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Vulnerable people at risk due to growing number of care workers self-isolating

The increasing number of care workers self-isolating is potentially more of a danger to vulnerable people in Rhondda Cynon Taf than the Covid-19 virus, a social care leader has warned.

According to Keri Llewellyn, the vice chair of Care Forum Wales, they were getting reports of care homes and domiciliary care companies where 40 per cent of the staff were at having to quarantine at home.

As a result, a growing number of providers were struggling to give the required level of care – and the situation was only going to get worse with Covid cases skyrocketing.

Social services departments were being affected by the same problem which meant that there were no staff reinforcements from there available.

Although, thankfully, the number of people falling seriously ill and needing hospital treatment was falling, Care Forum Wales was concerned that some care home residents and people receiving care in their own homes could be at risk.

They were by definition in fragile health and often needed a high level of care.

The situation was already having a knock-on impact on the NHS because the reduced capacity of domiciliary care companies and care homes was making it increasingly difficult to discharge hospital patients back into the community.

The Welsh Government has announced that from August 7 fully-vaccinated people will not need to self-isolate if they come in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Care Forum Wales say they are looking forward to discussing with the Welsh Government what this means for social care and any additional measures for staff working in health and care settings.

Ms Llewellyn, who is also managing director of home care provider All-Care which works across South Wales, said: “I’m up to 40 per cent of staff not working at any given time at the moment, which is huge.

“Clearly, we’re in the third wave and the infection rate is rising but it’s not got the same feel because it’s not as bad and the hospitals are not as affected, but capacity has gone right through the floor.

“We can’t carry on providing the same service to everyone in the community while we’ve got that many staff off.

“They can’t get people out of hospital clearly, so there’s already a backlog to free up hospitals because they can’t move them on to having care because nobody has the capacity.

“We’re facing a perfect storm. As well as the increasing number of people self-isolating.

“Over the past year or so child care has often been provided by partners on furlough but with people back in work that’s not an option either.”

The concern was echoed by Care Forum Wales chief executive Mary Wimbury who said: “Everybody is seeing increased pressure.

“Even though at the height of the pandemic things were very much worse in terms of severe illness, because we are opening up many more people are putting themselves in situations where they’re potentially being exposed to Covid and they’re having to self-isolate.

“As a result the number of people self-isolating is also on a steep upward curve.

“Schools are now open and we know lots of infections are coming through them which means that parents have to self-isolate.

“Even if the child is a contact and not actually infected it can still take some of the workforce out because of child care issues.

“As part of the easing of restrictions, the Welsh Government have said that people who are fully vaccinated will not need to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive from August 7 onwards.

“The vast majority of social care staff are fully vaccinated as are the people receiving care.

“We’ve got some positive data on vaccinated people reducing transmission but if you’re caring for vulnerable people the risk is still there, even though it’s reduced.

“According to Professor David John Spiegelhalter, an eminent expert on understanding risk, a vaccinated 80 year old has the same risk as an unvaccinated 50 year old, so the risk has not gone away.

“We will be discussing with the Welsh Government the arrangements they have suggested will need to be in place for those in the care sector who would previously have been required to self-isolate after being in contact with somebody who has Covid.”

“Caution should still be the watchword in Wales but we have also got to be in a position where we can deliver services.

“We are very concerned providers we are going to reach a point where vulnerable people are at risk because there are not enough staff to care for them.

“I think that’s the biggest risk currently for the sector. You can’t function without people to provide care and that potentially is a bigger danger than the virus currently.

“There were staffing issues in social care before the pandemic struck and this is having a massive knock on effect. It’s making things really difficult.

“There needs to be some serious number crunching and working out how to balance all these different pressures to determine the best possible solution.”


Aneurin Bevan Care Award For Valley Veteran

Mr Bromwell, who lives in Rhondda, has been presented with the Aneurin Bevan Community Care Award, in recognition of his work in Rhondda Cynon Taf, supporting the Armed Forces community.

A former Welsh Guardsman and Falkland Islands campaigner, Mr Bromwell remains passionate about support for the Armed Forces personnel, past and present, and their families.

Councillor Maureen Webber, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Deputy Leader and Armed Forces Champion, said: “On behalf of the Council and our proud Armed Forces community, I send my congratulations to Paul on this wonderful award in recognition of all the amazing work he does to support our Armed Forced community.

“We owe so much to our Armed Forces, past and present, and we will never forget the sacrifices they have made and continue to make.”

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council was one of the first local authorities in Wales to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant in 2012. On June 2, 2018, the local authority also granted the Freedom of the County Borough to MOD St Athan, and all local service personnel of the Royal Air Force, past and present.

Support for our Armed Forces

Mr Bromwell founded the Valley Veterans, having been a long-tern sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following his time in the Armed Forces, and now works closely with Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.

Valley Veterans is a veteran-led organisation, supported by the Council and based in Rhondda Cynon Taf. It was founded over 10 years ago as an informal support group for PTSD sufferers. It is now a vibrant community hub with more than 140 active participants.

Mr Bromwell’s late diagnosis over 20 years ago gave him an insight to identify the acute need for a community-based hub for fellow sufferers to gather to exchange information and connect to the growing but confusing network of organisations and support services.

He has also given a presentation to NHS Boards across Wales, attended by all levels of staff, from healthcare workers to consultants, to explain the conditions of PTSD and its effects, and how to recognise if someone is presenting with PTSD. He has also campaigned for “quiet rooms” in hospitals, particularly in A&E and Outpatient Departments for veterans suffering with PTSD, to reduce their levels of anxiety in crowded, busy environments.

Among the activities of the Valley Veterans Group, Welsh Government restrictions permitting, is the successful gardening group and the Breakfast Club, where like-minded people can get together to share their experiences and passions and get the help they need.

Valley Veterans founder, Paul Bromwell, said: “I am both honoured and delighted to receive the inaugural Aneurin Bevan Award for Care, named after the man who founded our National Health Service to which we all owe so much, particularly through the pandemic.

“I set up the Valley Veterans group to get help for the people that needed it, those people who put their lives on the line in the defence of our country. It was clear to me that these people, many who live in our own locality and communities, needed our help and support.”

The inaugural Aneurin Bevan People’s NHS Awards were held to recognise and celebrate the work of all those unsung heroes who have a huge impact on communities across Wales.

For further information about Valley Veterans, contact the group via email at enquiries@valleyveterans.org or by calling 07733 896 128


Residents asked to report blocked drains and gullies

Despite the current good weather, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is already planning for the winter with extra resources being brought in to carry out further maintenance work to gullies and drains across the County Borough, whilst also allowing planned maintenance work to resume.

As a result of the extra resources, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is asking for residents help in identifying blocked drains and gullies that require clearing.

In the aftermath of Storm Dennis and subsequent weather events, the Council’s focus has been on carrying out reactive repairs to damaged infrastructure.

Now, ahead of the winter, the Council has secured 2 extra gulley emptiers for a short-term period to further support the 5 normal gulley emptiers/jetting units that the Council possesses.

The extra units will focus on reactive work (responding to reports of blocked gullies raised by residents), whilst also allowing the Council’s existing units to move back to carrying out planned maintenance works and a schedule of gulley cleaning across the County Borough after carrying out reactive work over the past 18 months.

As we turn our attention to the winter months, the Council is asking residents to “help us to help you” by reporting blocked drains and gullies online, which can be done on the Council’s ‘Report It’ webpages or via a link on regular Council social media posts.

All reports received of blocked drains and gullies will be checked to establish if they are due to have work carried out under planned maintenance and then followed up in the very near future by the relevant team.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of RCT Council, said: “The Council has drafted in additional resources to increase our capacity in carrying out gulley/drainage clearance schemes across Rhondda Cynon Taf.

“The past 18 months have presented enormous challenges – firstly, through the devastating flooding brought by Storm Dennis which caused widespread damage to infrastructure and followed by subsequent weather events; and secondly through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed a significant strain on our staffing resources.

“As we begin to reach mid-summer, our attention turns towards the winter months. With so much reactive work being carried out over the last 18 months, it is important that the Council is able to re-start a planned maintenance programme and the extra resources that have been secured will allow for this to resume.

“As part of this, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is asking residents to ‘help us to help you’ by reporting blocked gullies/drains online – this will help us to ensure that our resources are targeted appropriately in addition to the planned cleaning programmes that are underway.”

You can quickly report blocked drains and gullies online here

Alternatively, you can report a blocked drain or gully via the Council’s Customer Contact Centre on 01443 425001 (8.30am – 5pm, Monday – Friday)


Gully upgrades on the A4059 between Abercynon and Mountain Ash

The Council will shortly undertake significant work to upgrade three drainage gullies on the A4059 between Mountain Ash and Abercynon – to give greater resilience at a low spot which has a history of flooding, including recently in Storm Dennis.

The scheme includes converting the existing gully covers into larger units and the installation of six new 600mm gully chambers, which will be placed on a new carrier drain. The drain will be carried under the carriageway by using new manholes on either side of the road, transporting rainwater to the River Cynon which requires the construction of a new headwall and concrete apron.

The work will be carried out by the Council from Monday, August 2, lasting approximately two weeks during the school holiday to minimise disruption. Southbound vehicles will be diverted via the layby adjacent to the main road, in order to maintain two-way traffic flow at all times. The layby will therefore be unavailable for parking throughout the duration of the scheme.

The Council has secured full funding from Welsh Government’s Resilient Roads Fund in order to undertake these important improvement works.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways and Transportation, said: “Significant drainage improvement works will begin at the start of August on the A4059 between Mountain Ash and Abercynon – aiming to provide greater resilience at this location during periods of heavy rainfall. I’m pleased that the Council has secured full Welsh Government funding for the work.

“The Council will install ‘super gullies’ at a low spot which has been flooded in the past – including during the unprecedented weather of Storm Dennis in February 2020, when a mountain culvert overflowed. The road was closed for two days while waiting for the area to drain. The upcoming work intends to alleviate the risk of flooding to the road – and if it does flood, to allow us to reopen this arterial route through the Cynon Valley more quickly.

“This is the latest Resilient Roads scheme delivering targeted drainage improvements in the Rhondda and Cynon valleys. The Council initially received £4.9m to improve 16 locations in 2020/21, and then secured an additional £2.75m in March 2021 to further progress works at 19 identified locations. Notable schemes to date have been delivered at the Porth Relief Road in Ynyshir last summer, the A4059 from Penywaun to Trecynon at the start of this year, and the A4059 Aberdare Bypass works which are ongoing.

“The upcoming work on the A4059 between Abercynon and Mountain Ash has been scheduled for the school summer holiday to minimise disruption. The work will take place over two weeks, maintaining traffic flow in both directions by utilising the layby, which was formally the main road, for southbound traffic. Thanks in advance to road users for their cooperation during the scheme.”


Marking the start of construction for £4.5m YGG Aberdâr scheme

The Council has marked the start of the construction phase for £4.5m works at Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Aberdâr – which will introduce first-class facilities and a new childcare setting at the school.

Cabinet Member Councillor Ann Crimmings, representing Councillor Joy Rosser, Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, visited the Cwmdare school on Wednesday, July 14, for a ‘ground-breaking’ ceremony to celebrate contractor Andrew Scott Ltd formally starting construction work at the beginning of the summer holidays. The scheme will increase Welsh Medium places at the school by 48 to 480.

Full planning permission was granted by the Planning and Development Committee on May 20 for the scheme, which represents an investment split into two parts – £3.69m via Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme to expand the school’s capacity, and £810,000 from the Welsh Medium Capital Grant to create a 30-place Welsh Medium childcare facility on site.

The Welsh Medium childcare facility will also help to further support Welsh Government’s Childcare Offer for Wales, which provides working parents of three and four year olds with up to 30 hours per week of combined Foundation Phase Nursery education and additional funded childcare for up to 48 weeks per year.

The overall project is scheduled for completion in June 2022, in readiness for the 2022/23 academic year – with the childcare facility also due to open in September 2022. Overall, the works to deliver the investment include:

A split level extension of the school’s eastern ‘wing’ – to facilitate four extra classrooms, toilets, a break-out area on the ground floor and a fully-accessible childcare facility on the lower ground floor.

An extension to the school’s northern ‘wing’ – increasing the floorspace of the existing hall by 80 square metres.

An extension of the existing car park on an area of Council-owned land to provide an additional 21 spaces.

The removal of two temporary classrooms currently being used by the school (resulting in an overall gain of two classrooms in the project).

An additional hard surface play area to replace an existing grass playing field which is unable to be used for large parts of the year.

A new dedicated footpath to link the childcare facility with the car park.

Cabinet Member Councillor Ann Crimmings, who visited the school on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said: “I was delighted to visit staff and contractors at YGG Aberdâr, to officially mark the start of the construction phase for the £4.5m works. The Council is pleased to have contractor Andrew Scott Ltd on board, and we look forward to working closely together to deliver this exciting scheme for the benefit of staff and pupils.

“This scheme is part of a significant investment in education for the Cynon Valley, using Band B funding from Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme. Hirwaun Primary School has recently benefitted from brand new £10.2m facilities which have transformed the learning environment from staff and pupils, while construction work to deliver a £12.1m expansion of Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun is also due to begin very shortly.

“The investments at YGG Aberdâr and Ysgol Rhydywaun demonstrate the Council’s continued commitment to improving local Welsh Medium education provision, working towards the outcomes outlined in its Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP). The majority of our Welsh Medium schools have surplus places, but the Council is targeting investment for those areas where demand exceeds capacity, to improve its provision accordingly.

“Further to this, sites will see investments in their play and sporting facilities. Investment in play and sporting facilities has been a key consideration throughout the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme, ensuring our pupils have access to quality facilities where they can train, improve their sporting skills, and lead active and healthy lifestyles.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the progress made at YGG Aberdâr over the coming months, with the scheme set to transform the current school. The Council will work very closely with the school and its contractor, making it a priority that there is minimal disruption to school life throughout the works. This scheme will provide facilities that the school can be proud of, providing new opportunities for our young people in their education.”

Summer Reading Challenge 2021

The Council is once again supporting the annual Summer Reading Challenge for its younger book lovers, in line with current Welsh Government COVID-19 guidelines and regulations.

This year, The Reading Agency, which runs the Summer Reading Challenge, has teamed up with WWF, the world’s leading independent conservation organisation, for a very special natured-themed Summer Challenge – Wild World Heroes.

Youngers readers interested in being a part of this year’s FREE Summer Reading Challenge can join online or ask for further details at their local library. Those who successfully complete the Challenge will receive a medal and a certificate.

Meet the Wild World Heroes

All Rhondda Cynon Taf libraries have now re-opened to the public, with restrictions in place for the safety of staff and visitors. Face coverings must also be worn indoors and the use of hand sanitiser is encouraged.

The Council’s online ‘Order and Collect’ service, which has proved extremely popular since launching in 2020, also remains in place for book lovers across the County Borough.

Younger readers are also being encouraged to pick up a book during the summer school holidays in a bid to maintain or improve their literacy skills.

The aim is for 4-to-11 year-olds to read up to six books as part of this year’s online Summer Reading Challenge during the school holidays, a time when children’s literacy skills traditionally dip.

The Summer Reading Challenge 2021 is available in both English and Welsh formats.

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Well-being and Cultural Services, with responsibility for Libraries, said:

“I am delighted that our libraries across the County Borough have now reopened to the public, including the brand-new facility at Llys Cadwyn in Pontypridd.

“I am also pleased that our online Order and Collect service has been well received by the public and will therefore continue for the foreseeable future.

“The summer school holidays are an important time for our young learners to recharge their batteries after a very difficult time, but it is equally important that they maintain and continue to improve their literacy skills.

“The annual Summer Reading Challenge therefore remains an important and enjoyable initiative which runs throughout the school holidays, with the help of our libraries staff and The Reading Agency.

“It not only encourages our young people to pick up a book at a time when they may not necessarily do so, but it is also a great way to introduce young people into the world of literature and broaden their imagination.”

Young readers will be transported to the fictional town of Wilderville, a cool place where the Wild World Heroes can do more to make their town even better for the people and animals that live there.

Join the Wild World Heroes for the Summer Reading Challenge 2021 and discover how you too can make a difference to the environment and the place you live.

Wild World Heroes feature amazing books, awesome rewards and plenty of ideas for taking care of our local environment and our planet

The Summer Reading Challenge is the largest children’s ‘reading for pleasure’ programme in the UK. The first Summer Reading Challenge took place in 1999 and is an annual initiative based on a different theme each year.

The programme is delivered by The Reading Agency in partnership with public libraries, publishers and schools across the UK and is supported by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.

Work to construct a new car park for Hirwaun Primary School

Work will soon begin to build a new car park as part of the recent 21st Century Schools investment for Hirwaun Primary School – to complement the Council’s safe routes in communities work within the local area.

Hirwaun Primary has benefitted from a £10.2m investment delivered jointly with Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme. Contractor Morgan Sindall delivered a brand new school building in November 2020 while external work – including two Multi Use Games Areas, a woodland learning area and a grass sports field – were completed recently.

Local school catchment changes will also come into effect for the 2021/22 academic year, which will see pupils who live in the Penderyn area welcomed to the fantastic new facilities at Hirwaun Primary School in September 2021.

In May 2021, the Council started a scheme to deliver a new pedestrian crossing at Brecon Road in Hirwaun, to provide a safe crossing point across the main road near the junction with Cross Street. Utilities work also took place in recent weeks near Manchester Place, ahead of a scheme to deliver a new school car park on unused land owned by the Council.

Work to deliver the new car park began on Monday, July 5, after the Council appointed Horan Civil Engineering as the project contractor.

The scheme will be completed in time for the new academic year starting in September. The construction work will require some localised traffic management for the duration of the scheme.

As part of all major 21st Century Schools projects with Welsh Government, the Council looks at ways it can improve the local routes to school in each community – in order to create a safer environment for parents, carers and pupils. This ranges from highway and footway improvements to introducing safer pedestrian crossing facilities and traffic calming measures.

Safe routes in communities works were delivered in Cwmaman, Tonypandy, Tonyrefail and Treorchy alongside the wider school developments in 2018/19, while similar schemes not linked to school investment were undertaken in Abercynon and Llwynypia in 2020, and Cilfynydd and Llantrisant in 2021.

Some traffic management is required, and the Council will work closely with its contractor to ensure all works are completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Community Recycling Centre Update

Planning a trip to a Community Recycling Centre this weekend?

As the summer finally begins and the sunshine’s on Rhondda Cynon Taf, lots of RCT residents will be using their weekends and evenings clearing out their garages, gardens and other spaces.

All Community Recycling Centres across Rhondda Cynon Taf are currently open from 8am until 7.30pm and are operating under strict COVID-19 Rules.

The COVID-19 rules, which are in place to safeguard both staff and residents, limit the number of vehicles that can enter the site and there is a 10 minute drop-off limit per vehicle. During exceptionally busy times queues can build up quickly and residents are being advised to be patient and if they can visit another time, to please do so.

There are currently six Community Recycling Centres (CRC) in Rhondda Cynon Taf:

Ty Amgen Community Recycling Centre, Llwydcoed, Aberdare, CF44 0BX
Ferndale Community Recycling Centre, North Road, Ferndale, CF43 4RS
Dinas Community Recycling Centre, Cymmer Road, Dinas, CF39 9BL
Ty Glantaf Community Recycling Centre, Taffs Fall Road, Treforest Industrial Estate, CF37 5TT
Llantrisant 100% Recycling Centre, Pant-Y-Brad Road off Heol-Y-Sarn, Llantrisant Industrial Estate, CF72 8YT
Treherbert Community Recycling Centre, Treherbert Industrial Estate, Treherbert, CF42 5HZ

All of these facilities will cater for all recycling needs, including white goods, cardboard, clothing, plastics, light fittings, wood, glass, metal, engine oil, fluorescent tubes, plasterboards, old toys, paint, tyres, old tv’s and lots more.

All of the centres are manned and the attendants are happy to advise residents on recycling, however under COVID-19 guidelines they are unable to assist with lifting items and residents are reminded to observe the 2metre social distancing guidance at all times whilst on site.

Both re-use shops ‘The-Shed’ based at Treherbert and Llantrisant Recycling Centres have now re-opened to the public for browsing and donations. For the latest information visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk/TheShed

Tissues, wipes - cleaning or personals, face masks, gloves, home lateral flow test kits or any other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are not accepted at Community Recycling Centres and should be placed in your black bag waste – if anyone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus these items should also be double bagged and put out after 72 hours.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said:

“Our Community Recycling Centres help provide daily access for our residents to recycling services and it’s great to see that our residents are keeping up their huge recycling efforts.

“The centres are always popular this time of year and even more so this year. I would ask residents to please be patient as the staff are doing all that they can to assist everyone safely.”

For further information on the Community Recycling Centres and the current rules that are in place visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk/CRCsRules.


Extra daily spaces for the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty

Even with social distancing measures in place, over 5,000 spaces have been available each week at Lido Ponty, however, demand for spaces has been extremely high this season.

The changes mean that there will be an additional 160 spaces to book each day at Lido Ponty, 10 additional spaces at each of the early morning swim sessions, and 20 additional spaces at each of the sessions throughout the day. *

Recent changes in coronavirus regulations have allowed for capacity to be increased at the venue, while keeping visitors safe when they attend is still the number one priority.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said: “I am really pleased that we’re now able to offer more sessions each day at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty.

“Demand for Lido Ponty has been exceptionally high this year, but social distancing requirements have meant that it has had to operate at a reduced capacity.

“Throughout this time, the Council has worked hard to maximise the amount of sessions available to people, with 5,000 sessions already available weekly.

“I know that the additional 160 sessions per day will be welcomed by residents across Rhondda Cynon Taf, and as the coronavirus regulations change, we will always look how we can increase capacity in a safe way, balancing the desire for people to have fun at Lido Ponty with protecting the health of residents and visitors.”

Lido Ponty is still unable to offer last-minute tickets for sessions for collection at reception. All tickets must be booked online, in advance. If you cannot make your session, please let Lido Ponty know – all cancelled tickets are returned to the system for resale.

*The additional spaces per day, for the rest of the season, will be added to the booking system on Thursday, July 22.

This means, at 7.30am on Thursday, July 22, the 160 additional spaces available for Friday (July 23), which is currently sold out, will be released for sale.

This also applies to the sessions up to and including Wednesday, July 29, which are all also currently sold out.

At 7.30am on Thursday, July 22, you can purchase the additional 160 tickets available daily for Friday, July 23 up to Wednesday, July 28 – plus the usual tickets released for sale for Thursday July 29.

So, if you have been trying for tickets for next week, there is a second chance to purchase some of the additional spaces that have been added at 7.30am on Thursday, July 22.

From then on, booking remains the same, with tickets for all session released at 7.30am daily for the equivalent day in seven days. While nothing changes with booking, there will be an additional 160 ticket per day available, increasing capacity.


Improvements delivered across Ynysangharad War Memorial Park

The Council has now completed all work to deliver streetlighting and footway improvements throughout Ynysangharad War Memorial Park in Pontypridd, using significant Valleys Regional Park funding.

Works have progressed throughout 2021 to deliver the £1.199m investment in the much-loved Pontypridd park – using £1.185m from Welsh Government via the Valleys Regional Park, and a £14,000 contribution from the Council.

The funding package has enabled the Council to deliver a full refurbishment of all the main footways across the park, as well as the smaller paths. It has also enabled installation of upgraded LED streetlighting via new lighting columns, in order to provide a secure and comfortable environment for all park users.

In addition, a new changing place facility has been provided at the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty. This is a fully-furbished and equipped changing and toilet facility, which is dedicated for the use of people with a disability.

The Valleys Regional Park funding also includes hosting a Guardians Scheme at the park, as one of 12 regional locations for nature-based activities and inspiring opportunities to connect with nature. Groundwork Wales will deliver the scheme – welcoming all ages and demographics for activities such as creating community gardens, growing projects and well-being walks.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said: “I’m really pleased that this significant £1.199m scheme, mostly funded by the Valleys Regional Park, has now delivered refurbishments right across Ynysangharad War Memorial Park. The park is a beautiful space enjoyed by residents in Pontypridd and visitors who come from far and wide – and the streetlighting and footpath improvements have been delivered right across the park.

“We’re also very proud that the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, is a venue which welcomes everyone in the community, and the new changing place facility which has recently been brought into use via the Valleys Regional Park funding has helped to further increase the venue’s inclusivity for all users.

“There is further ongoing investment planned for Ynysangharad War Memorial Park using significant Heritage Lottery Funding. This has been secured to focus on bringing back some of the original features of the Grade 2 Listed park – for example, restoring the bandstand and refurbishing the sunken garden. Works are expected to start within the park by October this year.

“The funding will also enable a new centre, Canolfan Calon Taf, to operate from the park. Run by the Council’s Adult Education department, this will be a community learning centre to help develop audiences and provide important opportunities for participation, learning and engagement in the community.”


School Holiday Enrichment Programme agreed for summer 2021

The Council has now agreed its expanded School Holiday Enrichment Programme (SHEP) for young people across 15 settings this summer, which will include daily activities and the provision of healthy meals.

The Programme, also known as the ‘Food and Fun Programme’, will take place in 13 mainstream schools and two special schools from July 21 to August 5 – a full list of those settings is included below. The Programme will be delivered from 9.30am to 1.15pm each day, and will provide healthy meals, food and nutrition education, physical activities and enrichment sessions.

SHEP is targeted in some of the County Borough’s most socially deprived communities, taking place in the school summer holidays when free breakfast in primary schools and free school meals are unavailable. It is a time when some families face financial hardship struggle to afford or to access the food required for a healthy diet.

Each mainstream setting will have a maximum capacity of 40 pupils (aged 5-11) and 20 pupils (aged 7-19) in special schools. Places will be applied for via an online booking process and will be subject to availability – with prioritisation based on need. The 15 settings were selected due to a high percentage of pupils accessing free school meals provision in parts of the County Borough and access to on-site facilities.

Welsh Government has committed to supporting children who are eligible for free school meals throughout school holidays until the end of the current academic year. Funding for SHEP will also be made available across Wales, with its roll-out being coordinated by the Welsh Local Government Association. It is anticipated that the Programme’s cost in Rhondda Cynon Taf this summer will be £178,000.

The details of the Council’s School Holiday Enrichment Programme have now been agreed via a Delegated Decision made by Officers.

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said: “I’m very pleased that the Council has agreed its School Holiday Enrichment Programme for 2021 – to provide vulnerable young people with much-needed support during the summer break, which can be a challenging time for families. It will provide a number of opportunities for extended learning, social interaction and physical activities when invaluable term-time contact from schools is not available.

“The Council has successfully engaged in the Programme for the last four years and it is especially important in the pandemic, to help parents and carers meet the additional costs of the school holidays. Welsh Government has continued its support for free school meals up until the end of the school term, and a key part of SHEP is its provision of a healthy breakfast and lunchtime meal for those pupils in need during the summer holiday period.

“The 15 school settings have been chosen based on the high percentage of free school meals provision locally, and others for use of their facilities – with the Programme set to be of significant benefit to 560 young people and their families in some of our County Borough’s most deprived communities. The booking process will be communicated to parents and carers in due course.”

The 15 schools which will host the SHEP in summer 2021 include:

Craig-yr-Hesg Primary (pupils from the Glyncoch area).
Darran Park Primary (pupils from the wider Ferndale area).
Glenboi Primary School.
Hawthorn High (pupils from Hawthorn Primary and the wider Rhydyfelin area).
Llanharan Primary School.
Mountain Ash Comprehensive School.
Penrhys Primary School.
Perthcelyn Primary School.
Penywaun Community Primary School (pupils from the wider Penywaun area).
Porth Community School (pupils from the wider Porth area).
Tonyrefail Community School (pupils from the wider Tonyrefail area).
Ynysboeth Primary School.
Ysgol Nantgwyn (pupils from the wider Tonypandy area).
Ysgol Hen Felin.
Ysgol Ty Coch.


Redevelopment of former chicken factory could be financed by UK Government 'levelling up' fund

The council is planning to bid for nearly £9m from the UK Government’s levelling up fund to turn a former Cynon Valley chicken factory into a business development and park and ride as part of the South Wales Metro.

A Rhondda Cynon Taf Council cabinet report for a meeting on Thursday, June 17, sets out the bids the council is planning to make for funding from the UK Government fund.

One of them is set to be for the former Mayhew chicken factory site in Trecynon near Aberdare Bypass which cabinet recently agreed to acquire.

It is hoped this land would allow for a station halt to be built on the opposite side of the river and the council is considering this as a way of extending rail services between Aberdare and Hirwaun as part of a study funded by the Welsh Government.

The plan is for a mixed use development made up of modern business premises and a park and ride facility as preparation for the future extension of the passenger railway line beyond Aberdare.

This will include a newly developed business site which can host a number of modern light industrial units and park and ride facilities, with electric vehicle charging facilities and an active travel bridge.

The report said: “The project will serve to reverse the loss of the previous employment use on the site and build a modern light industrial business park, creating quality jobs for local people in a regionally important area and addressing the lack of modern industrial units in the region to support SME (small medium enterprise) growth through improved productivity.”

Current projected costs for the modern light industrial unit development is £6.5m.

Projected costs for the park and ride facility and active travel bridge are £3.1m so the cost is £9.6m and the levelling up fund bid will be 90% of the total development cost which is £8.7m.

The £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund (LUF) is set to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in culture and heritage.

It is a capital only fund, administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Department for Transport (DfT) and HM Treasury (HMT).

Councils will lead the bids for their areas and can submit a number of bids determined by the number of parliamentary constituencies wholly within the local authority boundary.

This means three bids can be submitted from Rhondda Cynon Taf, representing the Rhondda, Cynon and Pontypridd constituencies with an additional transport based bid which can cover one or more constituencies.

Rhondda Cynon Taf has been categorised as a priority one of three priority categories which will give it an advantage as part of the assessment process.

A capital bid can be for an individual project or a package of up to three projects, of up to £20 million in value per bid, or in exceptional cases up to £50m per bid for larger transport projects.

All bids must be submitted in full with all supporting documentation, and where appropriate the approval of the responsible authority on June 18.

The bids will then be assessed in three stages including the pass or fail gateway to judge whether a bid can deliver LUF spending, assessment and short-listing of bids where bids will be assessed against the criteria of the fund and a short-list of the strongest bids will be produced and then decision making on funding with an announcement expected from UK Government in the autumn of this year.

Consultation and support will be expected to be gained for bids from the MPs whose constituencies will be hosting bids as well as appropriate consultation with the public and other organisations.

To support the development of bids and working more closely with the UK Government, a one off £125,000 capacity building grant will automatically be made available.


Wales is at the beginning of the third wave of Covid says Welsh Government

Wales’ deputy chief medical officer has delivered a stark warning, saying the country is now at the start of its third wave of coronavirus.

Dr Chris Jones laid out the facts which have led to a rise in the delta variant - formerly known as the Indian variant - of coronavirus in Wales during a press conference on Monday afternoon June 21st.

He said that until the end of May, Wales had seen relatively low numbers of the variant linked to clusters. But he said “more and more unlinked cases across Wales” have since become apparent.

As of Monday (June 21) there are 579 confirmed cases of the delta variant in Wales - up from 488 on Thursday.

“About four out of five new cases are caused by the delta variant,” Dr Jones explained on Monday. “It is a highly transmissible form of the virus, the latest evidence confirms it is - more so than the Kent variant.”

The Kent variant - now known as alpha - was known to have played the most significant role in the second peak across the UK in the winter.

“What we don’t know yet in Wales is whether, as cases begin to rise again, this will cause an increase in hospital admissions,” Dr Jones said.

“There have been 12 hospital admissions in Wales as a result of delta, but this could rise. Based on the experience in Scotland, the risk of being admitted to hospital with delta appears to be doubled.

"Across the UK, we are starting to see an increase in the number of people who have been admitted to hospital, although at the moment, this remains relatively low, which suggests vaccination is providing strong protection against infection and severe disease.

“We are at the beginning of a third peak driven by delta, and we probably are two to three weeks behind what is happening in England and Scotland, where delta has been spreading for longer.”
Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan - the way we behave will 'make a difference' in tackling Covid Delta variant

In England, more than 38,000 cases of the delta variant were recorded in the last 28 days, while more than 75,000 cases were reported in the UK up to June 16 - up from 42,323 the previous week.

On the Wales scenario, Dr Jones added: “It is moving quickly. We are seeing cases of the delta variant in all parts of Wales - it is no longer confined to north and south east Wales, and there is evidence of community spread.

"If you look back at the modelling from Swansea University in April we are still, more or less, tracking at this very early stage the most likely scenario that was identified then.

"The modelling going forward is more difficult because there are some uncertainties about exactly how transmissible the delta variant is. There are some uncertainties about the effectiveness of vaccination, although we are becoming more reassured about that.

"The worst of those options suggest we could have still a very sizeable first peak, possibly even larger than January. That is why we are emphasising today the need to continue our precautionary approach."

On Friday First Minister Mark Drakeford blamed the spread of the delta variant in Wales for drawing back his plans to ease lockdown restrictions further. You can see the watered down changes here.

The delta variant was first identified in India in October – it was known as the India variant of concern before the World Health Organisation introduced a new system of naming coronavirus variants, using the Greek alphabet.

The first cases in Wales were linked to two clusters in Cardiff in early May, with cases in Newport and Swansea. A third and larger cluster then emerged in Conwy.


Ty Gwyn Shortlisted At Schools Awards

Ty Gwyn Education Centre in Aberdare has been shortlisted in the TES Schools Awards 2021, which recognises the most outstanding individuals and institutions within the UK’s education sector.

All at Ty Gwyn Education Centre are delighted at being recognised in the well-being and mental health award category, one of only two schools in Wales to be shortlisted in this category.

Ty Gwyn Education Centre, managed by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, is a trauma-informed Pupil Referral Unit which provides small class, bespoke and specialist support to secondary aged learners who cannot attend mainstream school.

The TES School Awards 2021 take place live and virtually online on Friday, June 25.

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said: “I am delighted that Ty Gwyn Education Centre has been shortlisted at the TES Schools Awards 2021. It is testament to all the hard work, dedication and support provided by all staff.

“It has been a very difficult year for us all, and none more so than for those working within the education sector and for all of our learners.

“All of our schools have wonderful mechanisms in place to ensure the care, health and well-being of all staff and learners and it is pleasing to see this being recognised on a national platform.”

Victoria Cox-Wall, Head at Ty Gwyn Education Centre, said: “This is a great achievement for Ty Gwyn on its improvement journey and a reflection of the support and investment across the Local Authority and Consortium.

“Our therapeutic team, led by two assistant Educational Psychologists, have worked both with groups and individual learners on their relationship skills, their self-esteem and ability to regulate their emotions to access learning and pro-social experiences using traditional talking therapies and creative indoor and outdoor sessions, including building an ant farm.

“The mental health of our learners has been impacted by the restrictions of the global pandemic, and this has been our priority to address both those attending and those at home with school based sessions, online meetings and sending out personal letters.

“We have also used our school website to set up an ‘I Wish My Teacher Knew’ section so that learners who have not been in school can ask for help or support at any time.

“I am delighted to say that the first-hand experience, the views of our staff and learners, and data collected during the school year, show that this approach is working across the Pupil Referral Unit, securing sustainable improvements and significantly impacting the life chances of our learners.”

TES Editor Jon Severs, said: “It is more important this year than ever before to celebrate the fantastic work schools do, because in the past 12 months they have gone above and beyond to ensure pupils were able to be educated and be kept safe in extraordinary circumstances.

“We were inundated with entries that demonstrated just how hard the pandemic made the work of schools, and just how amazing the response from staff has been.

“We are looking forward to showcasing, as we do every year, just how vital our education professionals are to every facet of this country.”

For a full list of all those shortlisted at the TES Schools Awards 2021 visit www.tesawards.co.uk


Phase two of flood resistance measures to residential properties

The Council has successfully secured £218,000 external funding to provide the next phase of interim Property Flood Resistance (PFR) measures to more than 230 further residential properties across Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The first phase of the Local Sources PFR Project was successfully delivered in partnership with Vision Products, which is a supported business as part of the Council. Vision Products delivers a range of products and services while supporting adults with disabilities to overcome the barriers to employment, while providing them with the opportunities to attain skills and qualifications.

Phase one of project included the installation of interim PFR measures on 222 properties, and the new funding will allow the Council to work in collaboration with Natural Resources Wales, and again in partnership with Vision Products, to deliver the next phase – in relation to a further 233 residential properties.

The new funding has been secured through a combination of Phase 2 of Welsh Government’s Local Sources PFR Project (£85,000) and the NRW Main River PFR Project (£133,000) – and will permit the installation of expandable flood barriers and other interim measures to properties.

In February 2020, Storm Dennis caused unprecedented damage to County Borough communities, with 1,476 properties internally flooded. This was one of four storms which took place in quick succession up to March 1, 2020, as Rhondda Cynon Taf saw its most significant flooding since the 1970s.

The Council remains committed to securing funding for longer-term repairs to damaged infrastructure, with more than £17m committed to date to deliver or progress more than 100 flood-related schemes. The most recent landmarks in this effort have enabled the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty, and M&S Bridge at Ynysangharad Park, to reopen following repair projects – while work has resumed to rebuild the river wall at Blaen-y-Cwm Road.


Vision Products Wins 'Wales Changing Lives' Award

Vision Products has been recognised for its 26 years of work in helping to ‘Change Lives’ at the annual Hospitality Wales Confident about Disability awards ceremony.

Held at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, the Council’s Vision Products won the coveted Wales Changing Lives Award, presented to the employer who has made a real difference to people with disabilities or health conditions.

The judging panel, from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) National Employer and Partnership team, recognised that Vision Products, which provides cost-effective employment and development opportunities for people with disabilities, has made a huge difference to the lives of so many individuals.

Councillor Tina Leyshon, Cabinet Member for Adult and Children’s Services, said: “Congratulations to all the workforce at Vision Products on this latest award. I am delighted that they are continuing to gain national recognition for their passion and professionalism.

“Vision Products continues to support people with disabilities in the workplace, overcoming barriers to employment and being an accredited disability confident leader.

“Over the years it has established itself as a brand that has stood the test of time while at the same time changing and evolving.”

Ehab Elkaffass from DWP congratulated Vision Products on their success:

Many congratulations to Vision Products on winning this award.

Through their inclusive approach to employment, they have embodied the ethos of Disability Confident. Their actions have doubtlessly improved equality of opportunity for people in Rhondda Cynon Taf and beyond by helping them secure good quality, sustainable work, and a better future for themselves and their local communities.

This is exactly what the ‘Changing Lives’ award was designed to recognise. The Disability Confident Scheme is about encouraging long-term behavioral change and making the business case for employing disabled people and ensuring that they have the opportunities to fulfil their potential. Vision Products have really led by example in this regard.

During the ceremony Vision Products were also asked to be a guest speaker, to share their experiences of supporting people with disabilities in the workplace, overcoming barriers to employment and being an accredited Disability Confident Leader.

Run as a supported business as part of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, Vision Products aim is to provide a range of cost-effective and appropriate training and development opportunities to support individuals with disabilities.

This is done by the provision of the PVCu manufacturing department, the Integrated Community Equipment Service, Mobility Shops and the Technology and Servicing Department.


Outcome of the recent consultation on Active Travel provision

A summary of responses to the Council’s recent Active Travel consultation will be shared with Cabinet – with several changes to future walking and cycling provision now being considered following the feedback from 695 participants.

In collaboration with Welsh Government, the Council held the engagement exercise from December 23, 2020, to February 12, 2021 – for residents to have their say on current walking and cycling routes in Rhondda Cynon Taf and their aspirations for the future. This supports the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013, which requires Local Authorities to consult, plan and develop high-quality local Active Travel routes contained within an Integrated Network Map.

The consultation enabled residents to leave comments on the existing Map, request a new route between two points and report difficulties with an existing route. A report to the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, June 17, contains an Appendix which lists all 695 comments, along with the Council’s response and an indication of whether the Map will be updated for each specific point raised.

The Appendix also contains an indication of the demographics of those who responded – along with the location of which their comment referred to. The most popular areas were Pontypridd (78 respondents), Aberdare (63), Llanharan (63), Llantrisant (56), Church Village (28) and Taff’s Well (28).

Some requests made in the consultation had already been accommodated following previous engagement exercises, while, for those comments requiring the Council to update its Integrated Network Map, a site visit will be carried out to further examine each point raised. This will be completed before a statutory consultation exercise is undertaken by the Council later this year.

A number of other comments are being referred to separate Council teams – for example, requests for crossing points (Traffic Management) dropped kerbs and wider footways (Highways), and better lighting (Street Lighting). The report acknowledges that while these aren’t directly Active Travel issues, they are important considerations which could be barriers to walking and cycling. They will therefore be collated into a separate programme for consideration.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways and Transportation, said: “The considerable response to the recent Active Travel consultation is very encouraging, as it shows that local people are interested in engaging with the Council in order to expand local walking and cycling opportunities in their communities – not just for leisure purposes but as part of people’s everyday routines and journeys, to present a viable alternative to driving.

“Encouraging more people to walk and cycle, and improving the provision allowing them to do so, has many advantages. Active Travel is better for the environment, promotes outdoor exercise, improves health and well-being, connects communities and increases residents’ access to public transport and employment – which is why it remains a priority issue for the Council.

“Consulting residents who have local knowledge continues to be an important part of the wider process to improve Active Travel. All 695 comments received in the consultation have been read by Officers, with several changes to our future walking and cycling plans now included. Many other suggestions which are more indirectly related to Active Travel, but still important considerations, have been brought to the attention of the relevant Council department.

“A report on the outcomes of the recent consultation will be discussed by Cabinet during Thursday’s meeting, and the next stage of the process is to carry out a statutory consultation which is due to take place later this year.”


Let's Talk Electric Vehicle Charging

As part of our new and exciting Climate Conversation - ‘Let’s Talk Climate Change RCT’ the Council would like your help in shaping the future development of Electric Vehicle Charging across the County Borough.

The use of electric vehicles is increasing year-on-year and it is important that the Council is able to assess the future demand for an EV charging infrastructure within Rhondda Cynon Taf. Future projections indicate that around 8,000 electric vehicles will be owned by residents of Rhondda Cynon Taf by 2030.

‘Let’s Talk Electric Vehicle Charging’ is encouraging residents and local businesses to join in the debate and have their ay and share their views on how we can shape our plans for the future.

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Well-being and Cultural Services, said: “We recognise, that as Council we need to lead the way and support our residents, businesses and visitors travelling within our County Borough who require a suitable infrastructure to charge their vehicles while at work, shopping or going about other business such as visiting leisure centres.

“The use of EV charging stations in public car parks, at kerbside, at our leisure centres and key tourism locations and other publicly-accessible sites may be required to meet an increased demand in the future.

“This is why we need the public engagement now on such an important issue as part of our Let’s Talk RCT/Let’s Talk Climate Change initiative. Your views matter to us, so I urge everyone to visit the website and have their say.”

Our aim is for Rhondda Cynon Taf to be a Carbon Neutral Council by 2030 and that the County Borough will also be as near as possible to Carbon Neutral by then.

Let’s Talk Electric Vehicle Charging

You can give us your feedback and views on the use of electric vehicles and charging points across Rhondda Cynon Taf in our short online survey. We would also like to hear your own experiences of owning or using electric vehicles and help us plot where you think would be a good location for an EV charging unit.


The story of the little café that's thriving in the converted back room of a Valleys pub

Rachel McCabe, 34, has worked hard over the last four years transforming the unlikely space into Dotty's Place, where kids go for treats and afternoon teas are served in an old Valleys boozer

When a local girl from Pontypridd first said she wanted to open a little café at the back of her parents' boozer a lot of people told her it would never work.

With The Central Hotel having been a well-known pub for years located in the heart of Trallwn's square it was said a quirky little resting spot would never fit in at the local pub.

But Rachel McCabe, now 34, was determined to turn the empty space into somewhere that everyone in the community could enjoy. A place where pensioners could stop by for tea and parents could bring their children to enjoy a little treat without having to venture too far.

Speaking about how the idea to start the coffee shop came about Rachel said: "About four years ago I decided I would give it a go and try and open a coffee shop behind [the pub].

"At the time a lot of people thought it would never work because it's in the pub and a lot of people still don't know we're here.

"Anyone who comes here knows it's a drinkers' pub. It's a proper local pub. When we said about it first a lot of customers thought: 'What are they doing that for?'

"We are still open four years later so that's not too bad. If you can get past three years that's not a bad thing."
Rachel was determined to make the business a success

Even though the coffee shop sits behind the boozer you'd never think it when you take a look inside. The decor is pretty, delicate, and inviting. There are lots of homely signs, colourful plant pots scatter the walls, and flower garlands hang from the doorframes.

It's a small, quiet, and peaceful little spot where you'd feel more than comfortable spending time having a coffee. It's quaint and it's cute.

"We are a separate entity from the pub," Rachel added. "We are nothing to do with it really – we are completely different."

Speaking about what the space has been used for over the years she added: "They tried a few things there – takeaways and things – but they never really took off. It's such a big building that we just wanted to make it something that everyone could use.

"We get a lot of pensioners, children – we have a bit of everything here for people. It was such a wasted space that I wanted a space that everyone could use. I just thought I would give it a go really.

To many Dotty's Place may still be a secret but the people who have visited have rushed back over the last four years to sample the tasty treats on offer and quickly became regulars.

While some of the locals may be at the pub having an afternoon pint others are desperate to go to Dotty's to sample the sweet delights on offer.

Before the pandemic the little eatery was popular for hosting afternoon teas and, to the regulars, it's a go-to place for breakfasts and for treating the kids to little luxuries like ice creams, milkshakes, and cakes.

What's more is Rachel really made the business a tribute to her family when she opened the shop a few years back. As well as setting up shop at the back of her parents' pub the name of the shop was chosen for a very special reason.

"Dotty's was named after my grandmother," added Rachel. "It's my middle name and I was trying to think of something funky and I just thought Dotty's would be a place for everyone.

"We have owned the pub for 10 years and it has been the Central forever. I grew up with it always being on the square but my dad bought it about 10 years ago.

"Dad's done a lot of work to it. He really wanted to keep it open in the area as so many pubs are being knocked down now."

A decade later and the family have managed to not only keep, and make over, the pub but the premises has been turned into something really unique.

Trallwn managed to hold onto one of its treasured locals and also gained a spot that's become a hub for the community as a result of Rachel's hard work. It may have been a risk but it seems it was one worth taking.

But, like many other businesses, Rachel said the last year hasn't come without its challenges. When the coffee shop had to close its doors due to the pandemic some people really realised just how important it had become for people in the area.

Talking about the last year she said: "Covid has really hit us hard. Being a licensed premises we have to be really careful with the regulations.

"We are working really hard. We did try to give the takeaways a go but people just want to sit in and relax.

"The older people go out because they want to sit with friends and relax. We have worked really hard to get it going again.

"I have a lot of people who come in on their own.

"Some people come in to see people. I'm probably the only person they speak to all day so I worried about a lot of people when I closed. It wasn't just the business. Sometimes we're the only company people have and it's sad."


Unassuming hairdresser in Valleys terraced street crowned salon of the year

This is the story of Leylie Boutique in Pontypridd, which walked away with the title after competing against hair salons from all over the world

Welcome to the unassuming little hairdressers that's nestled between houses in a terraced Valleys street and has recently been crowned salon of the year.

Leylie Boutique lies in Merthyr Road in Pontypridd – a residential street where you'd never expect to find a hair salon.

It's situated slightly outside the town centre, away from the hustle and bustle of busy shops, but even though it can be found in the most unlikely of places its success is growing and growing.

Owner Jessica Moule, now 32, was only 22 when she first set up her own business. Initially her salon, Perfection, was located at a different premises in the village of Cilfynydd.

Around three years ago she decided she needed a bigger space, and a bit of a re-brand, so Leylie Boutique was born.

She converted a property that once belonged to her grandmother into a stylish and modern salon while keeping its Valleys authenticity.

Jess said: "It used to be my nan's house. They bought it 40 years ago as a shop. It was a corner shop and my mam used to work here before going for the school bus. Then they turned it into a house, then I lived here and turned it back to retail."

Speaking about why she moved the salon three years ago, she added: "I just thought when we were in Cilfynydd the parking was a lot harder and we had a small room. I was wanting to take on more staff and I just thought I'd give it a go.

"I felt it was worth the risk to try to branch out a little bit more."

A few years down the line it's clear that the risk was definitely worth taking as Leylie Boutique was recently crowned salon of the year at the Social Media Hair and Beauty Awards.

The competition saw the Welsh salon come up trumps after competing with hairdressers around the globe to bag the crown and when you walk inside it's easy to see why.

You'd never think you were in an old terraced house. While the old-fashioned brick walls and traditional fireplace remain intact the interior is totally gorgeous and completely modern.

From the huge silver mirrors that hang on the walls to the flower garlands dotted around the shop to the vintage telephone box that stands in what was once Jess's living room, the premises has had a complete transformation since becoming a salon.

It feels like a proper treat to be there and, what's more, since opening at Merthyr Road Jess has really been able to take the business to the next level.

Jess said: "It was really different when we were in Cilfynydd as it was based on word of mouth.

"We didn't use social media then really. I didn't have a Facebook page when we first started but when we opened here we started a social media page and throughout the three years we have started posting more."

In recent years Jess has also started offering a lot of treatments at the salon. As well as standard cut and colours Jess specialises in extensions and hair loss treatments. She makes wigs for clients experiencing hair loss, has created her own brand of products including hair vitamins, and has also been specialising in hair loss treatments for men.

"The male treatments have taken off massively," she added. "A lot of people have come to me saying they can't find anyone who does it in this area. The closest place they can find is in England. I just thought I needed something for men and it became really big.

"It's so nice that they have the guts to come into a women's salon and have it done. They message me saying it has changed their lives."

Even though business has been booming at the salon Jess said it was still a huge shock to find out they had won the award.

Together with her team – Becci and Danielle – Jess works tirelessly to always try and offer clients something new but the last year has been so tough for everyone in different ways that it really was the last thing she was expecting.

Jess said the win "was a really big shock to be honest", adding: "They were videoing live on Instagram because of Covid and I was just watching it thinking nothing of it and when they announced it I couldn't believe it.

"I was really shocked. I didn't expect it at all."


The tourist attractions that have reopened in Rhondda Cynon Taf

It has been a long year of lockdowns in Wales, but with restrictions once again easing in time for summer, many businesses that have seen long term closures are finally opening up their doors again.

There are many attractions all over Wales that people can now enjoy once more - from museums to Plantasia - and you can find out more about them here.

Here we look at some of the best tourist attractions that have reopened in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Rhondda Heritage Park

The Rhondda Heritage Park in Trehafod at the bottom of the Rhondda reopened its doors to guests on May 18 and are running six tours a day from Tuesday to Saturday.

The Black Gold Experience Underground Tour is run by guides who have all worked in the mines of the Rhondda Valleys and offers guests a chance to learn about what it was like to mine coal in Wales. The tour ends with a ride on DRAM, a virtual coal dram for some added excitement.

Tours are currently restricted to family parties with a minimum number of two people and max of eight per tour.

The Caffe Bracchi has also reopened to customers inside in line with the reopening of indoor hospitality across Wales.

There is also a children's play park on site and ample parking available.

Prices are £6.95 per adult, £5.10 per child and £17.50 for a family and are available to book on their website

Royal Mint Experience

The experience opened on May 29 in time for the school holidays

The exhibition has some of the most rare and unique coins in Britain on display and there are six zones to explore. You will also get a chance to see how coins are made with an opportunity to strike your own coin.

Tickets are now available for tours from this date. Tours will be limited to seven people from separate households or up to three "bubbles" of four people if from the same household.

Guests are required to wear face masks and some aspects of the tour will be adapted for social distancing. There is ample parking available on site.

An exhibition only ticket costs £5. Tickets for tours range from £11.93 to £15.21 for an Adult, £9 to £11.02 for a child, seniors and students cost £9.90 to £12.03. Or a family of four costs £34.65 to £43.74 while under fives and carers go free.

Zip World
Zip World is available to book now
The newest tourist attraction to come to RCT sits on the border of the Cynon and Rhondda Valleys on the Rhigos mountain.

This is one for thrill seekers and is home to the fastest seated zip line in the world with the Phoenix. However, it is not just home to a zip wire but also a rollercoaster dubbed Tower Coaster - potentially the first in the county borough.

Tower Coaster can be enjoyed by a driver (over nine years) and a passenger, aged between four and eight for £35, or by one adult for £25. One ticket is equal to two rides and the speed of the kart is completely up to the adventurers.

There is also a mini zip line for children over the age of five which costs £10.

For the Phoenix, there are two zip zones with four parallel lines, soaring over the Rhigos mountain range. Tickets are £50 children as young as seven can ride with an adult.

Children swim for free at Ponty Lido
The National Lido of Wales reopened after over a year of closure due to repairs needed from flooding on Saturday,
May 1.

The outdoor pool boasts a splash pad for children and is the perfect place to enjoy a day out. There is a children's play park just outside the Lido that you can use to extend your stay.

Tickets are free for under 16s and £2 for adults.

Take a look at the Lido's website for more.

Penderyn Distillery
Tours of the distillery in Aberdare have restarted
This is one for the adults, Penderyn Distillery in Aberdare opened up to tour visitors on May 17.

Tours are limited to eight people, as opposed to the usual 20, and a number of social distancing measures have been put in place.

During the hour long tour you will learn about how the company was founded and what makes the whisky so unique. You get to see their mill, mash tun and innovative single copper-pot. At the end of the tour you can sample products.

Adult tickets are £11.50, students and OAPS aare £8.25, children (aged 14-17) are £4.50


Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council : Stop the Cynon Gateway North

Hello there,

Rhondda Cynon Taff are planning a 1 lane 1 mile road costing £30Million. The effects of the road will be devastating for the environment and for our ecology. As well as that this has a personal bearing on my life as it will virtually be on my doorstep. Please can you join me by signing the petition "Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council : Stop the Cynon Gateway North". If you are able to please share it and the links below to keep updated with the campaign:




Oxford Buildings redevelopment complete

A scheme to redevelop 1-4 Oxford Buildings in Mountain Ash has now been completed, after the Council worked with partners to bring the prominent vacant buildings back in to use.

1-4 Oxford buildings have been a key feature to the south-east entrance to Mountain Ash town Centre for over 100 years, although the buildings had been left vacant for a number of years.

With the scheme complete, the Council and its partners have successfully brought the buildings back in to use, with the redevelopment forming a key aspect of the wider town centre regeneration strategy for Mountain Ash, which includes the development of the new Ty Calon Lan Primary Care Centre and the regeneration of Guto Square.

The development of 1-4 Oxford buildings has been a joint initiative between Cynon Taf Community Housing Group, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council and the Welsh Government, working to bring a much-needed supported housing facility to the area.

The Council’s Housing Strategy Team have worked closely with Cynon Taf Community Housing on the project over the past 18 months - from the initial stages of the development, consulting with community members over the plans and designs, and the delivery of the completed scheme.

The development provides up to 8 self-contained, high quality apartments specifically for adults with a learning disability, where individuals will have access to targeted support from care partners DRIVE to enable them to maximise their independence and promote choice.

The development creates a safe and secure environment in the heart of Mountain Ash where residents can integrate with the wider community, whilst also providing a more welcoming entrance to the town centre.

Councillor Geraint Hopkins, Cabinet Member for Adult Services and the Welsh Language, said: “I am pleased to have seen this important development scheme completed in Mountain Ash, with the previously derelict Oxford Buildings transformed in to a safe, secure and high-quality environment for adults with learning disabilities.

“The redevelopment scheme crucially forms part of the wider regeneration strategy for Mountain Ash, which the Council consulted on in late 2018, as part of an exhibition which was widely supported by the local community. Planning for the Rhos (Guto’s) Square development was subsequently awarded in April 2019.

“I would like to extend my thanks to Cynon Taf Community Housing for working closely with the Council in delivering this project, for the benefit of residents and the local community.”

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