Faults at multi-storey car park

The ‘Brackla One’ multi-storey car park located at Cheapside in Bridgend town centre has developed serious faults during the pandemic lockdown, and cannot reopen. The faults were discovered during a routine inspection which revealed that pieces of concrete were coming away from the underside of the ceilings on each level. As a result, the car park, which was constructed in the 1970s, remains temporarily closed in the interest of public safety. Council engineers are assessing the extent of the problem, and are looking at potential options for how the faults may be addressed. The council is also looking to see if alternative car parking can be provided, and whether the Shopmobility service, which was based at Cheapside, can continue from a different location. All other private and council-maintained town centre car parks remain available to use – visit the council website for more details.

‘Remain alert’ warning

Residents of Bridgend County Borough are being congratulated for working together to make the area one of the lowest in the UK for coronavirus infection rates. In December 2020, the county borough had the second-highest rate for positive cases of Covid-19 in Wales with 1,118.7 residents out of every 100,000 infected. That figure has now hit a low of just 7.5 residents per 100,000 people. As restrictions continue to ease and more shops, facilities and services become available, people are being urged not to let their guard down – even people who have been vaccinated can still carry the virus and spread it to others. The council is advising residents to continue to follow rules on social distancing, wearing masks and maintaining strong hand hygiene at all times.

Free town centre parking

To support traders, free parking will remain available until the end of May at two council-maintained town centre car parks. During the pandemic, drivers have been able to park for free for the first three hours at the Rhiw multi-storey car park in Bridgend, and between noon and 3pm at John Street in Porthcawl. This will now continue until May 31. Free parking is also available at the Llynfi Road multi-storey in Maesteg and both the Penprysg Road car park and Heol Y Groes car park in Pencoed.

 Anyone can attend community testing

Anyone who is aged 11+, does not have Covid-19 symptoms and who is not self-isolating can take advantage of free community testing facilities in Bridgend County Borough. Testing is currently taking place at the Evergreen Hall in Angel Street, Bridgend (CF31 4AD) until Tuesday 20 April. The walk-in centre is available between 9.30am-6.30pm Monday to Friday, and 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. So far, the second phase of community testing has seen around 100 people tested without any positive Covid-19 results. Because it is possible for people who have been vaccinated to still carry the virus, the testing includes residents who may have already undergone a test or who have received a dose of the vaccine. For more information, visit the council’s community testing page.

Grants help business prepare to reopen

Local businesses have been using the Outdoor Improvements Covid-19 Recovery Fund as they prepare to welcome customers back safely. Commercial property and business owners have been able to apply for grants of up to £10,000 towards adaptations ranging from outdoor canopies and furniture to planters, outdoor heating, screens and more. Dozens of businesses and organisations have benefitted from the scheme, with recent approved including Bang-On Brewery, the Seabank Hotel, Beach Academy, Royal Porthcawl Golf Club and Cornelly Community Centre. One of the venues to receive a grant is The Cross Inn in Maesteg. David Morgan, who runs the business with his wife Gill, said: “The funding has helped us to construct an outdoor area that makes the most of the space outside the pub. This will allow us to reopen outside later this month if Covid restrictions are lifted, and will be used long into the future all year round. We’re really grateful for the grant and the support we received from the council in helping us through the application process.”

Rates relief scheme extended

Around 1,000 businesses across Bridgend County Borough are set to benefit from an extension to Welsh Government’s Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Rates Relief Scheme for 2021-22. It will help eligible occupied properties by offering a 100 per cent reduction to businesses with a rateable value under £500,000. The types of premises included are shops, pubs and restaurants, gyms, performance venues and hotels. It will run alongside the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme. In addition, eligible occupied businesses with a rateable value over £500,000 can also benefit from the 100 per cent rates relief. These include hotels, holiday parks and sports stadiums. Businesses who benefitted from the scheme in 2020-21 and who still meet the criteria will have the rates relief automatically applied. New qualifying businesses will need to complete an application form, which will be available on the council website shortly.

Empty property grants

A grant scheme is helping property owners and first-time buyers to bring empty local properties back into use. During the first phase of the Valleys Taskforce Empty Homes Grant, more than £76,820 was provided for works at eight properties in valley communities such as Maesteg, Pontycymer, Brynmenyn, Blaengarw and Tondu. Under phase two, 23 applications have been accepted and surveys are now underway. Mr G Jones, who received a grant for work at his home at the Mill View Estate in Maesteg, said: “The property needed some TLC – it is a 1970s build which had not been modernised internally, all of the ceilings had polystyrene tiles and the electrics had not been touched since installation. The grant helped us replace the electrics and remove all dangerous tiles, as well as repair render on the outside.”

Council records drop in staff sickness levels

Bridgend County Borough Council has pledged to continue to provide support for staff to help them cope with stress-related issues during the coronavirus pandemic. The latest figures have highlighted a significant reduction in overall staff absence levels, with the three-month period between October and December 2020 showing an almost 15 per cent decrease when compared to the previous year. Stress and other mental health-related issues were the most common cause of staff absence with a recorded increase of just over 12 per cent. Staff have been able to access support throughout the pandemic, including a full programme of daily webinars and a wide range of training, well-being and counselling resources. The council’s corporate overview and scrutiny committee discussed a report on sickness absence on Wednesday 14 April.

Work to clear oil spill continues

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Spill Response Wales have been working to clean up oil pollution around the Brackla Industrial Estate area, which has affected Morfa Brook and the River Ogmore. Absorbent pads and booms have been used to soak up the oil and tankers have been used to vacuum it at various locations. Spill Response Wales continues to monitor the booms and pads, replacing them when they’re at full capacity. NRW is working to find the source of the pollution by checking manholes in the area with the help of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water. NRW has also been busy conducting drainage surveys and checking nearby oil storage. Oil and other polluting liquids such as paint should not be poured down drains as this often ends up in rivers and can have a devastating effect on wildlife. People can report pollution incidents to NRW at any time by calling 03000 653000.

Mobile coronavirus testing

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board’s mobile testing facility for residents with coronavirus symptoms is available at the Halo Swimming Pool on Marshfield Avenue in Pyle (CF33 6RP) for drive-through appointments between 9am-5pm. Booking is essential and can be arranged by visiting the Welsh Government website or calling 119. People with hearing or speech difficulties can call 18001119. A walk-through testing facility remains in place between 8am-8pm at the Bowls Hall car park off Bridgend Life Centre (CF31 4AH). Booking for this facility is also essential.

Postal vote application deadline approaches

If you are registered to vote in Wales and want to vote by post on 6 May 2021 in the Senedd and Police and Crime Commissioner elections, or the local authority by-election in Nantymoel, you must submit a postal vote application form to your local Electoral Registration Office before 5pm on Tuesday 20 April. Application forms need to be sent to Electoral Registration Officer, Bridgend County Borough Council, Electoral Services, Chief Executive’s Directorate, Civic Offices, Angel Street, CF31 4WB. Your ballot paper will then be sent to you in the post. Make sure you return your postal vote so that it arrives by the close of poll, otherwise it will not be counted. A Freepost envelope is included in your postal ballot pack. If it is too late to send your vote back by post, you can hand it in on polling day to the elections office at your council, or drop it off at certain polling stations. If you are not already registered to vote, you must register by 11.59pm on 19 April 2021 before applying for a postal vote. You can register at gov.uk/register-to-vote. Young people aged 14 and 15 are now able to register to vote and 16 and 17-year-olds can now vote in Welsh Parliament (Senedd) elections. Young people can find out everything they need to know about registering and voting on the Electoral Commission website.

Environmental action plan consultation

Residents who visit or live / work in the Upper Garw Valley can help shape an environmental action plan for the area. The plan, which is a joint project between the council’s Rural Development Team and Garw Valley Community Council, will broadly cover the area between Blaengarw and upper Pontycymer. It aims to make the most of the natural assets that already exist, make improvements where they are needed and showcase the area as a visitor destination. The consultation is open until Monday 26 April – visit the Upper Garw Valley Environmental Action Plan survey webpage to take part. An online workshop is also being held on Monday 26 April if you would like to discuss your views further. To join it, email c.evansconsultancy@gmail.com.

Social services review

Residents who have requested social services advice or assistance from Bridgend County Borough Council are being encouraged to take part in a survey to share their experiences. Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) is carrying out an assurance check to review how well the service continues to help adults, carers, children and families, and its plans for the future. It will focus on how well the council delivers services and supports people to keep themselves safe and promote their own well-being. Inspectors are not checking up on residents and participants do not have to share any personal information. The findings will be shared with the council to help shape any improvements that are needed. Visit CIW’s assurance survey to take part before the 30 April deadline.