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GLAMORGAN HERITAGE COAST ADVISORY GROUP

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 4th April, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. A.J. Preston (Chairman); Councillor E. Williams (Vice-Chairman); Councillors R.F. Curtis, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey and R.P. Thomas (Vale of Glamorgan Council), Ms. G.M. Barter (Natural Resources Wales), Mr. J. Golunski (Dunraven Estates), Councillor G. Davies (Bridgend County Borough Council); Mr. B. Acott (Friends of Glamorgan Heritage Coast) and Mrs. H. March (Independent).

 

 

(a)       Apologies for absence -

 

These were received from Councillor L. Burnett (Vale of Glamorgan Council) and Mr. R. McLaggan (Merthyr Mawr Estates).

 

 

(b)       Minutes -

 

AGREED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 13th September, 2013 be accepted as a correct record subject to the following amendments on Page 3 of the minutes:

 

·               Item (h) - remove 'Bridgend or’ in line 2 and include 'in Bridgend’ in line 3 after Site of Scientific Interest.

·               Item (i) - remove the 'r’ from Mr. Acott’s surname.

 

At this point Councillor Curtis, through the Chairman, asked if he could circulate a petition relating to the use of polystyrene food packaging which was duly agreed.

 

 

(c)        Presentation by Principal Ranger, Mr. Paul Dunn - Achievements and Issues Since the Last Meeting -

 

The Committee was provided with a PowerPoint presentation by the Principal Ranger which showed a number of pictures of the coast and some of the issues faced by the Heritage Coast team in the previous 12 months.

 

Mr. Dunn stated that 2013 had seen the best weather for some considerable time, possibly around 10 years; however the winter of 2013 had brought very dramatic weather and issues with, for example, slipways to beaches e.g. Llantwit Major requiring hard engineering solutions. 

 

Following a question regarding members of the public sitting underneath cliff edges, the Committee was advised that people were always advised to steer clear of the cliff edges in view of the dangers of incoming tides and falling stones.  It was, however, accepted that it was a hard issue to resolve as people had different perceptions of risk/dangers.

 

Mr. Dunn further advised that the Wales Coastal Path had been a real success with many waking groups and individuals using the coastal path, for which positive feedback had been received.  Dunraven Gardens had also been a good resource for schools.  The team, however, relied heavily on volunteers in order to restore the gardens and that they were somewhere safe for visitors to go when the tides were in.  He further informed the Group that there had been many events and walks at and along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast including a walking festival event. 

 

Littering on the coast was still a major and increasing problem e.g. disposable barbeques, cans, bottles and Chinese Lanterns etc., which was difficult to resolve with existing staff levels, and staff working extra hours and volunteer help.  The Cabinet Member for Visible Services, Councillor Curtis, stated that he was proposing to put a proposal to Cabinet to ban Chinese Lanterns from the Vale of Glamorgan.  Of note was the fact that assistance had been available to help the team as many groups had approached them to arrange beach cleans and carry out jobs along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and Centre.  A lot of work had also been carried out on the footpaths e.g. the installation of kissing gates. 

 

A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council asked how the team complied with the Disability Discrimination Act with regards to access across the coastal path.  The Operational Manager, Mr. Bob Guy, explained that normal practice would be to strive for a gap as first choice, followed by a gate, and as a last resort, a stile.  There were issues with regard to land owner permissions and the need to retain livestock, which meant that the first choice could not be achieved in many cases.  There were however targeted routes where improvements were being made to maximise accessibility, but resources were needed to implement improvements so achievements often follow grant availability.   

 

A grant had also been secured from the Waterloo Foundation of £3,000, with match funding from the Friends of the Heritage Coast for a Bank Commander which was a vehicle for grass cutting and that since management had been carried out the number of endangered High-Brown Fritillary butterflies had increased.  He further informed the Group that there had been quite a lot of vandalism over recent months e.g. destruction of fences for camp fire wood.  University walks and talks had been very successful, as had a Literature Wales event held at the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Centre and a further event was to be organised for 2014, with Ramblers Wales which would incorporate a coastal path walk. 

 

During the presentation, Members were further informed of an incident that had taken place, where Palm Oil had been washed up onto beaches, which had apparently caused illnesses to dogs who had eaten the oil, with every effort having been made to clear the beaches of the substance.  In the recent bad weather many of the pebbles on Southerndown Beach had been stripped off, and thrown onto the car park to expose the clay beneath and similar situations had occurred at Colhuw Beach.  There had also been a lot of coastal slumps and rock falls occurring as a result of the recent storms.  There had been major damage to the Deer Wall at Southerndown and large quantities of polystyrene had been washed up on the beaches and car parks which had been a real problem to clear.

 

Following the presentation it was

 

AGREED - T H A T the presentation be noted.

 

 

(d)       Verbal Update on Current Issues - Mr. Bob Guy, Operational Manager (Countryside and Economic Projects) -

 

The Operational Manager advised that a change in emphasis was being made by joining up the Glamorgan Heritage Coast project with wider work specifically to further develop it as a tourist product which would add more benefit to the wider economy.  He stated that the Glamorgan Heritage Coast was excellent with regards to conservation and education work but that the Heritage Coast project needs to be more visitor orientated.  This would have to be achieved with decreasing budgets, which would be a challenge. 

 

The Group was informed that there had been changes in the last few years with the Rural Regeneration Partnership receiving Welsh Government and European funding for projects in the Heritage Coast and Rural Vale.  Research carried out by Creative Rural Communities indicated that many visitors to the area did not know that they had visited the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and as such, one of the focuses had been to raise the profile and strengthen the identity of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast with a new Interpretation Strategy. 

 

A new suite of information panels would be in place across the entire Heritage Coast by summer 2014, new interpretative materials produced, and improvements would be made to the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Centre which included an upgrade to create a reception area with new information panels.  Furthermore, he updated the Group on the progress of the campsite project, Perfect Pitch.  In 2013 a number of new campsites were trialled by landowners under an initiative from Creative Rural Communities.  Several of these sites had since decided to move forward into permanent sites and had received planning permission.  They were plugging a gap in low cost holiday accommodation in the Vale of Glamorgan.  A Walking Development Project had been set up to establish a multi stakeholder group and would result in a suite of promoted walking routes to attract visitors as alternatives to the Gower and Pembrokeshire coastal paths.  A designated website and promotional leaflets would be developed in order to promote walking as a pursuit in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

In response to a query as to whether more brown signage for the Glamorgan Heritage Coast could be erected particularly on the M4, Members were informed that there was currently a restrictive Council policy which allowed directional rather than promotional signage.  Tier One of the interpretational strategy was funded for implementation immediately, but promotional signs further afield would be potentially revisited when Tiers 2 and 3 are funded.  In addition Creative Rural Communities was implementing with the Tourism unit a new tourist information project, which would result in information points and Hubs across more than 50 key locations in the Vale, mainly private businesses.

 

A coastal activity project had commenced which included work with local small businesses to develop the tourism product for example photography walks, bush craft and tours.  A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council advised that there had been an increase in the popularity of eco-tourism with programmes such as Springwatch and Mr. Guy further informed the Group that a food ambassadors project was underway which supported small local businesses across the rural Vale to offer tourism products linked to food.

 

Considerable further Creative Rural Communities investment in tourism in recent years included grants of up to £70,000 for projects such as Dunraven Gardens restoration, new cycle storage and wet rooms in bed and breakfasts, new bunkhouses, new footpaths and a national cycle route 88 across the Vale of Glamorgan from Barry to Bridgend.  Furthermore, the Group was advised that a major new bridleway may be announced shortly which could double the length of bridleway available in the Vale.

 

The next tasks would be to develop more projects through specialist work with businesses on coastal activities and to seek to implement parts of Tiers 2 and 3 of the Interpretation Strategy via a bid for Coastal Communities Fund grants.  Tiers 2 and 3 of the Consultants’ work included Mobile Beach Interpretation, Augmented Reality, an accessible Coast Guide, Story Telling Audio Trails, further signage and Public Art.  The Operational Manager set out his vision that the gateways into the Heritage Coast would be identified by iconic imagery such as memorable carved stone features. 

 

The Operational Manager further informed the Group that the Countryside Service needed to maintain the service provided with regard to conservation and education work with a reducing budget.  In this respect, expenditure on conservation is better justified if it serves a substantial tourism benefit.  Furthermore he advised that he was currently in consultation with staff and the trade unions on proposed changes to the Countryside Service.  This could possibly include the discontinuation of, or changes to, some services.  Another proposed change included the merger of several teams into one, as currently the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and Country Parks did not have cross movement of staff and a single manager and team structure for both areas was proposed which could potentially also cover Public Rights of Way and Ecology teams. 

 

The proposals would look at the spread of individuals in order to increase flexibility across services and ensure work was carried out at the appropriate grade.  A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council queried whether there was the possibility of losing the identity of some areas and was informed that there was risk and challenge involved but that the intention was to ensure that the service could become more flexible and hence stronger and more efficient.  It was acknowledged that flexibility would allow for staff to move freely across the services when large scale events were being held for instance.  The Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council reiterated concerns about loss of local knowledge from communities.  The Operational Manager stated that the intention was for more flexibility and to also increase the resources at the Southerndown Centre with the creation of a new reception and information area which would be focussed on tourist times.  Another proposal was to incorporate some of the Public Rights of Way maintenance work (and resources) into the single team as there was an overlap which needed to be integrated.  In addition, there was a proposal to create a temporary Commercial Opportunities Officer to develop partnerships with the private sector for additional services to visitors in Vale of Glamorgan sites.  The individual would be experienced in engaging with private sector companies in order to promote different activities in the Vale of Glamorgan sites which would increase income in order to sustain the Countryside Service. 

 

The Council would also be looking to promote more volunteering in areas such as information services.  A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council advised that volunteering was an untapped potential and that they would need somebody to co-ordinate volunteers.  The Principal Ranger reminded the Group that the Glamorgan Heritage Coast could be a very dangerous environment in which to work and experienced staff would be needed to supervise any volunteers.  In referring to consultation on the proposals, the Operational Manager requested that if any Member had concerns or issues that they e-mail him direct.

 

Some Group members expressed concern that any reduction in dedicated staff could result in insufficient resources to deal with peaks in demand such as busy periods, when congestion and litter need to be managed effectively.   The Operational Manager explained that it was not an intention to have fewer staff, but to ensure the appropriate staff were available for specific tasks, and that there would be flexibility across sites to move officers to cover peak needs.

 

Following the update and discussion of the same it was

 

AGREED - T H A T the update be noted.

 

 

(e)       Matters Raised by Bridgend County Borough Council -

 

The Bridgend County Borough Council’s representative informed the Group that the issue between walkers on the Heritage Coast and horseriders raised at the last meeting had now been resolved via the installation of a kissing gate.  There had been horrendous coastal damage in Porthcawl after the recent storms and Welsh Government had provided money for the reconstruction of the footpath in that area and had also initiated a scheme to establish a cycle route from Coney Island to Rest Bay. He further advised that the Town Council had allocated funds to improve links to the coastal footpath and that issues had been raised regarding the lack of facilities at certain beaches which the Town Council were also looking into. Bridgend County Borough Council was trying to encourage caravan and camp sites in areas such as Sandy Bay in order to prevent illegal camping.  He informed the Group that there had been meetings with teams from Barry Coastwatch with a view to establishing a lookout station in Porthcawl. 

 

 

(f)         Matters Raised by Natural Resources Wales -

 

Natural Resources Wales appreciated the work that had been done by the Glamorgan Heritage Coast team especially with regards to work on steep slopes and the wider area.  Furthermore, the importance of grant aid was highlighted with it being hoped that National Resources Wales would be able to continue the support in order that local landowner relationships could continue to be maintained.

 

 

(g)       Matters Raised by the Friends of Glamorgan Heritage Coast -

 

The link between Route 55 and the Sea Watch Centre needed to be maintained and the proposals that had been outlined by the Operational Manager would be reported to the Friends with any comments forwarded to Mr. Guy as appropriate.  Mrs. March advised that work had been carried out on the slipway to Llantwit Major Beach which was very good quality and the Wildlife Trust had done an excellent job on the banks; concerns were however expressed as to how long the improvements would last as the beach was heavily utilised. 

 

 

(h)        Date of Next Meeting -

 

AGREED - T H A T the next meeting of the Group take place in September 2014, date to be fixed.

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