Appendix 2: Activities and achievements
1.1 Our first activity was the Community Renewable Energy Project. This is establishing
a number of small community-based water, wind, solar and wood-fuel schemes and is
working towards a strategy for “greening” the local energy economy. It has brought
around ?300,000 into the local economy and raised awareness of energy issues, as
well as placing the Dyfi valley at the forefront of involving local people with renewable
energy. Its activities also strengthen a „cluster‟ of specialist businesses, which are
important to the local economy. Main funders are the European Commission (ERDF
5b), the Welsh Development Agency and the Shell Better Britain Campaign. Powys
County Council and Dulas Ltd provide invaluable support. The work will be continued
through several new European-funded projects being co-ordinated by Powys Energy
Agency. The WDA and CCW are supporting these and ecodyfi will receive a fee. 1.2 Ecodyfi‟s Sustainable Tourism Project began in June 2001 and employs Teresa
Walters part-time. It is establishing the first tourism association for the area and
developing and promoting sustainable and community tourism. It is funded by the
Wales Tourist Board, ELWa and Powys and Gwynedd Councils. We succeeded in
obtaining “Rural Tourism Growth Area” status for the valley from the Wales Tourist
Board and will be centrally involved in managing the resulting action plan. 1.3 Ecodyfi established and operates the Dyfi Solar Club and is a partner in the Brecon
Beacons Solar Club. It has received Environment Wales funding to expand the service
into the rest of Powys. These Clubs facilitate solar water heating installations managed
by the householders themselves - including training those who wish to install their
system themselves. We are increasing the number of heating engineers competent in
1.4 Ecodyfi was a partner with the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in delivering a
“Forest Quality” project, to assess stakeholders‟ views of the wooded landscape and
look for opportunities for improvement.
1.5 We have received Environment Wales and Powys County Council funding to begin
working on waste minimisation. We are working with the Centre for Alternative
Technology to promote home composting and with Ysgol Glantwymyn on a school
project. Grant-aid for a follow-on project is being negotiated with Environment Wales,
Powys County Council and Enfys.
1.6 We carried out an initial community consultation exercise during August and
September 2001 in the Glantwymyn community council area, funded by JIGSO. This
identified individuals willing to get involved in the two main issues which emerged –
namely, waste minimisation and local produce.
1.7 Our members have played a significant role in cycling development, including
helping to organise the Machynlleth & Dyfi valley Cyclefest.
1.8 The organisation and the area have benefited from significant exposure in the media
and at conferences. These include a dedicated programme in Radio 4‟s Changing
Places series, a feature in Green Futures magazine and presentations to the Planning
Inspectorate, the National Assembly Sustainable Energy Group and conferences
organised by Pembrokeshire National Park and the Centre for Sustainable Energy for
local authorities and others.
1.9 Our website www.ecodyfi.org.uk is about to be launched. We intend to develop it into
a major promotional tool for the area and its businesses.
Project ideas suggested in response to DEVP consultations spring 2002
FEAS needs professional feasibility study
ENT potential for new social or private sector enterprise
CAP significant capital expenditure
TGA may come within action plan for Dyfi rural Tourism Growth Area CC suggested by a Town or Community Council
Cymad Cymad already working on this proposal
Whole-valley or not specific in location
; “Ecodovey notion – a new look at access to the countryside?” (product and marketing
ideas relevant to tourism) TGA
; Paths along river banks as a tourism asset TGA
; Road signs & information points at valley boundary TGA
; Joint initiative between farming and tourism interests e.g. cycling TGA ; “Green” tourism generally (x3) TGA
; Promote and support sustainable tourism based on land assets TGA ; “Dyfinet” (wire-less broadband access) and stimulation of value-creating activities to take
advantage of it e.g. video, IT and other media businesses, with possibility of consultancy
and installation service FEAS, ENT, CAP
; An association or agency for small businesses offering building services (e.g. architectural,
building, plumbing, heating, electrics) to enable larger jobs to be tackled and make skills-
sharing (including apprenticeships) more likely
; Provision of a “shop-front”, client meeting space and administrative services for the
members of such a building association
; Lime and hemp in buildings – market development / technical development / showcase
activities / local growing of suitable cultivars ENT, FEAS? ; Exploring relationship between economic development and spiritual / personal
; Local enterprise agency – business support including training
; Proactive business linking – annual visits to promote inter-trading
; Organisation of Welsh entertainment for visitors (x2) TGA, CC ; Hotel large enough for coach parties FEAS, ENT, CAP, TGA, CC ; “Farming Century” interpretation and demonstration of 100 years of farming methods on a
farm FEAS, ENT, CAP, TGA, CC
; A rare breeds centre FEAS, ENT, CAP
; Promote and support conversions to organic farming
; Strengthen papurau bro e.g. part-time professional editor post ; Integrated bus and rail transport with interchangeable tickets ; Better public transport (x3)
; Village recycling sites
; Athletic Club for young people
; Free PR / marketing service for businesses
; Permanent display of goods available in the area
; Wood-fired power station FEAS, CAP
; Connect all properties to the electricity grid or provide an alternative CAP
; Market travel / accommodation / activities packages FEAS, ENT, TGA ; Non-profit company to oversee local slaughter, processing, packaging, distribution and
marketing of local lamb and beef FEAS?, ENT, CAP?, CC ; Marketing of products and services of small local businesses CC ; Buying agent for small shops to increase buying power CC ; A “green” conference centre FEAS, TGA
; Smokehouse for seafood (mackeral) and sheep FEAS, ENT, CAP ; Local brewery FEAS, ENT, CAP
; Encourage and train for self-build housing
; Car-share system
; New experimental settlements, eco-housing estates CAP ; “Co-operative” or similar retail outlet for local produce FEAS
; Subsidised childcare (x2)
; Increase understanding that sustainability isn‟t just an environmental issue
; Play facilities
; Incubator workshops in Talybont CAP
; Make more of RSPB Ynyshir
; Develop Corris Railway e.g. rolling stock (x3) CAP ; Improve Corris Institute CAP
; Slate trails around in Corris area, including former railbed from Corris to Aberllefenni –
interpret and market CC
; Llyn Cob (environmental improvements and interpretation at Aberllefenni) ; Corris area recycling facilities
; Workshop space in Pantperthog chapel FEAS, CAP
; Timber mill at Pantperthog FEAS, ENT
; Upgrade play areas at Corris
; Mountain bike trails around Corris with FE CC
; Enhance Corris Youth Club CC
; Cycle and footpaths around Dinas Mawddwy Cymad, TGA
; Develop work spaces for wood-related businesses on Council yard at Dinas Mawddwy
; Interpretative Centre for the Mawddwy area, possibly with workshops / artisans at work on
the same site FEAS, CAP, TGA
; Llanbrynmair Moors “re-moorification” with associated wildlife tourism Cymad
; Bus shelter and real-time display of vehicle movements in Pennal CAP ; Cycle / footpath across the river at Dyfi junction
; Recycling bank at Pennal (x2)
; Community composting scheme at Pennal
; Higher rail platform at Aberdyfi station CAP
; Community garden in Upper Corris
; Mach Teenzone (wheeled facility) CAP
; Machynlleth Foyer CAP
; Manage Cwmllinau Common
; Replace play facilities at Cwmllinau
; Restore footpath by stream in Cwmllinau
; Refurbish Cwmllinau village hall
; Community-owned petrol station around Llanbrynmair FEAS, ENT, CC ; Non-profit company to develop housing for local need on serviced sites at Dolfach and
Llanwrin FEAS?, ENT, CAP, CC
; Develop high-spec offices on former Llanbrynmair Highways Depot as teleworking
“satellite” sites for large companies FEAS, CC, CAP
; “American Connection Centre” to interpret the emigrations and assist those tracing their
roots FEAS, ENT, CAP, TGA, CC
; “Wind energy interpretation centre” with minibus tours at Llanbrynmair or Glantwymyn
FEAS, ENT, CAP, TGA, CC
; Wooden Castle / Fort at Tafolwern, Llanbrynmair (unstaffed attraction paid for through
tokens) FEAS, ENT, CAP, TGA, CC
; “The Judge‟s Residence” at Plas Llwyn Owen in Bont Dolgadfan (visitor attraction with
mobile audio interpretation) FEAS, ENT, CAP, TGA, CC ; Upgrade village hall at Aberhosan e.g. toilets
; All-weather floodlit sports pitch at Machynlleth (x2) CAP ; Cyfeiliog History Project – visitor centre at Aberhosan (ICT-based interpretation of
Wynnstay Estate) FEAS, CAP, TGA
; Make more of Owain Glyndŵr connection; upgrade the Parliament House exhibition (x2)
; Build banks along lower Dyfi to prevent flooding CAP
; Refurbish the abandoned Guides building behind Station Garage in Machynlleth
; A “Town Hall” with sound-proofed concert hall and meeting room CAP
; Re-open stations at Glantwymyn and Llanbrynmair CAP
; Pathway from Bont Bricks to Station Garage at Llanbrynmair
Dyfi Eco Valley
The Dyfi Valley
; Section 1 describes the valley and starts to tease out some of the socio-economic factors at work.
; In Section 2, employment by industry data provide the basis for a discussion of change in the local economy.
; Section 3 examines the levels of community, drawing on both location and socio-economic approaches.
; Section 4 justifies the use of the term rural.
; Section 5 is concerned with models of economic development.
There is no dispute over whether the Dyfi valley is a “rural” area, but examining the extent to
which it is a “community” is more complex. Likewise, “economic development” can mean different things to different people. This report draws on statistics from the 1991 Census and other sources to relate these terms to the Dyfi Valley.
SECTION 1 THE DYFI VALLEY
The Dyfi river starts its journey at Aran Fawddwy, in the south-eastern corner of Snowdonia National Park. Its wide estuary encompasses the contrasting yet equally popular resorts of Aberdyfi and Borth as well as internationally important wetlands and dune systems. The communities clustering around its many tributaries form part of today‟s Mid Wales, but are right on the dividing line for traditionalists who think of Wales as comprising North and South.
The land area of the whole river catchment is some 650 km2. The northern part is separated
from the rugged Cadair Idris range only by Talyllyn lake, while the southern portion rises strongly towards the more rounded Pumlumon range. To the east, however, it‟s the gentle
Montgomeryshire lowlands which lie the other side of the Talerddig pass.
For the purpose of this assignment, the Dyfi Valley will be taken to comprise the following Community Council areas:
; In Gwynedd - Aberdyfi, Pennal, Corris and Mawddwy
; In Powys - Machynlleth, Cadfarch, Glantwymyn, Llanbrynmair
; In Ceredigion - Llangynfelin, Borth, Genau‟r Glyn, Ceulanamaesmawr, Ysguborycoed.
It should be noted at the outset that this is a generous definition of the Dyfi Valley. In the north west, Aberdyfi (despite its name) is often separated from the rest of the valley - sometimes coupled instead with its rival just around the coast, Tywyn. In the south, Borth, Genau‟r Glyn and even Ceulanamaesmawr could all justifiably be left out if the criteria were primarily economic and social rather than geophysical.
The former depopulation of the area has been reversed of late. Machynlleth, for example, saw a 1.75% increase between 1981 and 1991. This disguises, however, two opposing trends common in rural Wales: a continuing net outflow of 15 - 24 year-olds is set against increases in the oldest age groups. This latter trend is due mainly to in-migration from England.
There has also been a significant inflow of younger people, many of whom have been encouraged by the existence of the Centre for Alternative Technology.
Although the proportion of people who speak Welsh has declined, the area remains part of the “Welsh heartlands”. There is considerable variation in this ability, from 30% in Aberdyfi and 44% in Borth to 75% in the mid and upper Dyfi. Some 60% of people in Machynlleth town, Corris and north Ceredigion
are Welsh speakers.
Unemployment rates in the Machynlleth travel to work area are generally the second highest in Powys. Rates are higher in the Dolgellau area (which includes the Meirionnydd part of the valley), but these are still lower than the Welsh average (Digest). Economic activity is described in a later section.
1.3 Administration and communications
There are just over 12,000 people living in the Dyfi Valley, in some 5,000 households. Machynlleth, with a population of 2,000, is the main town and focus. Almost as many, however, live in the two southernmost Community Council areas of Borth and Genau‟r Glyn (combined). 40% of the population lives in Powys (though they generally still owe their allegiance to the former county of Montgomeryshire). Ceredigion and Gwynedd claim 30% each.
Living where three counties meet - and some considerable distance from the political centres of gravity of these local authorities - many people feel remote from where decisions are taken. Most of the Gwynedd area within the Dyfi Valley is past of the Snowdonia National Park. Corris was left out because of the scars left by a history of slate quarrying.
Machynlleth is the focus of the local railway system. The two arms of the Cambrian Coast meet the line to Newtown (and England) here and it has the highest concentration of railway employees on the line. Its famous town clock at the T junction in the middle of town, however, marks the boundary between bus administrative areas. Bws Gwynedd supports a good level
of service (for a rural area) towards the north, but Powys is more sparsely served. Those waiting for connections do not have the benefit of shelters.
It is worth noting that 22.4% of households in the valley do not have a car, despite the difficulty of relying on a public transport system where many villages only have one bus a day - and none in school holidays.
Lon Las Cymru, the Wales National Cycle Route, passes through the area. Machynlleth will host one of the flagship Millennium Bridges to carry walkers and cyclists safely over a new Dyfi crossing. This is awakening interest which fits well with the Dyfi‟s strong UK-wide
reputation in the growing sport of the Triathlon.
Strong community support, expressed through the “Friends” organisation, has helped the District Hospital to survive reviews of several medical services in recent years, but not the separate Machynlleth and Corris Hospital, which was built by public subscription earlier this century. Fierce local pride has sustained its conversion to a multi-purpose Health Centre, run by a local independent Trust. It houses a Citizen‟s Advice Bureau and a self-help group for
the mentally ill, amongst other services.
The primary schools are all Welsh-medium and many have associated pre-school groups run by Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin. They feed the second-smallest secondary school in the UK, Ysgol Bro Ddyfi, which maintains streams in both languages. Some parents prefer to send their children to the English-medium school in Aberystwyth, partly because of the wider curricular choice there and partly in a search for a more academic culture. Further Education requires a journey of at least 15 miles - to Aberystwyth, Dolgellau or Newtown. The independent Children‟s Project has established shining examples of voluntary sector Nurseries, Holiday and After School Clubs. Several organisations offer adult education, with mixed success.
Despite the existence of a Youth Club, Scouts, Guides and Woodcraft Folk, there is a common perception that facilities for young people in Machynlleth are poor. A snooker club meets in the voluntarily-run Owain Glyndwr Institute and the Leisure Centre is very good for such a small population. However, the main meeting place (the Drill Hall) and the Scout Hut are both sub-standard. Young Farmers‟ Clubs provide the main youth focus out of town.
The Tabernacl cultural centre, located in a converted chapel, is a remarkable asset for a small town. It has been established through voluntary effort and one family‟s patronage. It houses the Welsh Museum of Modern Art as well as a concert auditorium and teaching spaces. There are five Welsh-medium choirs in the valley as well as two community choirs who attract mainly English-speakers. Many people are involved in social activities based around Women‟s Institutes, Merched y Wawr, chapels and the usual range of clubs and societies.
SECTION 2 THE LOCAL ECONOMY
The area continues to face the challenge of a shift in emphasis from primary industries to a service-based economy, whilst maintaining a significant manufacturing sector. This is reflected in the balance of occupations shown in the Appendix and described below.
2.1 Primary industries
Almost a quarter of the workforce is employed in the primary industries: the great majority of these are in agriculture; small numbers are in forestry, quarrying, energy and water supply; and hardly anybody is employed in the fishing industry. The comparable figure for the former Development Board for Rural Wales area is 13.9%, indicating that the Dyfi valley is much more dependent on agriculture than is Rural Wales as a whole.
This is primarily because the representation of agriculture in the DBRW area is “diluted” by
large non-agricultural workforces in the towns. Indeed, this can be seen within the valley: Machynlleth has only 3.7% of its residents employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing. Some correlation between the proportion of the workforce engaged in these industries and the size of settlements can be traced in the other Community Council areas. The five areas which are within Powys and Gwynedd but exclude Machynlleth and Aberdyfi contain only small villages and collectively have a comparable workforce of 31.6%.
This argument should not be taken too far, however. As we shall see later, factors such as proximity to towns and concentrations of tourism businesses confuse such a simple correlation. It is not possible, therefore, to use the proportion of employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing as an indicator of fine degrees of rurality within areas. At a grosser level, however, it is useful. The Wales figure, for example, is a mere 2.2%. The “DBRW” figure is 9.5%.
The shift away from the primary sector began early in the century with the decline of the extractive industries - primarily of slate in the Corris/Aberllefenni valleys. The local slate quarries came late to a market already dominated by north Wales and only one of the former ten quarries has had the quality of product and the management tenacity to survive. 2.1.2 Agriculture
Agriculture is dominated by hill farming of sheep on poor quality land. Margins have always been poor for these small family-run units and recent falls in incomes are threatening their survival. Many have been diversifying into tourism and leisure, mainly through bed and breakfast operations but also through farm visits, quad trecking and a shooting ground. Some have obtained rental income from wind energy developments and others are managing small native woodlands and marketing their products with the help of Coed Cymru.
Commercial forestry is a major land use. Most of it was planted 25-35 years ago and is due for felling. Timber prices for pulp have fallen to levels where extraction is close to being unprofitable on some sites. This is due to over-supply in the market (partly because of recycling in the UK, the US and Germany) and to concentration of the processing industry into a few companies.
2.1.4 Economic development strategies
Although these primary industries are aware of the desirability of adding value to their products by processing them before they leave the local economy, not much of this occurs. Oddly, while the slate quarry manufactures monumental and other items, the several craft businesses in Corris don‟t include a worker of smaller slate items. There is a part-time
abattoir in Machynlleth but new supervisory requirements threaten its viability. The next nearest facility is in Llanidloes, but much livestock is killed further afield. Only one of the two small sawmills is still operating, though several farmers have facilities for planking.
Quality is the other issue to be receiving attention by the more far-sighted operators. For example, the local abattoir raises the possibility of obtaining a premium for meat which can be traced from birth to shop. The two organic vegetable growers cannot satisfy demand and buy in much of their produce.
„Rachel‟s Dairy‟ illustrates the potential for diversification, adding value and emphasising quality. Brynllys, near Borth, has always been farmed organically. Starting from the processing of milk which was surplus to quota, the organic yogurt (and other dairy products) business has grown rapidly. It now supplies supermarkets across the UK from its factory in Aberystwyth and struggles to source enough milk from other organic farmers to meet demand. Business expansion has concentrated on this, rather than on the educational farm visits business which they also entered.
Locally, energy represents a growth sector. Most of the activity is in renewable energy services, but there is also some generation. The prevalent model for wind farms, however, replicates the pattern familiar in rural areas: international capital funds the development, creates some local employment, but also repatriates most of the profit. An alternative model is being promoted by the Dyfi Eco Valley Partnership. Its Community Renewable Energy project seeks to stimulate community-based developments which maximise local investment and benefit. It also seeks to reduce the “leakage” to the local economy which results from most expenditure on energy. As such, it is an example of attempts to increase the robustness of a rural economy through increased self-reliance.