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This is officially the best Welsh chip shop in 2018

The finalists for the National Fish and Chip Awards 2018 have been announced, revealing Wales' best chip shop.

Penaluna’s Famous Fish & Chips , in Hirwaun , was the only Welsh chippy to make the top 10 in the 'Fish and Chip Shop of the Year' category.

The awards, which are now in their 30th year, have 15 categories which celebrate the nation’s favourite traditional takeaway, fish and chips.

And the Cynon Valley chippy is up for more than just the one award.

Along with Fish and Chip Shop of the Year, Penaluna's is also a finalist in four other categories - the Healthy Eating ‘Fish and Chips’ Award; the Good Catch – The Sustainable Seafood Award; the NFFF Quality Award Champion Award; and the Staff Training and Development Award.

The people behind the Hirwaun chippy, which offered customers a battered and deep fried festive dinner at Christmas , are thrilled with the accolade.

"We're delighted to have reached the final of the National awards, it's a credit to all our staff who have been excellent throughout the year and we're looking forward to great things with them," said owner, Lee Penaluna.

"Wales is a region and we're competing against nine others from around the UK & Ireland, all exceptionally good fish and chip shops.

"We believe we're the only shop to have secured a final place in five categories since the competition began. "


10 years after Tower Colliery closed, Tyrone O'Sullivan says he is 'optimistic' the site could have a new future

The chairman of Tower Colliery, the last deep mine in Wales which closed 10 years ago this week, hopes hundreds of homes and a new cultural centre will be built on the site within years.

Tyrone O’Sullivan, who has now been a part of Tower’s mining and then regeneration programme for 50 years, is “very optimistic” about the “much-needed” development coming to fruition.

Mr O’Sullivan was speaking 10 years after the colliery near Hirwaun in the Cynon Valley, closed its gates for the last time as a deep pit mine.

Now grandfather-of-five Mr O’Sullivan, whose association with Tower dates back to 1967, said: “We need money north of the M4. It would have a major affect on land owned by miners. I have no doubt in my mind that the Tower story is not over. This could be the second part of it.

“Why shouldn’t the pit become a facility for the community? A museum that no-one else in the world can boast? This could be a special story here in the Valleys.

“Hirwaun is 35 minutes from Swansea Bay, it’s 40 minutes from Cardiff. You can get to the Midlands on the A465.

“If you want a nice, accessible place to live, with stunning views over the Brecon Beacons, it’s here. Where else in the Valleys can you get those amazing opportunities for working?”

As well as Rhondda Cynon Taf Council being keen to work with Tower, Mr O’Sullivan said there’s “a lot of interest” in opportunities at the site, and hopes it will create hundreds of new jobs for the area.

It’s hoped that in the next six months there will be a some sort of announcement, and that "movements to be made on site within five or six years".

Saved from closure by workers with a deep-rooted faith in what they were doing, Tower became the symbol for the miners’ resistance in the 1990s. And in 2008, with coal reserves finally exhausted after 140 years of production, it was the workers themselves who decided it was time to leave.

A collection of 240 miners, plus friends, families and local dignitaries, marked the closure with an emotional march away from the mine in Hirwaun they fought so hard to save.

Wales’ last remaining deep pit made national headlines in 1995 when workers defied the Conservative Government and used their redundancy money to buy the pit, making it the only mine in Britain to be owned by its workers.

British Coal had decided to close the mine because it believed it was too expensive to run. When the miners protested, they were told to give up and find other jobs. But they ignored both suggestions and, having negotiated a loan from a national bank, instead paid £8,000 each to buy the mine.

Ten years on from 2008, and Mr O’Sullivan, 72, has spoken of the “incredible” memories of his time at the deep pit.

He explained: “We changed what the mining industry was, and we made an incredible difference to the Cynon Valley. All our workers were in good jobs. If they were injured or their wife was pregnant, they were still paid.

“Everyone thought coal was no good. They just didn’t want to buy it, but we made millions worth of profit.

“People from other pits, when they closed, wanted to come and work for us. I had a load of brilliant workers who really wanted to be there. They didn’t want a redundancy. We made enough money to keep everybody in work as well as distribute profits among the community. Hirwaun, Mountain Ash, Penrhiwceiber, Aberdare, Abercynon, Penywaun - all were better off because of us.

“We were the only pit in Britain who worked the last ounce of mining we could - who wouldn’t be proud of that?

“I am so proud to look back on it as we as a group of miners had done everything that other people thought couldn’t be done.

“I have incredible memories of when it was a deep pit. And even though my father was killed during that time, I saw the positive - it taught me how to deal with widows.

“Even in death, Tower did not become a sad place to me.”

But even after what seemed to many like the end of Tower in 2008, it lived on.

That was because officials at the colliery found there were around six million tonnes of coal close to the surface, and so began a huge operation to begin opencast mining at the 400-acre site.

Mr O’Sullivan said they had inquiries from six companies from across Wales all vying for the contract, and eventually went into partnership with Hargreaves Services.

Employing 150 men - some who worked in the deep pit and others from near and far - opencast operations finally began in 2012, with profits still benefiting its surrounding communities.

The opencast mining was done with a view to create some sort of housing, leisure, manufacturing and retail park after the coal had been extracted, which would take around seven years.

In terms of the other men who had been employed at the deep pit, many were nearing retirement age, while others took roles at collieries or deployed their skills in the tunnelling industry.

But in March 2017, having mined 800,000 to one million tonnes of coal a year, Aberthaw Power Station in Barry announced it would no longer use Welsh or British produce due to its carbon content.

With its main buyer no longer in the market for its coal, Tower had to stop mining, around two years before it had planned to.

That took it to where it is today, with hopes for a visitor attraction on-site telling its famous story.

Mr O’Sullivan added: “I have spent years trying to make sure my people and my family have survived on mining coal.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but something will happen here - don’t you worry. We will get things running in the Valleys.”


This dog started a house fire on New Year's Eve by trying to steal some cake

“He’s got a bit of a burn mark on his noise... He probably didn’t realise what a fire was because he had never seen one before.”

A grandmother who made a lucky escape from a house fire that her dog started when he turned the cooker on has spoken of her dramatic New Year’s Eve.

Lindsey Thomas, 49, was awoken by her dog Hugo barking and the fire alarm going off.

Dalmatian/collie cross Hugo managed to switch one of the cooker’s electric hobs on while trying to reach some cake, his owner said, with a plastic plate being set alight.

Grandmother-of-five Lindsey was at home in Trecynon, Aberdare, and had decided to have an early night shortly after 11pm.

“I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent,” she said.

“But I had literally gone to bed for 10 minutes when I heard the dog barking and then he was running around the house. That’s when I heard the fire alarm.”

Lindsey got up and found the hallway “full of smoke”, before finding a plate on fire in the kitchen.

She said she managed to get back upstairs to call the emergency services before escaping unharmed with Hugo and her other dog Iolo.

Neighbour Nathan Wise then went back into the building with a large, damp bath towel in a bid to extinguish the fire before emergency services arrived.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service was called to the blaze in Trecynon, Rhondda Cynon Taf, at 11.40pm on Sunday, where firefighters wearing breathing apparatus used a hose reel and equipment to ventilate the property.

A spokeswoman said the fire was started after a pet dog “accidentally turned a cooker on”.

Nobody was injured during the fire – but Hugo has come away from it with a burnt nose!

“He’s got a bit of a burn mark on his noise,” Lindsey said. “He probably didn’t realise what a fire was because he had never seen one before.”

Hugo’s owner said he is “forever looking for food” and can often be found jumping up at the counter in the kitchen.

“I had left some food on top of the cooker and he must have been trying to get to the food and in doing that he knocked the cooker on,” she said.

“He’s a beautiful dog. Beautiful personality – but he is our problem child.”

Lindsey said the majority of the smoke damage was contained in the kitchen, but added that Hugo doesn’t seem to have learnt his lesson.

“When I got up (on Tuesday morning) the kettle was warm. He must have switched it on before I came down!”


A church was burgled on Christmas Day by thieves who police think went to its midnight mass service hours earlier

A church was burgled on Christmas Day – with thousands of pounds worth of silverware and electrical equipment taken.

It is believed St Lleurwg’s Church in Hirwaun , Rhondda Cynon Taf , was burgled at some point on the morning of December 25.

Police say the suspects may have carried out the crime after attending the church’s midnight mass service.

Reverend Ceirion Rees said the value of laptops and a PA system taken by the burglars was “at least £20,000”, but that the cost of the silverware, aside from “huge sentimental value”, was as yet unknown.

Reverend Rees, has been at the Cynon Valley church for four years, said: “The community is in shock. It was pretty bad.

“Our church warden went and opened up the church for our Christmas Day service, which is usually a lovely event. People come in their Christmas jumpers and there’s always a cake and lots of singing. It’s very family-orientated.

“As soon as she got to the door to open it, she knew something was wrong and that something was missing.

“It was a total mess that she found and lots of things taken. They had gone through cupboards and things and chucked stuff out. It was a real state.

“I got everybody into the church hall and we did a service of some kind.”

According to Reverend Rees, two laptops and a PA system, along with microphones were taken, with the value up to £20,000.
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In terms of silverware, a crucifix, candle sticks, chalice and a communion set were taken, and even the trolley used for the food bank had gone.

He said: “There are some things we are still trying to work out.

“For our older members, the silver has always been there their whole lives long. The biggest loss is the sentimental value. For our younger people, the technology has been up to them – they have really invested in updating it and keeping it going. But all that has gone as well.”

The church had three services on Christmas Eve: in the afternoon, the evening “Christingle” event – which Reverend Rees said was the “busiest he has ever seen the church”, and midnight mass.

A South Wales Police spokeswoman said officers believe the incident happened after the mass between 1.30am and 9.40am on Christmas Day, adding: “It is possible that the suspects may have attended the service and people are being asked if they saw any suspicious activity to call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting occurrence 1700501118.”
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An image from one of the church's Christmas services earlier in December

Reverend Rees added: “Sometimes churches can be seen as targets because we are supposed to be kind and loving, and sometimes people think churches have a lot of money and they can afford to replace these things, but they can’t.”

He said several fundraising efforts have been set up, which he and the church were “chuffed” to hear of.

He added: “It’s not the kind of thing you expect to see. The initial reaction was sadness, then anger and people then get some perspective because it’s Christmas and we were in church for a reason.

“The stuff is sentimental and helps us in our worship but nothing can get in the way of the true meaning of Christmas.

“Also, we are not in the business of judging, as we don’t know the full circumstances.”

In terms of moving on after the incident, he said: “We are struggling, but we will get through. We have an event here on Sunday and we will get through it, improvising or otherwise.

“We didn’t stop on Christmas Day and we won’t stop any of our services for this.

“It’s very much a community church – a welcoming church. People come in for various things even if they are not religious or church goers. They value everything the church offers.”


Proposed reconfiguration changes to Community Meals Service

Cabinet Members will next week consider proposed changes to improve the production of the Council’s Community Meals Service.

A report to the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, January 25, proposes a number of operational changes to the Community Meals Service across the County Borough, which will have no affect on the existing levels of provision and present no change for customers – while saving the Council £258,000 a year.

Due to the reduced uptake of the service, fewer meals are now produced at the Council’s three production kitchens (a drop by 29% on weekdays and 66% for weekends over the past five years). As a result, it is proposed that the number of production kitchens is reduced to one – retaining Ynyshir only.

The service will continue to deliver freshly-cooked meals on weekdays, but will deliver frozen meals for the weekend rather than ‘blast chilled’ meals. The provision of frozen meals will enable a greater menu choice for our clients improving the variety on offer.

County Borough Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Catering Services, said: “The Council is proposing a reconfiguration of Community Meals Service production – which would see no changes to existing levels of provision but would make considerable savings for the Council. It would therefore support the Council’s Corporate Plan – to find new cost-effective ways of delivering our services efficiently.

“I’m confident that the proposed changes to Community Meals would not be felt by customers, as this is only a change to the production arrangements. Frozen meals have already been delivered on weekends as a necessary course of action on occasion in the past – and the service received no complaints from customers. The proposed changes would see the Council continue to offer a community-based service that is efficient, effective and represents good value for money.

“The operational changes also include reducing the number of community kitchens to one, with Ynyshir the facility best-placed to serve the whole County Borough going forward.

“That change, if agreed, would result in the kitchen at St George’s Day Centre in Tonyrefail no longer required. St George’s is a former chapel that is in a very poor condition, has low usage and an outstanding backlog and essential maintenance of approximately £578,000. Cabinet have therefore been recommended to consider the future viability of this facility.”

St. George’s Day Centre currently houses a production kitchen which will no longer be used if the Community Meals changes are agreed.

Also taking into consideration the building’s poor quality, the low usage of the Centre and its close proximity to Gilfach Goch Day Centre, where there is a better environment and greater opportunities for social activities, the report recommends that, if the Community Meals changes are agreed, an eight-week public consultation process is undertaken over the permanent closure of St. George’s Day Centre. If agreed, the open access day service would be transferred to Gilfach Goch Day Centre.
The Community Meals Service also provides meals at St. Mair’s Day Centre in Aberdare and Mountain Ash Day Centre. Another proposed change would see the provision for St Mair’s being transferred to Age Connect, a voluntary organisation as part of a community asset transfer, and Mountain Ash transferred to Community Services, which manages catering staff at the five other Day Centres in the County Borough.


New proposals to further boost recycling in Rhondda Cynon Taf recycling

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council will consider new proposals in a bid to further boost recycling rates, following excellent progress made in recent times.

Recycling in the County Borough has increased significantly of late – with 64% of overall waste being recycled in 2016/17. That was an all-time high in Rhondda Cynon Taf when it was first achieved in the 2016 calendar year, and that performance was maintained for the 2016/17 financial year.

However, while that performance is above the Welsh Government’s current statutory target of 58%, further improvements must be made if the Council is to hit the 70% target by 2024/25 – and avoid significant fines in the process.

Therefore, a report, which will put forward changes targeting non-recyclers, will be considered by Cabinet and the Council’s Public Service Delivery, Communities and Prosperity Scrutiny Committee in the coming weeks.

The proposals would not affect the Council’s valued, current arrangements, as weekly (recycling) and fortnightly (residual waste) collections would remain. While the number of recycling bags per household would remain unlimited, the proposals would introduce:

A ‘no side waste’ rule for households with fortnightly bin collections (primarily in Cynon and Taff). Black bag waste would need to be contained within wheelie bins, with the general rule that the bin’s lid must shut.
A ‘two black bag limit’ for fortnightly household collections without a bin (primarily in Rhondda). This would reduce from four bags currently.
A reduced green waste collection service from weekly to fortnightly between November 1 and March 1 each year reflecting the decreased demand during this period. Outside of these dates, in the summer season, the service will retain its weekly arrangement.
A Fixed Penalty Notice for residents who continue to place recyclable material or items in black bags. This would be a last resort for the Council, targeting residents who fail to recycle following awareness-raising exercises and notices issued by enforcement officers.

If agreed, the Council would run an awareness campaign prior the new rules being implemented, to ensure residents are fully-aware of what is expected of them.

The new rules would also be rescinded over the busy Christmas and New Year period and there may be other exceptions in certain circumstances, subject to agreement, such as for households disposing of ash which cannot be recycled or for large families.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure, said: “Significant progress has been made in recent years by the Council and residents – working together in order to recycle more and more, and ensuring Rhondda Cynon Taf is one of the best performers in comparison to other similar Local Authorities in Wales.

“While 64% of overall waste was recycled last year, representing fantastic progress, more than 35,500 tonnes of residual material was not recycled. It is estimated that around 25,000 tonnes of that could have been recycled or composted. If a quarter of that figure was recycled, it would take our overall rate to 71%.

“The proposed changes to be considered by in the coming weeks would not penalise residents who engage with our recycling message, but target those who don’t make the effort. The changes would make it clear to residents that they have a choice to make – either recycle to contribute to a greener Rhondda Cynon Taf, or face enforcement action.

“There are very few materials that cannot be recycled, and the Council makes it easy for residents with its one-bag-for-all system, excluding food and other contaminates, such as nappies, which have complementary dedicated services.

“The Council also provides residents with all the things you need to recycle free of charge – from food waste caddies to clear recycling bags.

“I’m confident that if these changes were implemented, the Council would be in an excellent position to hit the Welsh Government’s future targets.”

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