West Wales News Review

Economy, environment, sustainability

Archive for the category “Rural economy”

Latest One Planet Development Approved in Pembrokeshire

News: Number of One Planet Developments in Wales Continues to Rise

Daniel Badham’s plan for an off-grid One Planet Development (OPD) at Reynalton, for him and his children, was passed unanimously by Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee on Tuesday March 10th, although some committee members have continuing concerns about the practicality of the annual reports that OPD residents must submit to prove they are abiding by their business plan and the requirements of the Welsh Government’s OPD legislation. Planning officers are hard-pressed already, and reading, analysing and acting on the reports can be an additional burden.

The location for Mr Badham’s venture is 8.6 acres, including 5.4 acres of woodland, about 100 metres north-east of Reynalton and six miles north-west of the seaside resort of Saundersfoot. The scheme includes a four-bedroom timber-frame house with a polycarbonate roof covered by turf, and a greenhouse at the south wall. There would be a timber store, workshop, barn and two polytunnels, and as well as producing timber and food, the land would be home to chainsaw carving and apple-tree grafting enterprises. The committee heard that Daniel Badham, whose professional expertise is in tree surgery, intends to include the use of a chainsaw powered by solar energy.

In an OPD, the land is supposed to provide for the needs of its occupants within five years. The policy was published by the Welsh Government in 2009, and was followed in 2010 by Technical Advice Note (TAN) 6, ‘Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities’, and in 2012 by detailed guidance for applicants and planners.* The big idea is to live continuously within the resources of planet Earth, thus in a simpler fashion than in countries like Wales, where the levels of material consumption are so high that the planet cannot support them into the future.

This productive holding at Tir y Gafel, Pembrokeshire, given permission under Policy 52, predates the One Planet Policy and operates to even more stringent criteria.

The volunteer-run One Planet Council reports that by winter 2019, Wales had at least 27 successful OPD applications, comprising 30 separate holdings, and 12 ventures on three sites in Pembrokeshire, including nine at the well-known Lammas ecovillage, which received permission under Pembrokeshire’s earlier pioneering Policy 52. Two-thirds of the total of known OPDs are in Pembrokeshire, with most of the rest elsewhere in West, South and Mid Wales, and as yet scarcely any in North Wales.

The One Planet Council organises an annual Open Week, in 2020 from Monday July 27th to Sunday August 2nd, when people curious about OPDs can visit several and ask the occupants about their lifestyles and businesses. Details will be on http://www.oneplanetcouncil.org.uk/open-week-2020/ in due course, and on the One Planet Council’s Facebook page.

The One Planet policy is unique to Wales, and although organisations such as the Ecological Land Cooperative have long lobbied for one, there is no equivalent policy for low-impact living in England.


* One Planet Development Practice Guidance, October 2012, prepared for the Welsh Assembly Government by Land Use Consultants and the Positive Development Trust.




News: One Planet Smallholding Plan Divides Local Opinion

A One Planet Development application for Penybanc, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, has drawn criticism from some local residents, as well as warm support from several others who back the project for many reasons such as being ‘forward thinking”, “carefully considered” and “in harmony with our environment”.

Looking south-east over part of the application site, backed by mature woodland.


Manordeilo and Salem Community Council “strongly objects” to the application by Claire and Matthew Denney-Price of Llangadog, Carmarthenshire. The community council cites 11 reasons including worries about water availability, siting of solar panels, lack of public transport, and over-optimism in the business plan.

These concerns were repeated in other objections. For example, if the family’s four children cycled to school they would have to negotiate single-track lanes without paths, and cross the A40 Llandeilo bypass. The distances are not huge – 1.7 miles to primary school and 2.3 miles to comprehensive school – but there are no cycle paths from Penybanc to Llandeilo, and along the lanes, lacking speed limits, vehicles were observed this week travelling too fast to stop quickly in an emergency. The barriers to eco-friendly travel highlight the difficulties of trying to live an environmentally sound lifestyle safely in a mechanised world where roads – even twisty lanes dating from the before the Industrial Revolution – are regarded as existing principally for motor vehicles.

The family has now been assured that their children will be taken to their schools by bus from Penybanc, and so will not need to cross the A40. This removes one of the objections..

The pony in the background will be one of two working on the land and supplying manure briquettes for heating. 


The 8.9-acre application site is at grid reference SN618245, between Cwmwern and Caegroes farms, north of Penybanc hamlet. The land, part pasture and part deciduous woodland, slopes southwards to the Nant Gurrey Fach, which flows into the Tywi north of Llandeilo. The management plan states that rain will be a main water source, there will be a composting toilet, two ponies will be used for work around the holding to avoid compacting the soil and because they will not consume fossil fuels. In addition, their manure will be compacted into briquettes for heating. Other sources of income and self-sufficiency include honey, point-of-lay pullets, eggs, herbs, fruit, vegetables, and salads.

Commenting on the criticisms, Claire Denney-Price said: “I’m in the process of composing a supporting document addressing some concerns raised by local residents. We have a lot of support, including from the One Planet Council and One Planet Centre, which is very heartening.”

Single carriageway lane bordering the site near Penybanc: on routes like this fast motor vehicles can create problems for other road users. 

 One Planet applications must be accompanied by detailed financial projections showing how at least 65% of basic household needs will be supplied from the land after no more than five years. “We’ve had great feedback which all helps our cause,” said Claire.








News: Councillors Keen to Learn More About One Planet Developments

Wales’ One Planet Development policy for environmentally beneficial farms and smallholdings is almost a decade old, and thanks largely to supporters including the voluntary One Planet Council, has become an important part of rural regeneration especially in West Wales.

One of the latest applications, by Brendan and Ludka Powell, drew questions from Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee when they considered it on October 17th. The committee approved the project, with no votes against and only two abstentions, but Cllr Joseph Davies (Manordeilo & Salem, Independent) wondered about the feasibility of the Powells’ business plan. He wondered if he had “wasted my life really” working on the land, when the business plan indicated that six acres could support a family of two adults and three children. “Who is looking at these figures?” he asked, referring to the predicted over £2,000 a year from honey bees, £1,000 from selling fermented vegetables, and £4,000 from selling vegetables.  “Where can they get all this produce from?” he wondered.

He was assured that an agricultural adviser had examined the figures and reckoned they could be sustainable, although there would be some risks.

Cllr Carys Jones (Llansteffan, Plaid Cymru) said she would like to see an up-and-running One Planet Development, and asked about an exit strategy if the enterprise failed to meet the criteria (a minimum of 65% of basic household needs from the land within five years). Planning officer Charlotte Greves replied that the Powells have an exit strategy in their management plan, and that newly constructed buildings could be removed if the project ended.

Llangeler’s Cllr Ken Howell (Plaid Cymru), also keen to see an OPD in operation, said he would like to be able to advise potential applicants in his ward about One Planet Developments.

Committee chair Cllr Alun Lenny (Carmarthen Town South, Plaid Cymru) agreed that it would be a good idea for the committee to learn more about the One Planet policy in operation, and commented that OPDs accord with the council’s own ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

The Powells’ application, on former smallholding land at Parc y Rhodyn, Hebron, Whitland, is for horticultural and silvicultural enterprises requiring a tree nursery, herb garden, vegetable-growing area, an existing and two new polytunnels, a workshop, processing unit and office, and an extended shed, as well as a house. The buildings would be timber-framed and larch-clad.


News: Council Urges Looser Controls on Development in Rural Carmarthenshire

Plans to regenerate rural areas, including the construction of new council houses, were approved by Carmarthenshire County Council on September 11th.

The rural north of the county would have 28 new council homes in the first three years of the scheme, split between land at Alltwalis School and land opposite Llangadog School. These would be followed by 74 more in the second phase of the 10-year plan, which would build 900 new council homes throughout the county, at a cost of £150 million.

Rural and market town locations in the second phase include 27 homes at Pencrug, Llandeilo, including 14 to let at social rents, 12 in Llandovery (6 for social rent), 6 in Llansawel (4 for social rent), and 20 at Llandysul (8 for social rent).  In addition, there would be nine new council houses in assisted living schemes.

In areas of high housing need, the council will continue to buy homes on the open market, councillors were informed. More than 200 new homes have been sourced in this way in the past three years.

The council has a subsidiary company, Cartrefi Croeso, to build homes for rent and for sale. Cartrefi Croeso can raise money from several sources including three from the Welsh Government – the Affordable Housing Grant, providing 58% of new-build costs; Innovative Housing Programme, for super energy-efficient, low carbon homes such as those from Pembrokeshire company Ty Solar destined for Burry Port; and Self-Build Wales, enabling local authorities to provide land for self-builders, who can apply to Welsh Government for two-year 75% interest-free loans.

The council housing plans reinforce new policies for rural regeneration, also approved by the county council on September 11th. The proposals are in the Report and Recommendations of the Carmarthenshire Rural Affairs Task Group, chaired by Cllr Cefin Campbell (Plaid Cymru, Llanfihangel Aberbythych). The report argues for more flexible planning regulations in rural areas and for small developments in villages to support the rural economy.

“There needs to be a move in local planning policy from larger housing developments in our main towns to an approach which enables a suitable mix and proportion of development in our rural towns and communities to address local housing demand and need,” the report advises. (p.15)

The Task Group urges the council to hold on to its 25 farms and land, including associated fishing rights, and to investigate the feasibility of backing the creation of new smallholdings, outside settlements, on the basis of local need and their potential positive contribution to the economic, social, cultural and environmental sustainability of the local community. (p.23)

There is already the Welsh Government policy for One Planet Development smallholdings, allowing new land-based enterprises in the countryside but subject to strict criteria for self-sufficiency and resource use. The Task Group’s recommendation for more smallholdings builds on this precedent.

Other plans include working with Coleg Sir Gâr on Prosiect Slyri, to dewater and purify slurry, a venture of national significance to cut slurry’s damaging impact on watercourse pollution, and to bring milk processing back to Carmarthenshire with a co-operatively owned factory which could “build on the already strong foundations for local cheese”. (p.35)

The Task Group also wants to change the rules determining whether a farming business can construct an additional dwelling on the land. This currently depends largely on whether the farm income will be large enough to support an additional household. The Task Group’s idea is to include income from off-farm as well as farming sources, on the grounds that farm incomes are likely to be under sustained pressure and members of farm households will increasingly have to work in other jobs. There is also a recommendation that an additional dwelling on a farm could be built “a reasonable distance outside of the working farmyard” for reasons of health and safety, biosecurity, and avoidance of zoonotic diseases.

A more flexible approach to development should be “based on local need and opportunities in rural areas so that people working within the agricultural sector and wider community are able to diversify and adjust as appropriate”, the report says. (p.21) The countryside is crucial to Welsh as a living language, and so protection for the language should be strengthened in planning law, the Task Group urges.

The county council will now be pressing for more flexibility in national policies and guidance, for multi-agency and multi-sector working, and for the definition of ‘deprivation’ to be amended to better reflect issues of rurality.

Almost 113,000 people live in Carmarthenshire’s rural areas, 61% of the county total, and half are Welsh speakers. Nearly one person in every four in the county, 23.3% in 2017, was aged 65+, and only 9.4% were aged 16 to 24.

The Task Group had 10 members drawn from across the council’s political groupings.


News: Open Week is Chance to See One Planet Development in Action

In the week starting Monday July 22nd 2019, to Sunday July 28th, a selection of One Planet Developments in Wales will open up to visitors.

In 2018 a similar Open Week familiarised members of the public with One Planet Development, a policy of the Welsh Government.  Although a decade old, the policy still draws criticism from some as a back-door way of building a new home in the countryside.

One Planet Developments (OPDs) are smallholdings from which the occupants have to draw at least 65% of their basic household needs. The policy, explained in One Wales: One Planet – the sustainable development scheme of the Welsh Government, published in 2009, superseded the earlier and even more stringent Policy 52 of Pembrokeshire County Council and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.  The nine smallholdings in the televised Lammas eco village at Tir y Gafel, Glandŵr, Pembrokeshire, were given permission under Policy 52.

By late May 2019, Wales had more than 40 smallholdings given planning permission under either Policy 52 or One Planet Development.  The majority are in Pembrokeshire, with rising numbers in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and a scattering elsewhere in Wales.

One Planet Developments like this one in Pembrokeshire benefit biodiversity and generally improve the soil, so that fertility increases year on year. 

Pembrokeshire’s Cllr Huw George called in April[i] for a halt to new One Planet permissions, so that Welsh Government can properly monitor and assess whether the smallholdings are being managed fully in accordance with the requirements of the policy. He felt it unfair that applicants could receive permission for eco homes but farmers could not build homes for their children.

This view is not uncommon. The policy was introduced not to spite farmers but to assist Wales’ transition to a One Planet world. The Welsh Government decided that current levels of resource use and the consequent environmental damage are unsustainable given that there is only one Earth and not multiple others. One Planet Developments are off-grid, produce their own energy and much of their own food, and organise their own water supply and drainage. Vehicle use is restricted. Buildings are constructed of local renewable materials. Running a One Planet venture is hard work, the outputs and inputs have to be carefully recorded and sent off to the local planning authority for annual monitoring.

Monitoring, the concern raised by Cllr George, is difficult for local authorities which have been forced by funding shortfalls to cut services every year since 2010. The Institute for Fiscal Studies warned in September 2016 that departmental expenditure limits in Wales in 2019-20 would be 11.6% lower than in 2010-11. The monitoring of One Planet Developments is a task that did not exist in 2010, and as the number of permissions rises, will become more onerous. Between 2010 and 2020 councils in England and Wales will have lost almost 60p in every £1 previously received from the Westminster government, leaving them increasingly reliant on council tax, business rates, and grants from anywhere and everywhere, as well as monies that councils raise themselves from rents, charges, interest and dividends. So Cllr George has a point – when planning departments have less money, how can they monitor growing numbers of OPDs?

This is just one of the difficulties associated with the policy. In theory, if occupants fail to produce 65% of their basic needs from the land, or otherwise contravene the conditions of their permission, that permission can be withdrawn and they would have to leave. This is a harsh outcome if the failures are due to factors beyond their control, such as terrible weather, flood or drought, illness or accident, or advancing old age, and indicates that the policy still needs several tweaks.

Two more OPDs received permission from Pembrokeshire County Council on May 21st. Both are in the area of Mynachlog-ddu Community Council, which objected to both.  Hywel Vaughan, chair of the community council, was critical of the planning officer’s recommendation to approve the ventures, and he wrote about the second: “Although it is difficult to oppose the application because several specialists representing different organisations support the application, residents of the community are worried about the adverse damage this development will have on the area’s beauty.”

Cllr David Howlett said “the policy is being used to plonk properties in rural areas”, and Cllr Michael Williams called the policy “fundamentally flawed”.  Despite these reservations, one application was approved unanimously and the other by a majority of eight to one.

The first application approved, 18/0934/PA, is on 2.7 hectares (almost 7 acres) at Parc y Dderwen, formerly part of Pencraig Farm, Llangolman, for Lauren Simpson’s and Phil Moore’s fermented foods enterprise. Launched in 2018, the business already supplies 16 shops with foods including sauerkrauts, pickles and kimchi. Michael Ritchie of Bryngolman Farm, Llangolman, representing “a number of objectors”, said the business was already established, so there was no need to live on the land. The proposed site for the house was on top of a ridge, he said, and other buildings were too large and strung out over the site with “all the visual appeal of an urban allotment”. “It’s an elaborate attempt to get a smallholding on the cheap,” he said. But the objection did not succeed.

Parc y Dderwen will include an orchard, market garden, polytunnel, workshop and cold store, with bees, poultry, new woodland, hedgerows and ponds contributing to biodiversity. The house would be a design by Mark Waghorn[ii] of Llandeilo, who specialises in One Planet, ultra-low-impact structures.

Lauren Simpson and Phil Moore have both worked for the Ecological Land Co-operative[iii]. This co-op provides land for smallholdings in England, where demand is high but there is no similar policy to One Planet Development.

The second application approved, 18/1126/PA, by Rory Horton and Etta Happe, was for Baradwys, formerly known as Rhosfach, a larger area of 9 hectares (22 acres) near Llangolman. The original idea for a herd of alpacas was broadened to include Angora rabbits when part of the land was revealed as a habitat for the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly. This habitat will be managed in co-operation with Natural Resources Wales and cannot be fully utilised for alpacas. Angora rabbits need less space than alpacas and also provide quality fibres for natural textiles.

The land will accommodate two polytunnels, a caravan until a permanent home is built, a barn, studio, and agricultural buildings including one for the rabbits and two field shelters for alpacas.

These two enterprises are in their very early stages, but for people keen to visit established OPDs, the Open Week will be a good opportunity. More information about the Open Week, organised through the One Planet Council, will be available before July 22nd.

The One Planet Council / Cyngor Un Blaned, representing enterprises established under the policy, has an informative website at http://www.oneplanetcouncil.org.uk/ and a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/oneplanetcouncil/.



[i] ‘Put a stop to eco-homes being built, says councillor’, BBC News online, April 29th 2019.

[ii] https://www.mwd.wales/studio

[iii] Ecological Land Cooperative: Our Team https://ecologicalland.coop/contact .

News: Talley Targets Climate Change with Ambitious Green Scheme

The award of more than half a million pounds to the neighbouring small Carmarthenshire villages of Talley and Cwmdu promises to enable major environmental improvements and to help a new green economy to take root.

Community woodland owned by Talley village, at the heart of an environmental scheme which has attracted EU funding


The £520,000 grant, announced in late April 2019, is from the EU-funded Rural Development Programme for 2014-2020. This programme, not yet closed, is the final opportunity for the UK to participate unless Brexit is reversed.

Talley Community Amenity Association (TCAA) submitted a carefully researched and detailed application for the funds, which are administered by the Welsh Government and dedicated to rural viability, sustainability and resilience.

The entrance to Talley Woodlands

The grant will largely fund a £560,000  sustainable management project called Local LAND (Live Actively, Nurture Diversity), and includes two part-time jobs for a Project Co-ordinator and an Engagement Officer, for three years between July 2019 and July 2022.

The TCAA, a charitable company limited by guarantee, has nine trustees drawn from Talley and the nearby village of Cwmdu, who have put a huge effort into attaining the grant. The talented group includes Linda Tame as chair and Angela Hastilow as treasurer.

Linda Tame is a smallholder who, with husband Ian, raises Llanwenog sheep and Shetland cattle, and welcomes visitors to a holiday cottage. Linda has a background as a college lecturer in agricultural and countryside topics, and in rural and out-of-school education for disaffected teenagers. Angela Hastilow runs a saddlery firm and is also a trainee saddle maker. Two Talley-based advisers, Catherine Nakielny and Rhian Corcoran, are in the team. Catherine works with Farming Connect, and as a Nuffield scholar studied methane emissions from sheep production. Rhian is an environmental manager now specialising in sustainable rural and community development.

The ruined Talley Abbey, near the entrance to the land managed by TCAA

The multiple aims of the project should interact with each other, to create a countryside more resilient to climate change and kinder to wildlife, while also making public access easier, and teaching country craft skills. A 24-hectare (59-acre) expanse of land called Talley Woodlands, owned by Talley village and managed by TCAA, is at the heart of the plans. This land, on a slope rising to the west of the village, would have better public access and an education and community centre. On this land, and on 800 hectares (nearly 2,000 acres) of surrounding land owned mainly by farmers, water storage and new planting will slow run-off during downpours, helping to prevent flooding. Wildflower meadows, variegated grassland leys, managed woodland and newly planted trees, would create more diverse habitats for wildlife and protect soils. Watercourses would become wildlife corridors.

A new green brand for local businesses, and increased public awareness of Talley and Cwmdu and their importance in climate change adaptations, should reinforce each other. There would be a focus on bilingualism, better signage for walking routes, a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk, benches sited to suit older walkers, a programme for education in traditional skills like hedge-laying, coppicing, orchard management and basket making, a compost toilet, and other changes to bring Talley to the forefront of planning for ecological resilience. A boost in visitors and students should drive increased revenues for local food, craft and tourism businesses especially.

This terrace in Cwmdu, owned by the National Trust, includes an inn and a shop with Post Office

Around half of the expenditure would be devoted to land management. Community facilities would take a quarter, with technical support, professional surveys and monitoring, staff costs and administration accounting for the remaining quarter.

Several organisations, including Natural Resources Wales and the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, are already collaborating on this scheme. Talley School, a fortunate survivor of decades of rural school closures and with more pupils now than five years ago, is also participating.


Feature: Damaging Digital Divide

Former Lloyds Bank, Llandovery, closed in 2017.

The digital economy is damaging our small towns and dividing rural areas from the cities.

Withdrawal of services from the towns damages the quality of life in the surrounding villages and countryside, which are not exactly on the front page of governments’ policy books. It often appears that they are not anywhere in anyone’s policy book.

Nobody seems to have a plan to restore vitality to towns from which schools, banks, post offices, bus services and shops have departed. Young people move out, accelerating the decline.

Llandovery, a market town in the Upper Tywi Valley loses its final bank on June 7th when Barclays closes, following HSBC in 2012, NatWest in 2015, and Lloyds in 2017. The 11-18 comprehensive school shut early in 2016. The whole Upper Tywi Valley is also disadvantaged by slow broadband and very patchy mobile phone coverage. These drawbacks limit participation in the digital economy, which is being imposed on us whether we like it or not.

The rapidity of the transition to digital makes no allowances for people without broadband, or a computer, or a mobile phone, or the knowledge to navigate the online world. They are shut out.

Former NatWest Bank in Llandovery, closed in 2015. 

Even if you can access online banking, you are still going to need some notes and coins, but they are ever harder to obtain, even if your bank current account is in credit.

Barclays has an ATM (automated teller machine), the only one in Llandovery town centre. When there is no bank, there will almost certainly be no ATM and therefore no cash. Yet cash is so important for everyday transactions, whether in the newsagents, butchers, bakers, convenience store or local market.

There was an ATM outside the Co-op supermarket on the Brecon Road but on February 7th smash-and-grab criminals smashed the wall it was in, grabbed the whole ATM and made off with the loot. Of course, nowadays there is no regular police presence in the town. Another step backwards.

There are gleams of light in this dismal landscape, shining from the invaluable Youth and Community Centre in Market Square, and from the old HSBC bank also in Market Square. After months without a Post Office, a new one opened in the bank building in late November 2018, thanks to the team from the Ystrad garden centre and café outside the town. The Post Office, which during its opening hours enables customers to access many mail and financial services, including withdrawal of cash from most UK banks, is a real boost for a town sorely in need of one.

What’s needed as well, and urgently, is government recognition — in both Cardiff and Westminster — that people living in rural areas are just as important as city dwellers to our collective future.

Cashless Society Damages Local Trade

Llansawel Market is this Saturday, July 21st, in the village hall from 10am to noon. The third Saturday of the month is always market time in this North Carmarthenshire village, more or less in the centre of a triangle with Lampeter, Llandovery and Llandeilo at the corners.

One modern development does not help it at all, though – the cashless society.

The nearest cashpoint is a good ten miles away, at the Co-op supermarket in Llandeilo. We rely increasingly on Co-op supermarkets to provide this rural area with cash, from the cashpoints in Llandeilo, Llandovery and Lampeter, and from the tills as ‘cashback’. These small but historic towns have suffered the withdrawal of banking services. HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest closed in Llandeilo and Llandovery. In both, Barclays is the only bank left in town, four days a week in Llandeilo and three days in Llandovery. The university town of Lampeter has lost NatWest, another blow for rural areas delivered by parent company Royal Bank of Scotland, which since 2008 has been bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of some £45 billion.

Getting hold of your cash is not at all easy, especially if you do not have your own transport. Closer to home than Llandeilo, the friendly Post Office in the National Trust village of Cwmdu, six miles away and open in the mornings Tuesday to Saturday, is an extremely valuable community asset, and so is the Post Office van at Llansawel village hall for an hour (2.15-3.15) on Monday afternoons. What we don’t have is a free-to-use cashpoint available round the clock.

Llansawel Village Hall, home of the village market — which runs on cash

Stallholders at the market take cash. Customers need cash. The market sells local products – such as cheeses, fruit and vegetables, beef, eggs, baked goods, confectionery, plants, crafts – so is an outlet for nearby enterprises, delivering the short supply chains which the EU has been encouraging. Small-scale producers who sell at markets and fairs benefit the rural economy and are helping to keep villages viable. Yet their need for customers with cash to spend is largely ignored by the big banks.

We are not talking about shoppers carrying wads of £20 notes, just modest amounts of cash for buying from small traders and also for donating to charity collectors. Homeless and recently homeless sellers of the Big Issue magazine, for example, depend on passers-by stumping up £2.50 for a copy. A debit card is no use for buying the Big Issue.

The scarcity of cashpoints in the countryside is itself a big issue, needing government and banks to get together to work out how to prevent rural regions from descending into financial deserts.



Punitive Universal Credit Threatens to Obliterate Self Employment

The contempt in which UK government ministers must hold farmers is clear from their crazily punitive Universal Credit.

Take the example of farmers who raise livestock or grow arable crops. They do not have regular income. Yet Universal Credit assumes they do.

The ‘benefit’ replaces Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support. The first three have been relevant to the self-employed, like farmers, builders, painters and decorators and taxi drivers. Self-employment is a major feature of rural West Wales, and tax credits have been vital to households with low and fluctuating income. In Carmarthenshire 11% of all people aged 16 to 74, one in every nine, is self-employed. The figures are higher still in Pembrokeshire (13.5%) and Ceredigion (14.4%).

Universal Credit is due to come to Carmarthenshire in March 2018, and to Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion in May. Self-employed claimants have to submit an online form every month, detailing their net income. The particularly cruel part is the Minimum Income Floor, which assumes that everybody has a work income equivalent to at least 35 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage. That’s £7.50 for people aged 25+, so times 35 is £262.50 a week, £1,137.50 a month. So even if you earn nothing in a month, the government will assume you have earnt £1,137.50.

This applies to every month of the year – no allowances for any days off, or ill.

For farmers who receive income only a few times a year, for builders who are paid on completion of large jobs, for taxi drivers with fluctuating receipts, for small business owners in the seasonal tourism industry, the Minimum Income Floor is a denial of social security, and even more discriminatory because in those months when income does arrive, for example from sale of sheep, cattle, or potatoes, or visits from holidaymakers, claimants will rarely receive any Universal Credit at all because their monthly total will be too high!

Government argues that people with incomes below the Floor should just do more work, or persuade clients to pay them monthly instead of at the end of a contract – but how does that function when, for example, you are taking your sheep or cattle to a market? You don’t know who is going to buy them!

The self-employed do many essential but currently low-income jobs – what is more essential than producing food? – yet the new ‘benefit’ penalises them severely.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union is making a big fuss about the iniquities of Universal Credit, and in December 2016 published ‘Universal Credit in Northern Ireland: Punishing the Self-Employed’ in collaboration with the organisations Rural Support and Advice NI.

The Universal Credit for the Self-Employed “system is utterly blind to claimants with variable or seasonal income”, says the Ulster report. “The over-riding effect of the Minimum Income Floor will be to persecute hard-working, self-employed people for not having a regular income stream.”

Accountants Dodd and Co in Penrith, Cumbria, told Farmers Weekly[1] that they act for about 1,000 farmers, 30% of whom have been claiming tax credits, and who will be punished by Universal Credit.

Some people may propose that if claimants can’t earn an even monthly income, they shouldn’t be self-employed. They’d probably be the first to shout, though, when there are gaps on the supermarket shelves, when they can’t find a builder to repair the roof, or a taxi to take them to the station.

The Resolution Foundation reckoned in October 2016[2] that the median self-employment income was £240 a week, £1,040 a month. That’s an average figure which is less than the current Minimum Income Floor.

And across the UK, 4.547 million people are self-employed.

Someone in government wants to obliterate self-employment, not to mention wreaking havoc across the countryside.


[1] ‘Introduction of Universal Credit will punish self-employed’, Farmers Weekly Interactive, February 8 2017.

[2] ‘Typical earnings of the self-employed lower than 20 years ago’, press release October 18 2016.

Lloyds Bank to close in Llandovery

Lloyds Bank in Llandovery is to close completely on March 7th 2017.

As recently as 2012, Llandovery was home to four banks — Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest. One by one, they have fallen victim to online banking.

HSBC, in Market Square, closed in 2012. Nat West, also in Market Square, shut its doors on June 1st 2015. Lloyds and Barclays soldiered on as part-time banks, Barclays open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Lloyds on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Now that Lloyds is to close, a part-time Barclays will be the only bank left in town.


Lloyds Bank, Llandovery. Photo: Dyfed Family History Society, copyright Pauline Eccles, Creative Commons Licence 

The impending Lloyds closure is of more than commercial significance. The imposing building, Prospect House in High Street, was the final headquarters of the Bank of the Black Ox, the pioneering venture set up by successful drover David Jones in 1799, and taken over by Lloyds Bank in 1909.

Campaign to keep Lloyds open in Llandeilo

Llandeilo’s county councillor, Edward Thomas (Independent), started work at Lloyds in Llandovery in 1971, and regrets the ending of over 200 years of history. He is also worried about the future of Lloyds in Llandeilo, which has cut opening days from five a week to three – Monday, Wednesday and Thursday — and has written to Jonathan Edwards, MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

The letter raises Cllr Thomas’s concern that “the Llandeilo Branch of Lloyds Bank has only a short amount, two years, left on its lease of 137 Rhosmaen Street” and that there is a strong indication that “with the reduction of hours, reduction of days from five to three, that Lloyds Bank are planning to close this branch”.

“I am sure you will realize that that will leave Lloyds customers in North Carmarthenshire with no coverage and effectively their nearest branches will be Brecon or Ammanford,” continued Cllr Thomas.

“I am concerned that this will leave customers with no choice. The bank no doubt will state that they no longer see the footfall in their branches as customers are switching to internet banking. I am sure you will agree this is just cynical and does not look after older customers who are not happy to deal with a faceless computer and appreciate the good service provided by our local branches.

“I hope you will raise this matter at the highest levels and whilst I am singling out Lloyds, the other banks are doing the same thing and we could be faced with our rural communities without bank representation.”

HSBC has closed in Llandeilo as well as in Llandovery, leaving customers in northern Carmarthenshire facing journeys to branches in Ammanford, Carmarthen or Lampeter. Lloyds customers could soon face the same travel demands.

Mobile Lloyds Bank coming soon

Lloyds says that mobile branches should be in the area soon.

The bank’s spokesperson said that the Llandovery branch “has been identified for closure because of the changing way customers choose to bank with us, which has resulted in customers using it less often.  The majority of customers also now regularly use alternative branches or use other ways to bank such as online and telephone banking to complete their banking needs. We apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause and have informed customers of the closest alternative branches.

“We are also investing in a new fleet of mobile branches for Lloyds Bank to help customers in more rural communities, alongside other ways to access banking locally. One of the new mobile branches will visit Llandovery. Full details of the mobile branch service will be available in advance of the new service becoming operational.”

The bank said that around 80% of personal customers in Llandovery already use other branches, such as Llandeilo branch. In 2015, the number of personal customers using Llandovery branch fell about 36%, leaving only 35 regular weekly personal and business customers.

The Post Office is an option, says Lloyds. In Llandovery it is less than 200 metres away, and customers can deposit cash and cheques and withdraw money there. In addition there is an ATM outside Barclays Bank.


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