News and Issues

GOWER SOCIETY TREE MEMORIAL AT ILSTON

On Sunday, 22nd March members of the Gower Society and guests gathered together at the Elizabeth and Rowe Harding Nature reserve in Ilston to remember four people who gave their time and support to the Gower Society Youth Action.


Four young trees have been planted to remember three of the committee members and our first activity leader. Betty Lowe was involved in the early days of Gower Society Youth and was chairperson for three years. John Williams was on the Youth sub-committee for a number of years. Peter Hutchison was on the youth sub-committee for many years. He attended most of the activities until he was no longer mobile enough and was always involved in the preparations for the Gower Show. We also remembered our first youth leader, Sheena Bishop, who died at a sadly young age but was inspirational in leading young people in outdoor activities on Gower.


Mrs Joan Darbyshire, current secretary of the Youth Committee, and other members shared their memories of the four people for whom the trees have been planted, their roles in the youth section and the wider contribution they made to the Society.

‘BLESSING OF THE BELLS’ CEREMONY AT ST MADOC’S CHURCH

‘Blessing of the Bells’ Ceremony at St Madoc’s Church, Llanmadoc and St Cadoc’s Church, Cheriton on Sunday, February 18th, 2018

On Sunday 18th February, the communities of Llanmadoc and Cheriton will be celebrating the successful completion of a project to repair the roof of St Cadoc’s Church, Cheriton and to repair and restore the bells and bell housings of the church and St Madoc’s Church, Llanmadoc. The Gower Society has been involved with the project from the outset and has been delighted to support financially the repair and restoration of the bells and bell housings of both churches, which were in a very poor condition and unable to be rung.

At St Cadoc’s Church, all the old iron straps and bearings have been replaced with stainless steel. The pulleys, rope and other fittings have also been replaced. Only the bell frame remains and, though very old, is probably not original. The bell at St Cadoc’s was cast by William Evans of Chepstow in 1736. To set the bell into its historical context, it was cast in the year in which James Watt, the famous instrument maker and engineer whose steam engine contributed significantly to the industrial revolution, was born.

The bell in St Madoc’s is even older dating from 1675. The bell frame was in such poor condition that the only part to remain is the bell. All other parts and fittings have been replaced. The bell is possibly cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester who has been described as the ‘greatest bell founder of his age’. The bell was made when he was just 18 years old and is one of his earliest. As such it is historically very significant. To set this bell into its historical context, it was cast in the year that the foundation stone for the Royal Greenwich Observatory was laid in 1675.

The ‘Blessing of the Bells’ Ceremony will begin at St Madoc’s Church, Llanmadoc at 10.00am. Participants will then walk down through the village of Llanmadoc to St Cadoc’s, Cheriton where the Archbishop of Wales will conduct the blessing ceremony. After the ceremony both bells will be rung simultaneously. If the weather is inclement, those wishing to attend the ceremony can avoid a soaking by gathering at St Cadoc’s Church, Cheriton at 10.30 am.

Many people have been involved in this project, giving generously of their time and expertise to enable it to reach a successful conclusion. The Gower Society is delighted to have contributed financially to the future of two of Gower’s historically important churches, the bells of which, no longer silent, will ring out over this beautiful corner of north-west Gower for another 200 years.

(With acknowledgements to a report written by Ivor Williams, parishioner of Llanmadoc and Cheriton)

CHANGE OF PRESIDENCY OF THE SOCIETY

At the AGM on the 22nd April 2017 Malcolm Ridge, having served two years as President, was succeeded by Byron Davies, who was MP for Gower.

Malcolm joined the Society in 1970 and, after becoming a Committee Member in 1983, he was elected Chairman in 1990, retiring from that position in 2014 before being appointed as President in 2015.

Byron has shown a real and general interest in the affairs of the Society and indeed in Gower. He was brought up in Port Eynon and lives in Penclawdd. Whilst MP, he showed a real interest in the affairs of Gower, including Mawr, but particularly matters that were of particular concern to the Society, such as the proposed windfarm on Mynydd y Gwair, the cockle industry and the Cwm Ivy Sea Wall.

MYNYDD Y GWAIR WIND FARM. JULY 2016

APPLICATIONS UNDER SECTIONS 16 AND 38 OF THE COMMONS ACT 2006

RWE Innogy UK Ltd. submitted repeat applications for the de-registration and exchange of pieces of  common  land, and for restricted works on common land, following the dismissal in February 2015 of similar applications.   These further applications differed from the original applications in that they offered some additional land to replace the land to be deregistered.   Planning permission for the 16 wind turbines scheme was granted in 2014 but as the scheme, both the turbines and access tracks, was intended on common  land, permission had to be granted for the land to be occupied by the scheme to be deregistered as common  land.

An independent public inquiry took place in February 2016 and the inspector issued his Report on 31st March 2016 for the Welsh Minister who eventually, on 20th July 2016, issued her decision.  The applications, in essence, were granted.

The Gower Society gave evidence at the inquiry on the detrimental effect on the landscape, as the public interest was a relevant factor to which the Minister had to have regard.

The inspector reported that visually the scheme would change people’s perception of the landscape and it would affect the enjoyment of the majority of people using  the commons.

However, he concluded the harm would be outweighed by the substantial benefits, both economic but more particularly renewable energy, bearing in mind the Welsh Government’s commitment towards an increased provision of sustainable renewable energy and, in particular, the site being within one of the areas in Wales identified by the Welsh Government as being technically, practically and environmentally better able to accommodate the landscape and visual impacts of wind farms than other parts of Wales.

He stated:  “I have concluded that the wind farm would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the commons and to the majority of people’s enjoyment of them for recreational purposes.   However, as the site lies within Strategic Search Area E and there is policy acceptance in principle to landscape changes in order to gain renewable energy development, the weight attributed to this harm is not as great as it might otherwise be.   The scheme would bring substantial benefits, both economic benefits and, more particularly, the benefits of renewable energy.   Bearing in mind the Welsh Government’s commitment towards the increased provision of sustainable renewable energy, the need to achieve targets for its development and the sustainability benefits of moving towards increased reliance of renewable energy, I attribute substantial weight to these benefits and consider they far outweigh detrimental defects.”

In this balancing exercise, he attached less weight to the effects on the landscape than the previous inspector, and he did not pay regard to the cumulative effect on the landscape by the scheme being next to the existing scheme on Mynydd y Betws.

In accepting his recommendation, the Welsh Minister, in granting the applications, concluded:   “Having considered the competing interests of the landscape and visual amenity as against the benefits of renewable energy, I have formed the view that benefits of renewable energy outweigh the detrimental effects to landscape and visual amenity outlined”.

REVIEW OF DESIGNATED LANDSCAPES IN WALES

THE SOCIETY’S STATEMENT ON THE FINAL REPORT DATED 31st JULY 2015
AND PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2015

This report by an independent Panel chaired by Professor Terry Marsden was commissioned by the Welsh Government “to ensure that our designated landscapes are best equipped to meet current and future challenges while building upon their internationally recognised status”. It deals with both the three National Parks and the five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales. It has been welcomed by the Alliance for National Parks Cymru which represents the interests of the Parks as well as AONBs. The Gower Society is the only voluntary sector body concerned with AONBs and is a member of the Alliance.

The review Panel has used the term National Landscapes of Wales to embrace both the parks and the AONBs. The tenor of is proposals suggest that future Welsh Governments will see much more commonality in their approach to these designated landscapes.

However, the Society welcomes the recommendation, which reverses a previous recommendation in the Panel’s interim report that the names of “National Parks” and “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” as the key designations of the “National Landscapes of Wales,” be retained. Additionally, it recommends one set of statutory purposes and an associated single statutory duty for both designations. It is hoped, as a consequence, the status and protection of the Gower AONB, particularly its natural features, will be enhanced.

The Society takes comfort from the Panel emphasising the priority of the Sandford Principle from 1974 that where conservation and recreation cannot be reconciled by skilful management, a greater weight shall be attached to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. However, following the Principle in practice will continue to be contentious.

The Society also welcomes the recommendations for: continuing strong links between local authorities and AONBs; AONBs being bodies becoming statutory consultees on planning applications with a potentially significant impact on the special qualities of their area; and a statutory duty on local authorities to establish a formal committee, with at least two representatives of the local interest, to oversee the management of the AONB.

The Society’s main reservation concerns the extent of those planning and committee recommendations. It is for the local planning authority to decide, ultimately, which applications to refer, and the committee has to be properly resourced and its recommendations acknowledged.

In the case of Gower, there is a danger of the AONB being less regarded by the local authority, should its area be considerably expanded due to the possible amalgamation with a neighbouring authority.

A working group, chaired by Lord Ellis Thomas, will now consider the implementation of the recommendations. The Alliance will be represented on that group.

APPLICATION FOR SOLAR ARRAY NEAR ILSTON REFUSED

 Application by Gower Power Community for Ground Mounted Solar Array at Webbsfield, Near Brookvale, Ilston, Swansea, SA2 7LD.

Much to the concern of local residents and The Gower Society (GS) an application was made in June 2014 for a 1MW solar generation array complete with security fence, cameras, access and associated buildings. The location was in one of three fields purchased by the applicant that are directly opposite Ilston Quarry. Whilst the proposal was not in a prominent location the GS recognised that it was an inappropriate location and if this was allowed by the planners of City and County of Swansea (CCS) it could open up the floodgates for similar schemes throughout the Gower AONB.  

As a consequence the GS Planning Team put in a lot of effort at the initial planning stage to show that the application should be refused on two grounds: that it would basically damage the AONB’s natural beauty, and that it was an industrialisation of the landscape. It was also argued that alternative sites outside the AONB had not been  investigated. The applicant had designed a tree planting scheme partly to hide the structures but we still thought that they would be seen from various locations. This part of Ilston is a hidden gem, with its river, mature trees, old quarry (that is a SSSI and Nature Reserve) and its closeness to the adjacent commons that are Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). The GS thought it should it not be compromised.

The Planning Officers and the Officers responsible for the AONB recommended approval to the Planning Committee. Thankfully the elected members of the Planning Committee were persuaded otherwise by strong representations from local residents, Ilston Community Council and the GS. The application was refused on 2 September 2014. 

We knew that the applicant would not take this decision as final and he appealed to the Planning Inspectorate later in the year which resulted in a busy period over Christmas 2014 for objectors to prepare their submissions to the Inspector. The GS main Committee took the difficult, and potentially expensive, decision to employ a Consultant, Boyer Planning from Cardiff, and  Landscape Architects, Tirlun Design Associates from Bridgend, to present the GS case against the scheme. This was not easy because of the Christmas period. 

The applicant made a strong and comprehensive case for his scheme and  garnered  renewed support from over 90 individuals. Analysis of their letters of support showed that many were from outside  Gower  and  some indeed from outside Wales. The similarity  of text suggested a standardised  letter.

Linked to the applicant’s  case was the creation of a community farm that has attracted a a lot of support  but we did not accept any relevance of an array to the “farm”.   The cost of the land bought for the project by the applicant was some £150 000 and we could never see how a return was to be achieved. Objections on the other hand were all strongly local to Ilston. The  CCS case  had now to carry out a ‘u turn’ from its original recommendation to the Planning Committee.

The  Appeal was heard  on  17th March 2015, by the Inspector Hywel Wyn Jones, and representations from appellant and objectors were completed in the day.   Then on the 18th March, the Inspector accompanied by both appellant and objectors , embarked upon a comprehensive site visit.  A  thorough inspection was carried out  and the site viewed from various key locations

On the 21 April 2015 the Inspector dismissed the Appeal  mainly because of the  visual impact upon the AONB.  He ruled that the solar panels would be seen from a number of locations and said ” I consider that from these vantage points the rear elevation of the rows of arrays would appear as monolithic, alien features that would be out of scale and character with its countryside and surroundings.” He concluded “I consider that the natural effect on the natural beauty of the landscape and the visual amenity of the area would be harmful. Mindful of the statutory duty in relation to the protection of the AONB, I consider that the extent of theis impact would be significantly harmful.”

The Planning Inspectorate Appeal Reference APP/B6855/A/14/2226732 is available on line.

NEW PRESIDENT, APRIL 2015

Professor John Beardmore, the retiring president, and the new president Malcolm Ridge MBE

PROJECT NEWS SEPTEMBER 2014

The Gower Society has started to initiate the funding of some special projects to enhance the appearance of buildings/structures in the area.  All community councils have been approached with an offer of support and funding, but so far, none have produced a viable scheme.  Hopefully, some will soon emerge.

Work started last winter on the walls leading down into Parkmill – a project which had begun under Ilston Community Council with Rural Development Partnership funding. Wall repairs have continued with Gower Society funding.  There is still much work to be completed and work will restart in the winter.  This will have increased costs because traffic will need to be light-controlled in order to allow the masons to work safely.  So watch the extension of repairs as the months go on.

Work (with considerable Society financial input) has also begun on the restoration of the Coastguard Lookout building overlooking the causeway at Worms Head, Rhossili.  The National Trust owns this building and currently leases it to the National Coastwatch Institution.  The intention is that the end result will be an appearance much closer to its original state.  For example, cement mortar will be replaced with lime mortar, asbestos roof sheeting will be removed and replaced with natural slate, with removal of plastic cladding, Upvc guttering/drainpipes etc.  This is a much-visited location and we are sure that both locals and visitors will appreciate the improvement when the work is completed.

Several other projects are under consideration and it is hoped to start on these as soon as possible.

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CASWELL BAY STONES

Caswell Bay Stones – click on the link for Swansea’s Tourism and Leisure explanation letter’

Caswell Bay pebble build up

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NITTEN FIELD

Sunflowers Nitten Field July 2014

Sunflowers Nitten Field July 2014

Growth this year is quite remarkable. A combination of weather and farming application and dare I say money. Conservation on this scale, as I have said previously, does not come cheap and the benefits of increased funding from The Society and the SDF have meant that we have not skimped for 2014.

Despite planting seeds on 1 June we have lots of sunflowers nearly in bloom, linseed in bloom and in seed, triticali (a barley cross) in head, three types of millet growing well and seed anticipated, chicory (stand and deliver) growing well down both sides but regret ably no poppies. I have written to the seed suppliers on this. We also have a profusion of fat hen that was not planted (unless within seed supplied) and is in great profusion. Seed bearing and attractive to birds though. Similarly we have a yellow glow of mustard over the whole field (again birds like the seed) but the dreaded sow thistle is within manageable proportions.

This morning I went down the field and there were about 40 swallows and 20 house martins coursing over the top of the flowers, About 6 to 10 whitethroats were gathering large quantities of a small caterpillar off the mustard and there was a profusion of cabbage white and meadow brown butterflies. The undergrowth is full of other insects,spiders, lady birds, grasshoppers and young crickets. A veritable feast for insect eaters.

Barry was down with his moth traps last Saturday and recorded 136 species in great quantities. He was ‘mothed out’ recording them between 5-30am. and 8-00am. Many were quite rare to Glamorgan and Gower. He is looking forward to bird ringing in the autumn.

Gordon and Beryl

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