Update on alert level four restrictions
Welsh Government has confirmed that alert level four lockdown restrictions will remain in place across Wales for the next three weeks. This means people must continue to stay at home and work from home wherever possible, and that all non-essential retail / hospitality businesses, licensed premises and leisure facilities must remain closed. While cases of coronavirus are falling, they remain too high to consider a relaxation of the restrictions. The number of people testing positive is high, and the NHS remains under intense pressure.
Primary schools and colleges could return
As long as coronavirus rates continue to fall, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed that primary-age pupils could return to school in a planned, phased and flexible way from 22 February. Students who are studying vocational qualifications will also be prioritised as part of a phased return to colleges. Announcing the new guidance, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We need to keep the lockdown restrictions in place for a little while longer to help us bring rates of the virus down further. If we can do this, we will create the headroom we need to get children back to school after half term – starting with the youngest at primary schools. We will work with teachers, colleges, local authorities to plan for the safe return of children to school over the next couple of weeks, and will keep parents updated.”
Restrictions amended on exercise
From Saturday, January 30, the restrictions are being amended to allow a maximum of two people from two different households to exercise together, although they should make every effort to maintain social distancing. People must still start and finish exercise from their home unless a person needs to travel for health reasons. This means that, for now, if two people are meeting they will need to live nearby each other as travel for exercise is generally not allowed.
Advice for ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’
Following a review by the chief medical officer, existing advice for people classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to not attend work or school outside the home has been extended to 31 March. The new advice follows concerns around the continuing high incidence of coronavirus throughout the region, and the impact of emerging new viral strains. New letters will be issued to people who have been included on the Welsh Government’s shielding list, and you can read a full statement from Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, at the Welsh Government website.
Vaccination figures for the region and county borough
Latest figures have confirmed that 53,202 people have now received their first shot of the coronavirus vaccine across the region, including more than 14,600 residents of Bridgend County Borough. Work to vaccinate health and social care frontline workers is ongoing, and the health board is working with GPs to ensure that vulnerable people who are housebound or who may be shielding can receive a vaccination before 14 February. Mobile vaccination teams have visited all care homes in the county borough, and residents and staff have been assessed. All care home residents who have been declared medically fit have received their first dose, and plans are in place for the teams to return and vaccinate anyone who was not well enough to receive it the first time around, with vaccination sessions continuing throughout the weekend. GPs are focusing upon people aged 70 and over, and based on current vaccine supply information, the health board anticipates that up to 25 per cent of this priority group will have received their first dose of the vaccine by Sunday 31 January.
Funding awarded to Valleys Regional Park Guardians programme
Valleys Regional Park (VRP) has been awarded more than £850,000 for its Guardian Scheme. This will allow the continuation of the scheme which has seen a team of VRP Guardians, who have a range of expertise in fields such as practical conservation, sustainability and health, leading activities for residents to work on land-based projects and to help protect and restore our valleys landscape. Guardians will work at the VRP Discovery Gateways, as well as some community hubs, to help local people better connect with the landscape through volunteering opportunities and activities with a focus on skills development, health and wellbeing. The all-age activities will include creating community gardens, growing projects, bush-craft, wellbeing walks and many more nature-based activities. In total, £864,051 of funding has been approved by the Rural Development Programme. It follows funding of £981,655 awarded by the Welsh European Funding Office in December to support the ongoing delivery of VRP hosted by Bridgend County Borough Council to the summer of 2023.
Mobile coronavirus testing units
Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board has confirmed the latest arrangements for mobile testing. A drive-through testing facility remains at the site of the former Revlon/Cosi factory off Oakwood Drive in Maesteg (CF34 8TS). It is available daily from 9am to 4pm. A walk-through testing facility is also in place at the Bowls Hall car park of Bridgend Life Centre in Angel Street, Bridgend (CF31 4AH). The facility is available 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Please note that booking is essential at both sites – you can arrange an appointment by visiting the Welsh Government website or calling 119. If you have hearing or speech difficulties, call 18001119.
Newbridge Field pavilions set for refurbishment and repair
With Welsh Government expected to approve the return of competitive sport later in the year, work will soon begin on the refurbishment and repair of two popular local sports pavilions. Following the results of independent surveys and after a delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic which required the planned repairs to be rescheduled, Bridgend County Borough Council has commissioned essential building work at the pavilions, both of which are based at Newbridge Fields. The New Pavilion will benefit from all-new wall cladding, full external decoration and improved shower room facilities, including new tiled floors, while the Bandstand Pavilion is set to receive an enhanced new roof which will be carefully installed so that it does not disturb a colony of bats which has taken up residence in the upper parts of the building.
Pyle community recycling centre starting to shape
Work is progressing at the council’s new community recycling centre at Village Farm Industrial Estate in Pyle. Groundworks are underway and the concrete yard will be completed during the next few weeks as the development begins to take shape. The centre, which is expected to open in the summer, will have more vehicle capacity and bypass lanes to allow better movement on site. A split-level system will be in place in the yard with ramps up to the higher-sided skips and a canopy to protect from the elements. There are also plans to open a re-use shop at an existing building on the site. It would be similar to the one at Maesteg community recycling centre run by Wastesavers in partnership with the council and Kier, where household items that are in good condition are sold on.
Bedford car park closure
Bedford Park car park in Cefn Cribwr has been closed while alert level four restrictions are in place. Other council-maintained car parks will remain open, but will be monitored closely.
New automated air quality monitoring system installed
A new monitoring station has been installed at Park Street, Bridgend, as part of measures to improve air quality in the area. The automated air quality monitoring system has been installed in the grounds of the Quaker Meeting House to provide real-time data on nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter which can then be used to inform traffic control measures for specific periods. In January 2019, the local authority officially implemented the county’s first Air Quality Management Area Order in Park Street after data showed nitrogen dioxide levels were above national air quality limit values. The levels are attributed to inconsistent traffic flows and vehicles queuing on the road. Shared Regulatory Services is producing an action plan to address air quality concerns for the area on behalf of the council – it is due to be completed in summer 2021, and will be released for public consultation. The data for Park Street can be viewed at the Air Quality in Wales website.
New business funds available
New funding through the Bridgend County Economic Taskforce will be available to businesses in the coming months. The funds, from Bridgend County Borough Council’s Economic Futures Fund, include Business Start Up funding providing grants of between £250 and £4,000 to new businesses; a Local Economy Innovation Fund offering up to £50,000 to innovative projects which help support the economy during the pandemic and beyond; and a Property Enhancement Fund providing grants of up to £10,000 for business premises adaptations that respond to coronavirus restrictions and develop future resilience. Businesses can express their interest in these funds via Bridgend County Borough Council’s website from 12pm on 5 February. Applications will then go live on the local authority’s website on 26 February with all funds being available for supporting activity from 1 April 2021.
Support for carers
Carers Trust South East Wales (CTSEW) is offering a range of additional mental health and wellbeing support, available free of charge for carers of all ages in Bridgend until the end of March 2021. A range of options are available, from online workshops to counselling sessions. For further information or to book a space, visit the CTSEW website.