West Wales News Review

Economy, environment, sustainability

Archive for the tag “Heart of Wales Line Development Company”

Pioneer community hub opens at Llandeilo station

Also see the Carmarthenshire Herald, July 15th 2016, p. 13

From afar it could be a stranded goods wagon. Close up, it’s a highly insulated wooden building by the approach road to Llandeilo station. Nicknamed ‘The Hub’, it is unique in the UK’s rail network, the first of a hoped-for string of similar buildings at rural stations.

Created for the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, costing around £30,000 and grant-aided by the Welsh Government, the building has a water supply from rain falling on the roof, and a compost toilet independent of mains drainage.  LED lighting and low-energy heating tubes also contribute to low running costs.


Hub Quartet: project manager Rachel Francis, line development officer David Edwards, constructor David Bamford, and railway expert Professor Paul Salveson 

“We are linking this building to mains electricity,” said project manager Rachel Francis, “but with the help of solar panels a similar building could have an independent electricity supply. “

Built of Welsh timber by David Bamford of Presteigne, Powys, the Hub will be available for local social enterprises and businesses. The first to book are Sara Tommerup and James Scrivens of the Black Mountain Food Hub – a hub within a hub – who will be there on Friday mornings for food producers to deliver and in the afternoons for customers to collect their orders, received via their website, http://www.blackmountainfoodhub.co.uk.  A local delivery service is offered too, at £2, and there are plans for Llandovery station to also become a collection point.

“We hope to work with more local food producers,” said Sara. “Currently the Popty Patagonia Bakehouse, Organics to Go, Liliwen Herbs, Llandeilo Country Markets and Black Mountain Wholefoods  — all in and around Llandeilo — are our suppliers, and we will also be sourcing butter from the Gwenlas Dairy. At present we are looking especially for more vegetables.”


Using the new building at Llandeilo station: Sara Tommerup and James Scrivens of the Black Mountain Food Hub

The Hub could also become a base for day trip and railway-linked package tour operators. The Heart of Wales Line Development Company and Herefordshire-based travel firm Rural Concierge are working on a programme of mini breaks from stations along the line, which links Swansea with Shrewsbury.

More ideas could come from a Friends of Llandeilo Station group, which Heart of Wales Line development officer David Edwards is keen to see created.

For the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, and high-profile railway enthusiasts including Professor Paul Salveson of Huddersfield University, siting The Hub at Llandeilo is the result of months of planning and negotiations – and of confidence that the Heart of Wales line will continue to grow in importance as a transport artery.





Regeneration Route: New Futures for the Heart of Wales Railway

Rural Wales today is a land of loss, of public services gone away, of rural spaces used for the benefit of people elsewhere, as vistas for holiday consumption, as water stores and as electricity farms. Remember the Development Board for Rural Wales, which was supposed to power economic revival? The DBRW was extant for 18 years, 1977 to 1995, and had the job of economic revival in Powys, Ceredigion and Meirionnydd. Job done in 1995? Of course not. So do we need a modern version ?

Buzz words today are ‘city regions’. The Welsh Government sees Wales as two-and-a-half city regions: (1) greater Cardiff including Newport, and (2) Swansea Bay, with north-east Wales as the half, linked to the industrial hinterlands of the river Mersey in England. Investment would be concentrated in these regions, leaving all of Wales outside the urban bubbles even shorter of resources than they are already.

You can argue that city regions are anachronisms in a world pushing up against limits to growth, but ‘sustainability’ did not feature centrally in the City Regions in Wales report presented to the Welsh Government in 2012.[i] Nor did climate change, nor the Welsh Government’s professed aim for the country to use no more resources than our single planet can provide. The concept of a city region as a growth magnet poses all sorts of unanswered questions, such as

  • Where will cities’ food come from?
  • What sorts of income-earning jobs will the inhabitants do, in a climate-challenged, resource-depleted, environmentally damaged world?

Here in north-west Europe, judging by TV adverts and supermarket shelves, it can seem as though there are limitless supplies of everything, but that’s only because we use far more than our fair share.  Who could live on 85p a day? Some 1.2 billion people – around 19 times more than the population of the UK – have to scrape by on less. There aren’t enough resources to supply everyone with a north-west European standard of materialism.

The very notion of the ‘sustainable city’ is perhaps a triumph of optimism over history, because civilisations collapse when cities can no longer be provisioned. Political instability ensues, and surviving populations melt into the countryside.

In Wales, too many politicians regard ‘the countryside’ as the past, not the future. Fortunately, small groups of people are working for rural revival, and more than a dozen of them met in Llandovery on Friday at the start of a campaign to bring new life to the communities along the Heart of Wales railway, which crosses Wales from Swansea in the south to Shrewsbury in the borderlands of England, and is ‘rural’ within Wales most of the way from Llanelli in Carmarthenshire to Knighton in Powys, a distance of some 80 miles.

Professor Paul Salveson[ii] asks “Could the Heart of Wales Line become a linear ‘Mondragon’ network supporting a network of co-operative enterprises?” The Mondragon federation is the (mostly) successful co-operative economic engine of the Basque Country in Spain, and I think the answer to Prof Salveson’s question is ‘Yes’. Not just along the Heart of Wales corridor, either, but also to the west, either side of a resurrected Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway.

continues below the map 


Map from Traws Link Cymru, the group campaigning to restore, initially, the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line. The map shows Wales’ remaining railways in black, including the Heart of Wales line passing through Ammanford, Llandovery and Builth Wells.

Glenn Bowen of the Wales Co-operative Centre  — the largest co-operative development body in the UK, according to Wikipedia – was on hand at the Level Crossing hostel by Llandovery Station yesterday to outline the pros and cons of various types of corporate structures, to representatives from the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, Heart of Wales Line Travellers Association, Friends of Llandovery Station, Llanwrtyd Community Transport & Events Recycling, Transition Tywi Trawsnewid, and the Calon Cymru group which exists to promote sustainable activity along the line. Early days, but there is enthusiasm to create a Heart of Wales Enterprise Network.

Calon Cymru last year devised a plan for a string of ‘garden villages’ along the line, and submitted it for the Wolfson Prize. The Wolfson competition sought ideas for a new garden city, rather than garden villages, and the entry did not win an award, but I think it shows that low-impact developments have much to offer rural Wales, in helping to rejuvenate the population profile, creating land-based enterprises including ‘One Planet’ ventures using only those resources which our planet can continue to provide, and bringing critical mass to support public services including transport. Click on The Linear Garden City: a One Planet vision to read the plan.

Separate campaign groups have been labouring away, often for years, in their own back yards, and as small ventures made only limited political impact. The current move to collaborate could mark the start of a new, more positive phase in the history of the forgotten back-lands of rural Wales.

A new Development Board for Rural Wales? No, that would be planning imposed from the top downwards. The idea now, a much better idea, I think, is to support individuals and community groups as they set about creating their own futures.


[i] City Regions Final Report, July 2012. ‘Sustainability and Climate Change’ comprised paragraphs 145 to 149, saying sustainable development should become a unique selling point for attracting investment. The climate change issue was summarised in one sentence in paragraph 147: “Studies have found that while cities create many of the problems of climate change they also offer increased scope to maximise resource efficiency”.


[ii] Paul Salveson MBE is visiting professor in transport and logistics at the University of Huddersfield. His reference to Mondragon is in ‘Unlocking enterprise and creativity in Mid Wales: a rail-based approach’, which he wrote for the Heart of Wales Line Development Company: click to read Unlocking enterprise and creativity in Mid Wales

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