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Bulldozers are tackling the old Pontypridd precinct to finish the demolition work started in 2011
People have been waiting for this for almost six years

The demolition work has restarted after almost six years

Hoardings at Cross Street will be completed after the demolition phase, during March.

Visitors to Pontypridd could see activity at the former precinct site this week

Within the site itself, the large concrete slab is being demolished bit by bit from the south of the site to the north.

Meanwhille, further investigations are also being carried out in preparation for construction works, with two rigs drilling boreholes.

Robert Bevan, RCT cabinet member for economic development, tourism and planning, said: “For many years, thanks to a number of failed private sector development proposals, the former Taff Vale Precinct has been an eyesore in Pontypridd.

"Having purchased the head lease for the site, with Welsh Government support provided via the Vibrant and Viable Places Regeneration Programme, the council has put itself firmly in the driving seat for the redevelopment of the site and the current demolition represents a significant milestone.

Why 2017 could be the year Pontypridd's precinct site is finally brought back to life

“The council’s ambitious plans for the new mixed-use development are progressing well and we remain hugely confident around the opportunities for this site and the potential it offers to change the economic dynamic of the regionally strategic town of Pontypridd and the Valleys.

"This is why the council continues to commit financially to the development, with over £3.5M allocated to date."

 

Mums-to-be can now monitor their baby’s heart rate from their own home in a UK first
Cwm Taf UHB the first in the UK to pilot this ground-breaking technology

Waiting to give birth is an anxious time for mums-to-be, particularly if they need careful monitoring before birth, as frequent trips to and from hospital can cause undue stress.

But Cwm Taf University Health Board has become the first in the UK to pilot ground-breaking technology which uses Bluetooth and a mobile phone to record vital information – meaning mothers don’t have to make the journey into hospital.

The innovative project allows pregnant women across Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff to use Bluetooth technology to send real-time information about their baby’s heart rates to the hospital midwife or consultant, who can analyse the data and decide if they need to come into hospital for further observation or not.

Before the pilot, the women, who have been identified as needing closer monitoring during their pregnancy but are not high risk, would have to make a significant number of lengthy and sometimes difficult journeys to the hospital for their appointments.

Now they will only have to make these journeys if the team spots anything that they want to have a closer examination of.

As the technology transmits the data in real time the midwife or clinician sees the heart trace at the exact time the mum-to-be is using it, so if there are any concerns they can be brought in to the hospital straight away.

Rosie Pritchard, a midwife at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, said she had to look after one lady who was 19 weeks pregnant and had to come in alternate days, as her waters had broken early.

Rosie said: “She had to come in every other day until the baby was born, so for nearly 20 weeks.

“She was a single mum so had to bring two children with her and she had to catch three buses to get here. It was a nightmare for her.”

Waiting is an anxious time for mums to be especially for those whose babies need careful monitoring before birth. But thanks to new technology adopted by Cwm Taf University Health Board pregnant women can now check their baby's heart rate at home.

The pregnant woman takes the monitoring device home with her and the reading of the baby’s heart rate is transported back to the hospital via a Bluetooth device.

If there is a problem with the heart, a red box on the hospital monitor will flash so they know immediately if something is wrong.

Rosie thinks the technology will help the hospital act more quickly if there is a problem with the baby.

She said: “I think it’s going to reduce the poor outcomes for women. We can get them seen quicker and possibly prevent a still birth or a poor baby, really knowing they’ve got this machine.

“It gives them a bit of reassurance that they can just listen to their baby’s heart rate.”

Kimberly Jones, from Pontypridd, was 35 weeks pregnant when she started using the remote heart monitoring technology.

Kimberly said: “I did have a liver dysfunction, which caused me to itch and go into premature planned C-section, which they are trained to monitor now in order to prevent any harm to the baby.

“I have a monitoring system to take home. It’s really, really good – any queries or problems, one phone call and they’ll ask you to come in, so I’m really confident in it.”

Natasha Dolloway, from Trehebert, was travelling around 13 miles every other day, including weekends, to get to the hospital but has recently been given the remote monitor.

She said: “I travelled from Treherbert so it is quite a distance and it is quite stressful.”

She added that being able to monitor her baby’s heart from home will make a “big difference”.

“Not having to come in every day is going to be a lot easier on the baby and me, stress-wise, and it does save petrol and money as well. Maybe I’ll be able to have a bit more of a life as well – just until he comes.”

Hospitals under Cwm Taf were the first in the UK to pilot the remote telemonitoring system but the system is now also running in several other areas, including Blackpool, Newcastle, Northumbria, Jersey, and Nottingham.

In 2009, doctors issued warnings against foetal heart devices which claimed to give an accurate reading of a child’s heart and could be bought over the internet for as little as £25.

The British Medical Journal reported that the devices, which pick up the sound of the baby’s heartbeat, can give “false reassurance” and cause unnecessary anxiety in untrained hands.

The warnings came after a 34-year-old pregnant woman delayed a visit to hospital after she felt her baby move less frequently and her baby was tragically stillborn.

She had reassured herself by listening to the baby’s heartbeat but an urgent ultrasound showed the baby had died in the womb.

Doctors believed the patient had been picking up her own heartbeat or placental blood flow with the device.

However, the monitors being piloted by Cwm Taf are not used for high-risk mothers and are only used with the supervision of the hospital.

A Cwm Taf spokesperson said: “We don’t use monitors with any high-risk mums, who are always seen in hospital.

“This technology however offers reassurance to lower-risk mums-to-be and is in ‘real time’ so the midwife or clinician sees the heart trace at the exact time the mum is using it so if there are any concerns they can be brought in to the hospital straightaway.”

Rachel Fielding, head of midwifery, gynaecology and sexual health at Cwm Taf University Health Board said: “In Cwm Taf we are embracing technology and new innovations to not only help improve the quality of care for women, but also their quality of life.

“The remote monitoring system gives mums-to-be, who have been identified as having a need for closer observation and monitoring of their baby in pregnancy, the reassurance they need that all is well, without having to make long and often stressful journeys to hospital when they don’t need to.

“The technology, which is really simple to use, allows them to do a trace of their baby’s heart rate at home and send it via Bluetooth and a mobile phone to the midwife at the hospital, who can view it in real time and then discuss the ongoing plan with the obstetric team.

“It identifies any problems straight away which may then require admission to hospital, but mostly supports the women to stay in the comfort of their home when all is well, inbetween their regular hospital visits.”

 

The Knowledge

Local taxi drivers could soon have a to take a driver knowledge test, as part of plans being considered by Rhondda Cynon Taf council .

At the moment, people who want to apply for a Joint Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle drivers' licence must achieve a BTEC qualification - in Transporting Passengers - which was a requirement introduced in February 2013.

Prospective taxi drivers must also provide a satisfactory medical, pass a DVLA check on their driving history and provide a Disclosure and Barring Service check.

Now, in a report by Louse Davies - RCT's head of environmental health, trading standards and community safety - it is revealed that the local authority will consider adding the driver knowledge test.

It will "further improve customer experience", match the policy of neighbouring Cardiff and Caerphilly councils, and address "poor local knowledge and the communication skills" of people applying to be taxi drivers.

The report says: "The aim of the driver knowledge test is to further enhance the protection of public safety and provide public reassurance.

"This in turn will ensure a more professional customer service is delivered to taxi/ private hire vehicle users.

"There has been a rise in the number of 'out of area' applications and changes in market forces.

"In the absence of a local knowledge test there is an expressed perception from applicants that it is easier and cheaper to licence as a driver in RCT than with other local authorities.

"The driver knowledge test introduction will address poor local knowledge and the communication skills of potential applicants."

If agreed, the test will have to be passed as a pre-application requirement - and will cost the applicant around £30 to cover the cost to the council of administering the scheme.

RCT council's cabinet members will discuss the proposal on Thursday, February 16.

 

If you're a dog owner in Rhondda Cynon Taff, a huge clampdown could be coming your way

You'll be able to have your say on increased fines, dog bans on sports fields and schools, and fines if owners don't carry bags

There could soon be a big clampdown on dog fouling in Rhondda Cynon Taff - including potential fines for pet owners who don't carry bags to pick up dog mess.

Also being considered are bans for dogs on marked sports pitches and schools, a requirement for them to be kept on leads in playgrounds and cemeteries, and an increase in the maximum fine for irresponsible owners.

Separate suggestions for a clampdown have been put forward by the Labour-led council and the Plaid Cymru opposition group.

Plaid, at the end of January, revealed to us that their proposed action is one of its main pledges if they took office following the local election in May.

The RCT Plaid group said it would take immediate steps to introduce a £75 fine for those who can't prove they have a bag, or other means, to pick up dog mess - if they are questioned by a council officer.

They include highlighting areas where dogs would be banned (marked sports pitches and schools) and where they must be put on leads (council playgrounds and cemeteries), as well as an increase in dog fouling fines to a maximum of £100.

People will also be asked about the requirement for people to carry dog bags, or other means of picking up dog mess.

Pauline Jarman, councillor for Mountain Ash East, said Plaid's announcement came about after an online survey revealed that 95% of participants are concerned about dog mess on streets and public places, and 74% are very concerned.

She added that 69% of people who responded to the survey believe the amount of dog mess has increased and that communities want to see more action on the matter in RCT.

The leader of the local Plaid group said: “The proposed new rule is designed to target the irresponsible dog owners who fail to pick up dog mess because they do not carry the means to do so.

“Enforcement officers will have the authority to approach any dog walker and ask them to produce evidence that they either have bags or other means to clean up if the dog should foul.

"The offence is committed if the dog walker is unable to show the enforcement officer that they have that means.

“Most dog walkers would be able to satisfy the enforcement officers that they have the means to clean up should their dog foul because they carry sufficient bags.

“A Plaid Cymru-controlled council would trigger the public consultation shortly after they took office in May. Public opinion will valued and be fully taken into account.”

Meanwhile, the council's cabinet members will consider starting a public consultation to get residents' views on a wide range of dog fouling issues.

Andrew Morgan, leader of the council, said: “The issue of dog fouling has been a prevalent one, particularly over the last year to 18 months, and one which we have tried to tackle through awareness-raising, enforcement where necessary, provision of free dog bags and the installation of a number of new dog bins across the county borough every year.

“Recent engagement with residents at consultation events and feedback received via social media has consistently flagged up dog fouling as an issue and unfortunately it is clear that there are still some irresponsible dog owners who refuse to clean up after their dogs - and it can’t continue.

“Unfortunately there are some who don’t even carry dog bags with them when they walk their dogs.

"In this instance officers currently provide bags free-of-charge to encourage them to clean up after their dogs, but the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order would allow the council to be much tougher on irresponsible dog owners."

Councillor Joy Rosser, RCT cabinet member for prosperity, well-being and communities, added: “There are a range of options available to councils and we want to seek the views of residents regarding what measures they would like to see introduced in RCT to tackle this issue.

“In the meantime we are grateful for the support of South Wales Police who have agreed to a major joint enforcement operation involving dozens of police and council enforcement staff aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour - which includes dog fouling."

 

Here's when free parking and reduced charges will start across five Rhondda Cynon Taff towns
People in Aberdare, Pontypridd, Porth, Mountain Ash and Tonypandy will soon benefit

Free or reduced parking across five Rhondda Cynon Taff towns will come into force in two months' time.

During January, RCT council's cabinet members agreed to introduce the measures in a bid to boost the local economy - going beyond recommendations to reduce the charges in Porth, Mountain Ash and Tonypandy by abolishing the fees.

The reduced fees - including a 50p short stay of one hour (down from 75p) and £1 two-hour stays (down from £1.50) - will still come into force in Aberdare and Pontypridd.

Long stays will also be reduced from £2.50 to £2 in Aberdare and Pontypridd, along with monthly permits from £37.50 to £20, annual permits from £375 to £200, and all-day Saturday parking from £2.50 to £1.
The changes will start from April

It has now been confirmed all of the changes will come into effect from Saturday, April 1.

RCT council leader Andrew Morgan, writing in his latest blog on the council website, said: "Significant reductions in charges were agreed for our key town centres of Aberdare and Pontypridd and charges will be removed in Mountain Ash, Tonypandy and Porth from April 1.

"We fully recognise that the trader environment for local shops and businesses is the most challenging it has ever been and the rationale for this decision was simple – to encourage more residents to opt to shop locally in our town centres, to improve local trade and to boost the local economy.

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