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New build on the old UWIC site
The large amount of residential building being undertaken at the Newport Road end of Colchester Avenue is cause for some concern to many local residents. A large number of these live on the more established Howardian Estate.

To this point, the Council have ignored the needs of this estate in terms of the infrastructure that they need to live comfortably. Small things, like the fact that the Estate does not have a postbox (the nearest one is on Colchester Avenue) seem almost petty to comment upon. However, when one reconciles this with the fact that a good proportion of the properties on the Estate are managed by a social housing provider (Wales & West Housing Association), and that there are a number of elderly and mobility impaired people living there, this becomes more  problematic.

However, the postbox is not the point of this comment. Nor is the fact that the houses have drives but no grit-box for the inevitable cold snaps, which make the residents unable to get their cars off their private property (unless they've had the foresight, and have the spare funds, to lay in some rock salt for the purpose).

The point that I'd like to raise relates to the mass development going on at the bottom of Colchester Avenue. There are over 300 properties which have been developed on the site of what was the Industrial Estate. Planning consent has also been granted for the redevelopment of the former UWIC site, for the site between Sainsbury's and Ffordd Nowell, and - a few years previously - to develop Doe Close opposite the Howardian Estate. In addition, there is work ongoing on what was the Welch's dairy site, on Newport Road, which will bring a Morrison's supermarket to the area. 

The challenge is to the resilience of the infrastructure in the area. The council has invested, using funds from the Doe Close developer's 'Section 106' contributions, in traffic lights at the junction of Hammond Way and Colchester Avenue. This has meant that residents of the Howardian Estate are more able to get out of the estate in the morning. 

However, the phasing of these traffic lights is nowhere near right yet - and there are often tailbacks from that junction a long way back towards Newport Road. Likewise, the lack of sufficient public transport between Ffordd Nowell and, for example, Cardiff High school mean that many people are forced to use their cars for unnecessary journeys.

For these reasons, I have manage to persuade the local Labour Party to conduct a 'listening exercise' in the area this Saturday. I'll be out with them in Ffordd Nowell, Scholar's Gate, Doe Close and the Howardian Estate on the morning of Saturday, 30 March. However, I'd be interested in any thoughts that people have on development of the area - local residents in particular - regardless of whether we happen to knock on your door when you're in.

 
Today is Budget Day 2013. A vast majority of the political press is focused on the rather uncomfortable economic situation which prevails in the UK, as in much of the rest of the Western world. However, I think that we may be taking our eye off the ball a little when it comes to a far greater long-term challenge for the UK - and for that matter for the world. That challenge is to live within our means in terms of energy consumption. For that reason, I have decided to write to my MP today in order to ask her to support an amendment to the Energy Bill which is currently laid before Parliament. It is reproduced below:
Dear Jenny Willott,

I'm writing to you in connection with an amendment to  the Energy Bill tabled by two of your Parliamentary colleagues, Tim Yeo and Barry Gardiner. The amendment seeks to add a decarbonisation target for electricity to the Bill.

Energy sustainability is a huge challenge for the world to meet. It can only be achieved if we all do our bit. I have spent a reasonably large sum of money (around £5,000) to add solar panels to my property. In so doing, I have taken advantage of the guaranteed 'Feed In Tariff' rates which mean that the solar array should have paid for itself within the next ten years or so. 

That's all very well for me - as I can afford to spend this money investing in solar technology. However, unfortunately, many are not in the same situation that I am in.

I understand that you have a role within the Government, as a Whip. However, I would ask you to examine your conscience and to vote in the interests of your constituents - and of the UK. Voting against this amendment is not simply a matter of playing 'petty politics' within your increasingly fractured Coalition Government. It's voting against your party's official policy of implementing a 2030 decarbonisation target. And it's voting against the world's best interests.

It is all to easy to say that one person's voice does not make a difference. However, we must remember that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And by voting in favour of the Yeo/Gardiner amendment we can start on that journey. 

Yours sincerely,

Michael Fogg

 
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The most recent development in the Eurozone financial crisis is possibly the most concerning yet for the UK. 

It may seem somewhat counter-logical to deduce that the decision made by the EU and the IMF to seek a levy of up to 10% on all deposits in Cypriot banks could have a marked impact on the UK - but it could well do so. 

In addition, the decision signposts the direction of EU-wide fiscal policy in years to come. This is particularly interesting, coming as it does shortly after the suggestion by Paul Tucker, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, to consider further reducing UK interest rates from their current historic low of 0.5%. He suggested setting negative interest rates, and therefore charging banks for the privilege of 'depositing' funds with them. This would then encourage banks to lend, thereby stimulating the economy and injecting some much-needed additional liquidity into the economy. In particular, the private 'SME' sector.

UK Budget Day 2013 is this Wednesday, and there is no doubt that the Chancellor will continue to hold firm his commitment to 'Austerity' - regardless of the socio-economic impact of the policy. There is also little doubt that George Osborne will focus on deficit reduction as being of primary importance. Politically, he's too tied to this objective to escape it - unless he performs an escape act of Houdini-like skill. Even for a man of his undoubted political nouse, this is highly unlikely.
 
The Cypriot situation may well provide Osborne with the necessary backdrop with which to frame some particularly unpalatable policy announcements. He is already expected to cut the top rate of income tax for domestic taxpayers, and this is being contrasted unfavourably with the so-called 'Bedroom Tax'. Oddly, the latter is not a tax at all - but a reduction in benefits given to those people living in properties which are under-occupied. It is a rare occasion where the usually highly effective Conservative media machine has been outflanked by their opposition counterparts. Although it does feed in to an internet meme which has included such poorly thought out policies as the 'Granny Tax', and the 'Pasty Tax', so perhaps the governing Coalition may have taken its eye off the presentation ball in recent months. 

I would not go as far as to say that this will result in a direct tax on savers' deposits in the UK. Not yet, at any rate. However, there are more subtle similarities between the Cypriot situation and the UK than we may initially realise. By implementing a 'one-off' levy on the deposits of savers, the EU and IMF can be seen to have betrayed those depositors who felt that their money was guaranteed, up to 100,000 EURO, under the EU Deposit Guarantee Scheme. The UK is in the fortunate position of not being a part of the Eurozone, but that does not mean that we are entirely insulated from it. Many policy decisions take in the Eurozone are similar to those taken in the UK - we also have a Deposit Guarantee Scheme of around 100,000 EURO equivalent, for example. If that guarantee is not sacrosanct in the EU, who is to say that it is in the UK? In an attempt to stimulate further spending to re-inflate the economy and prevent a 'Triple Dip' recession, an  deposit tax coulbwell be the next step towards encouraging us to invest our money, rather than saving it for a rainy day.

 
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A gated lane just off Newport Road
A number of years ago, a resident of Pen-y-lan Terrace contacted Cardiff Council to ask if the lane system between Pen-y-lan Road and Llwyn-y-Grant Road could be gated. Although not affected directly himself, a number of his neighbours - elderly people living alone - had been concerned by various activities. Some were as 'innocent' as groups of youths using the lanes as a cut-through. Other activities, however, include men driving down the lane in a pick-up truck with one stood on the back of the truck looking over into people's gardens. It doesn't take much to work out what they were looking for, either! 

In some other parts of Cardiff, a system of alley-gating has already been put in place. It's not cheap to do, and it can be very difficult to make sure that local residents use the gates properly. However, it has been responsible for a reduction in opportunist crime of the type that we have increasingly seen in Penylan. An academic study into the effects of alley-gating in Oldham was published in the European Journal of Criminology in 2009. This followed on from a similar study in 2007, results of which suggested that a similar scheme in Liverpool had impacted positively on the perception of crime and anti-social behaviour on an ongoing basis.

In Cardiff, over seventy lanes have now been gated, using powers under the Highways Act 1980. The Cardiff Council Strategy for Alley Gating Schemes includes consultation with local residents, local Councillors, emergency services (amongst others) and an assessment of any legal orders that are required. The current council seem to be following the same vein as the last, with an undertaking being given that the programme will not be affected by recently announced budget cuts.

The programme includes alleygating schemes throughout Cardiff, which have collected political support from local AMs and MPs. There is a strong and organised opposition to alley gating by those organisations supportive of maintaining public access to public spaces and open countryside. This has resulted in certain Cardiff based schemes being opposed, notably one in the east of Cardiff. There has also been criticism of some of the gates used, with one resident of Cowbridge Road East claiming to have found a design flaw which allowed several of the gates in his area to be opened without a key. In another area of central Cardiff, however, the local green group have used an alley gating scheme to transform the previously shabby Fox Lane into a far more welcoming - and lower crime - area. 

From my perspective, I find the idea of stopping up historic rights of way something of an infringement of civil liberties. However, the facts speak for themselves. There is both a reduction in crime and the perception of crime, and as such is can - in certain situations - be justified. This is not to say that alley gating should be used as a universal panacea, because 'Silver Bullet' policies are something of an urban myth. Where the majority of those proximate with a valid reason for accessing the lane are in favour of the scheme, it stands to reason that alley gating should be implemented. In Penylan, there seems the be some strong opinion in favour of gating around Penylan Terrace as well as further down the hill around Kimberley Road. It would be interesting to know what proportion of residents are in favour, though.