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Formal process to secure new leasehold tenant for Muni Arts Centre

The Council will open the formal process to secure a new leasehold tenant for the Muni Arts Centre from Monday (January 14).

The 14-day ‘window of opportunity’ will allow interested parties to formally submit their expression of interest to deliver a sustainable future for the Muni Arts Centre as an artistic entertainment venue.

The commencement of this process is another important step to ensure the Muni re-opens its doors. The Council will aim to work with a preferred tenant by March 2019, with a view to completing a leasehold transfer by May 2019 (which may be subject to change depending on the proposals received).

Speaking on this further important development, County Borough Councillor Rhys Lewis, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Well-being and Culture, said: “From Monday, the Council will provide a 14-day ‘window of opportunity’ for any commercial or community groups, and social enterprises, wishing to submit an initial expression of interest in the potential leasehold transfer of this building.

“This is another positive step forward in the process to re-open the Muni Arts Centre’s doors to the public.

“A key part of this process will be the need to evidence a commitment to work with community partners, alongside the development of a viable business plan supported by strong governance arrangements.

“Through this process, the Council is looking for innovative, creative and sustainable proposals from either commercial or community-based organisations to re-develop this key music and entertainment venue, based in the heart of the Town Centre.

“Pontypridd is already benefitting from significant investment including the redevelopment of the Taff Vale site and the YMCA; the ongoing development and restoration of Ynysangharad War Memorial Park; and the newly established ADDO Creative’s co-working space.

“The Council’s desire is that the Muni Arts Centre compliments existing and planned cultural provision within the town.”

Interested parties will be required to enter an agreement for a minimum 10-year leasehold transfer of the building.

The final date for submission of completed expressions of interest will be Wednesday, January 30, 2019 – by 5pm.

Selected organisations will then be notified, and they will have a further six weeks to provide a fully-costed Business Plan, which will need to evidence that their proposals meet the needs of the Council and community, and are both viable and sustainable.


Taff Trail works in Cilfynydd to enable future bridge replacement

The Council will undertake site investigation and minor clearance work on the Taff Trail in Cilfynydd to enable the future replacement of a footbridge. This will require a temporary closure to a section of the footpath.

The Nant-Cae-Dudwg bridge, which supports a shared cycling and pedestrian footpath on the Taff Trail, is in poor condition and requires replacement.

The Council will carry out ground investigations on site, as well as localised vegetation clearance to widen the path access at specific points, in order to assist in the future demolition and construction of the bridge.

Please note, this scheme will now begin from Monday, January 28, and is scheduled to last for approximately six weeks. It was originally scheduled to start on January 21.

The work requires the full closure of a section of the Taff Trail, in order to ensure public safety.

The southern end of the closure is from the entrance near Coedpenmaen Road in Trallwn, heading north and running generally adjacent to the river. The northern end of the closure is to the rear of Cilfynydd RFC’s sports field.

Access to the sports field and the lane adjacent to it will not be affected.

Please note, the closed section of the Taff Trail will reopen temporarily on Sunday, February 10, to accommodate an Ultra Run event from Brecon to Cardiff.

The Council would like to thank residents for their cooperation during this necessary closure period, and will communicate to residents the arrangements for reopening the route.



Consultation - modernising care for older people in Rhondda Cynon Taf

Local residents will be able to have their say on proposals to modernise care for older people in Rhondda Cynon Taf – through a 12-week consultation on future options for both residential and day care services.

In November 2018, Cabinet Members agreed to consult on transformational options for the Local Authority’s care provision – and proposals put forward outlined options to substantially invest in and modernise residential and day care services to better meet the needs of the County Borough’s older residents. The consultation period will begin on Monday, January 14, and run for 12 weeks, ending on April 8.

During this period, the Council will provide information about the proposals to people living in its 11 residential care homes, along with advocacy support where required. The Council will also write to relatives and key stakeholders.

Engagement sessions will take place with staff and residents of each care home, along with staff and users of the Council’s day care centres at Tonyrefail, Trecynon, Riverside, Ferndale and Bronllwyn.

Members of the public will have access to information about the proposals from January 14, through a dedicated consultation webpage on the Council’s website. The Council will also use its social media accounts to promote the consultation, directing users to the homepage. Here, views and opinions can be conveyed in an online survey, while public ‘drop-in’ events will be held at:

Rhondda Sports Centre, Ystrad – March 13, 2019 (2pm to 8pm).
Sobell Leisure Centre, Aberdare – March 21, 2019 (2pm to 8pm).
Llantrisant Leisure Centre – March 28, 2019 (2pm to 8pm).

At the heart of the proposals is a planned £50m investment in Extra Care across Rhondda Cynon Taf – to build five brand new facilities and increase the total number of Extra Care places to 300 across the County Borough.

Extra Care delivers modern accommodation to allow residents to live as independently as possible in their own homes. They are modern, built-for-purpose buildings, where residents have 24/7 access to targeted support for their assessed needs.

Following an independent review, the following options are being consulted upon:

Residential Care

OPTION 1 – Continue existing arrangements.

OPTION 2 – Phased decommissioning of all Council care homes.

OPTION 3 – The Council retains some of its residential care homes, to focus on complex care. This is the Council’s preferred option.

Day Care

OPTION 1 – Continue existing arrangements.

OPTION 2 – Phased decommissioning of all five day care centres, introducing a new service model offering universal services and opportunities for older people in Community Hubs, along with day services for assessed care needs and specialist dementia care. This is the Council’s preferred option.

Councillor Geraint Hopkins, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Community Services and Welsh Language, said: “We understand that residential care and day care are very important Council services – and the Council truly believes that modernising care for older people now is the right thing to do, and at the right time.

“Local people will be able to have their say through a number of avenues within the 12-week consultation. Residential and day care users, along with relatives and key stakeholders, will be engaged by the Council internally – while members of the general public will have access to important information, and have the ability to contribute to the process online or in person.

“Our current residential care service has excellent staff and has served the County Borough well for decades, but the current offer is based on a more traditional model of care. Much of the estate is showing its age – not only in the condition of the buildings, but in its fundamental design and purpose.

“The Council has a duty to reflect on this model to meet the changing needs of older generations – and the proposals are based on high aspirations and tangible results from the one Extra Care facility currently available in Rhondda Cynon Taf, at Ty Heulog in Talbot Green. The Council believes Extra Care should be available to more people and the five new facilities, previously agreed by Cabinet, are at the heart of the future options put forward – along with the retention of complex care in the Council’s service delivery.

“With regard to day care, we have seen a large decrease in the number of users at our five centres. In September 2018 an average of just 200 people per day used the service – and this is predicted to further decline. The proposals again seek to utilise Extra Care, and also the Council’s Community Hubs programme, in a new model where the Council’s internal provision focuses on complex care.

“I would urge residents to take part in this extensive 12-week consultation, by finding more information on the consultation webpage, completing the survey and attending one of our community ‘drop in’ events.”

The consultation material will be published on January 14, and will be available to view on the following link: www.rctcbc.gov.uk/consultations.


Your Neighbours Need You – looking out for one another during snow

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is launching its Your Neighbours Need You campaign, to encourage residents to be ‘good neighbours’ and look out for one another during periods of severe winter weather.

This campaign was recommended by the Council’s Public Service Delivery Scrutiny Committee, to support the wider work of the Council to prepare for the potential of severe weather during the winter period.

Last winter, the County Borough experienced two periods of snow with freezing temperatures – in December 2017 and March 2018. While the Council’s proactive approach and comprehensive response was praised, there’s always more that can be done in preparation for severe weather.

Your Neighbours Need You

The Council has since bought three 4x4 vehicles fitted with snow ploughs, which can access side roads that its larger lorries cannot. Also, in October 2018, Cabinet agreed that the Council should encourage communities to come together, with neighbours helping each other during extreme weather.

The Your Neighbours Need You campaign encourages residents to help each other – and in particular vulnerable people – during periods of heavy snowfall. It promotes a number of small actions that ‘good neighbours’ can undertake during severe winter weather – which could bring freezing temperatures, an inaccessible road network and a halt to services.

A new campaign website has been published on the Council’s website, to provide detailed information and advice on how to be a ‘good neighbour’ when the snow strikes. Here is a broad summary of the advice being provided:

Checking in on your neighbours – especially elderly or vulnerable people, who may be reliant on important services or help which cannot be delivered during periods of severe winter weather. From offering to do their shopping to ensuring their heating is working, small acts could make a big difference.
Spreading salt from grit bins – when temperatures fall, the Council will spread salt on priority roads and ensure grit bins are topped up. But residents can do their bit too, by spreading ordinary salt on footways and ensuring their own driveways, and those of neighbours, are covered – when safe to do so.
Clearing snow safely – the Council will target key roads and town centres to clear snow, bringing in contractors where possible. However, it is inevitable the Council can’t reach every street in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Individuals can do their bit, clearing snow when it is safe to do so.
Keep up to date with news – and pass it on! – keep an eye on Council social media during periods of severe weather. The accounts will provide up-to-date information including important advice on travel, road closures, weather updates and services. Elected Members will also provide vital local information, so look out for messages from your Local Councillor. Share any important messages with neighbours.
Servicing your vehicles – motorists should consider whether it is safe to drive, and whether their journey is absolutely necessary. If it is safe to drive, a number of checks and actions should be taken by motorists. For example, check tyre pressures and pack an emergency kit, including blankets, just in case. Sources such as the RAC and AA will provide more information about this.

Councillor Steve Bradwick, Chair of the Public Service Delivery, Communities and Prosperity Scrutiny Committee, said: “This important campaign has resulted from our scrutiny working group, established to consider how communities can support the Council’s response to severe winter weather.

“The Your Neighbours Need You campaign is promoting the small actions which can be undertaken by residents, which will make a big difference to an individual or community when bad weather strikes. It is especially important that neighbours do their bit to support elderly or vulnerable residents.

“The two periods of inclement weather experienced last year brought significant disruption across the County and, whilst the Council had taken a number of steps to prepare for the onset of the weather, the volume of the snowfall presented major issues to many of our communities.

“The Council only has limited resources in tackling the disruption and must always prioritise the condition on our main routes, so we are asking the public to help us – particularly in our side streets.

“Severe episodes of winter weather often prompt us to stay inside in the warm, although I would urge residents to think whether ‘Your Neighbours Need You’ – especially if they are elderly, as they may not have access to the services they may rely on.”

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways, added: “In response to the work of scrutiny, Cabinet Members made a commitment for the Council to promote community self-help during times of extreme winter weather, with residents looking after one another when snow could – in the very worst circumstances – result in services being stopped, roads being impassable and communities being isolated.

“This campaign has come about following the valuable work undertaken by the Public Service Delivery, Communities and Prosperity Scrutiny Working Group. A report by the Group was put before Cabinet in October 2018, and it has informed these changes.

“The Council’s proactive approach to the severe weather in December 2017 and March 2018 was widely praised, and the Your Neighbours Need You campaign, along with the purchase of brand new 4x4 snow ploughs, will ensure that we are even better prepared when the snow next hits.

“This campaign is another valuable piece of work undertaken by the Council’s scrutiny functions.”

The Your Neighbours Need You Campaign was one of a number recommendations made by the Public Services Scrutiny Committee to the Council’s Cabinet, to support the Local Authority in preparing for winter weather. The consideration of this matter by scrutiny followed a Notice of Motion to establish a voluntary snow warden scheme in Rhondda Cynon Taf, tabled in the names of Cllr Pauline Jarman and Cllr Shelley Rees-Owen.
Follow the campaign on social media through #NeighboursNeedYouRCT, and visit our new Your Neighbours Need You homepage on our website: www.rctcbc.gov.uk/NeighboursNeedYou.


Turning Empty Properties Into Affordable Homes

Cabinet has agreed a three-year plan to build upon its successful approaches to date in tackling to reduce the number of empty properties in the County Borough.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is continuing its work in partnership with local housing providers and private sector landlords in order to bring vacant homes across the County Borough back onto the housing market.

Cabinet has agreed to implement its Empty Homes Strategy to the increase further, the pace of progress, to tackle the issue of vacant properties in Rhondda Cynon Taf and address the impact they can have upon communities.

Councillor Robert Bevan, Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Development and Housing, said: "Housing continues to be a priority for the Council as we work in close partnership with local housing providers and private sector landlords to tackle issues such as empty properties and to increase the supply of affordable housing.

“The Council’s Empty Property Strategy for 2018-21 reinforces the work we have already done and sets out how we are going to continue to deliver improvements to our housing stock in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

"Many people live near an empty property, some of which have been neglected for some time. This can result in anything from an overgrown garden encroaching on neighbouring properties, an environmental eyesore, fears of crime and anti-social behaviour, and health and safety impacts on neighbouring properties.

"Over the years we have delivered advice and, where necessary, enforcement to force the owners of empty homes to take responsibility. This has included us delivering essential work and then recovering the cost from the owner.

"Apart from the fact empty homes can be a blight we will not tolerate- and will take action against - they are also a waste of valuable housing stock that local people are relying upon and a missed opportunity for economic gain.

“While it is acknowledged that good progress has already been made in bringing empty homes back into use across our County Borough, back by significant investment over the last few years, the scale of the problem still persists and continues to present problems in many of our communities.

“As such, a strong strategic approach is now required which will make a difference to both the scale of empty homes that are brought back into use as well as having a more fundamental impact; as we move forward with this plan there may be a need to for more radical and bold action to tackling this issue.

“This plan seeks to ensure that we continue our solid progress on this matter using all the necessary mechanism available to us as a local authority.

"We recognise there is more to be done and the Empty Homes Strategy sets out, over the next year, how we will strengthen partnerships with the community and social/private landlords, harness our legal powers and draw in as much funding as we can to continue to deal with this issue."

The most recent annual assessment of empty homes identified 3,500 properties that have stood empty for at least six months and, most challenging, 684 that have been empty for at least four years. It is these 684 properties that will be focussed on the most in the coming years.

With an estimate 738 affordable homes predicted to be needed every year in the coming years, it makes sense for the Council and its partners in the housing sector to step up their application of both proactive and preventative tactics, which include:

Information and advice for landlords and owners of empty homes on the loans available to them to enable properties to be renovated.
Promotion of grant funding available to property owners and landlords, as well as would-be homebuyers, to renovate an empty property to a high standard.
Partnerships with housing associations to purchase vacant homes, renovate them to a professional specification and then sell or let them.
Enforcement action against those who refuse to take the steps that are required to be undertaken by law.

Applying a range of these tactics in recent years has seen 600 empty properties in Rhondda Cynon Taf returned to the open market, with over 1,400 interventions delivered by Empty Property Officers working to raise the standard of properties.

However, it is a frustration that in some communities, as soon as one empty property is dealt with, another becomes vacant and neglected.

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