying that they are doing well anymore, everyone seems to be blaming this that or the other. New Year Celebrations were held more at home this year as bars and pubs were left counting customers instead of till receipts.
The smoking ban obviously affecting trade as it was too clod to stand outside the pub having a cigarette when they could do it in their own armchairs at home at half the price.

The Maes
Personally I was always against stopping traffic coming into town and I stand by my view that this will be the death of Caernarfon.
Common Sense tells us that you need to make it as easy as possible for people to shop. People need to have things on their doorstep and the more difficult you make it for people to come into town the less they will come and obviously the less they will spend.

I live in the heart of town and to exit I have to drive past Post Bach and then to the roundabouts at Pool Side? When coming from North road I am forced to deviate towards the same roundabouts to come into the Maes.
I can therefore confirm that it has been months since I drove up Bangor Street.
When trying to buy an item in Siop Modur a few months back I found it very difficult to do it with the car (and I needed the car with me for the product I was purchasing).
Parking was impossible therefore I ended up going to Bangor, parking at Halfords and getting my product there instead. THIS IS BAD NEWS FOR CAERNARFON! If others are doing the same then what chance do our businesses have.
The Chairman of the Chamber of Trade has had his shop up for sale for the last two years, this is clearly not a good sign when the Chair wants to throw in the towel! It seems that selling up shop is not even easy either as he is not the only one trying to sell up, many others are in the same boat with very little interest show by others to move in and set up shop.

So what of all this? What does this spell out for Caernarfon? Well quite simply, if things don't start picking up soon, we are going to see even more closed shops and more businesses going into receivership. Let's face it, if the big guns are struggling, what chance do the little ones have?

More bad news I'm afraid
Ty Tryweryn Centre in Maesincla is also threatened with closure with more loss of jobs, this is also down to lack of funding by the Assembly.

Caernarfon Town F.C. are struggling at the foot of the Welsh Premier League and looks like they will be relegated this year. This may be the right way to go as sometimes taking a back step helps you to move forward.

Good news on the horizon though.....
Watkin Jones continues to invest in the town and will shortly be starting work on the St Helen's Road area. This is a site which is in desperate need of developing.

Tesco have completed their plans for the new development at Cibyn and hopefully this will give us all something to look forward to and provide much needed jobs to the town.

What of the existing Tesco site? What will happen there? Word has it that affordable housing will be developed on the site.

Caernarfon Wanderers are making good progress and they seem to have the right people in place to take them places.

The Castle is now more accessible for the disabled after last years fiasco in the Vets day when many couldn't make it into the castle to see the ceremony.

Word is that Beating the Retreat will be back again this year and even though there have been some concerns about the Bryn Terfel Faynol Festival. It is hoped that following meetings with such people as the Alun Ffred Jones the Heritage Minister and many others. the event will hopefully go ahead to celebrate Ten Years of music at the Faenol.
The 30th Annual Media Festival takes place in Caernarfon this March, which (even though not open to the general public) will attract quite a few people into town,
Feed My Lambs is now up and running after many years left derelict, Ty Ysgol will soon open its doors for the first time and The Noddfa is now online and going from strength to strength.

I may have left a few things out and I apologise if i have not mentioned some things. It was not my intention to list everything this year as things looked so grim. But at least we have a few things we can look forward to.

I therefore wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope we are all here same time next year with a better smile on our faces.

Pob hwyl a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi gyd.