Concerns about anti-social behaviour remain a big Vale talking point

By Ted Peskett - Local Democracy Reporter

30th Jun 2024 | Local News

James Christopher, 76, said Cowbridge is "lovely" and has few issues with where he lives, but described the national political picture as a "shambles".
James Christopher, 76, said Cowbridge is "lovely" and has few issues with where he lives, but described the national political picture as a "shambles".

People in the Vale of Glamorgan say they are on edge about anti-social behaviour and some are worried about the level of housebuilding in their area.

These are the answers we got from people when the Local Democracy Reporting service went to two major towns in the county, Barry and Cowbridge, and asked people what concerned them the most and what they would like to see change with a general election on the horizon.

The two towns represent the divide that exists in the county, with Barry being one of the most deprived in Wales and Cowbridge being one of the most affluent.

Residents who we spoke to in Barry, including one who said he'd seen an older woman punched in the face whilst in the town centre this year, said they would like to see the police come down harder on crime and disorder.

Vale of Glamorgan Council worked in partnership with South Wales Police and other emergency services last year to tackle crime and safety concerns in the county.

During 2023, Operation Elstree resulted in 95 responsive actions, including responding to anti-social behaviour, irresponsible car parking, fly-tipping and water safety concerns.

The campaign was brought back this year, but people are still concerned about the impact that crime is having on residents and businesses.

"They just seem to run riot," said Noel Jones, who lives and works in Barry.

"There is no parental guidance.

"There were a few periods where we were having to lock our doors… you do feel on edge and nervous all the time."

South Wales Police inspector, Gareth Childs, said the force was getting on top of anti-social behaviour in Barry in January, 2024.

The police inspector told members of Vale of Glamorgan Council's community liaison committee that the issue of anti-social behaviour was raised by shopkeepers in Holton Road in 2023 and that ringleaders had been identified and dealt with.

However, he added that dispersing the issue caused it to move elsewhere.

According to police data, there were 37 reports of crime in relation to Holton Road between November, 2022, and November, 2023.

Of those, five were recorded as anti-social behaviour, eight as criminal damage, one as burglary and one as shoplifting.

Marnie Adams, who lives in Rhoose but works in Barry, said anti-social behaviour caused a lot issues for businesses, especially on Barry Island.

"They are vile. [The police need to] come down harder. You see them driving around all the time – there is plenty of police."

The issue is an important one for people in the area as they look towards the next general election, set for Thursday, July 4.

Many people who we spoke to in Barry seemed disillusioned with politics, with some saying they would not vote at all.

Marnie said: "I have always voted Labour until the last [general election]. I don't really want to vote for any of them.

"I don't know what is true and what is not, so I have no idea who I am going to vote for.

"It is like children in a playground… they are arguing and calling each other names… just fighting each other [instead of] changing the country."

Angela Lee and her daughter, Jessica Lee, both live in Barry and agreed that anti-social behaviour was an issue they would like to see addressed.

They also said many shops in the town centre had closed and that it could be difficult to get a doctor appointment in town.

Just some of the former shops that remain empty in Holton Road include the old Wilkos and the Ty Hafan charity shop.

Broad Street Clinic is another building not too far away that residents have called an eyesore in the past.

Vale of Glamorgan Council's cabinet agreed to endorse a project to regenerate Barry town centre in June, 2021, which will involve replacing Broad Street Clinic and developing affordable housing, subject to planning approval.

More recently, the local authority said it appointed consultants, AECOM, and architects, Austin Smith Lord, to undertake a detailed feasibility study and prepare a master plan for the scheme.

Another issue that Angela, 52, raised was the cost-of-living crisis. At the moment, she is on Universal Credit and said that for every £1 she earned, 55p was taken off for that.

She said: "It has been hard. There have been times when we have had to go to food banks… but at the moment we are okay."

"Nobody else is going to help us so we may as well just do it [ourselves]."

The family has had to rely on the generosity of others a number of times.

Angela said she once had to borrow money from her boss in order to fix her fridge freezer after it suddenly broke, causing the family to also lose all the food inside.

"That was really hard," she added.

"The cost of food now… before Covid, you could get quite a bit with £10. I used to spend between £20-£30 a week.

"I am now spending [about] £50… a week and it just doesn't go anywhere."

Jessica, 28, said: "I would say we are okay because we have had lots of experience of poverty so we have learnt to manage our money."

Vale of Glamorgan is often described as a bellwether seat in the elections and is closely fought between Labour and the Conservatives.

In 2019, it was Conservative candidate Alun Ciarns who won and this year he will be looking to defend his seat.

The Vale of Glamorgan was one of the counties with the lowest percentages of localities in the 10% most deprived areas in Wales according to information from the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprevation (WIMD) in 2019.

The study, which took into account a number of factors including education, health, employment, income and access to services, showed that Barry had parts that were in the top 10% most deprived areas of Wales.

Parts of the rural Vale, like Cowbridge, were ranked among the 10% least deprived areas of Wales.

In Cowbridge, it was hard to come by any particular local issues that people really wanted to see changed.

James Christopher, 76, said: "I have only been here for a few years, but there is always something going on all the time.

"It is lovely and it is quiet."

In terms of accessing healthcare, James said the GP service in town was "perfect" and "brilliant", adding that there had been two instances recently where he had phoned up and secured an appointment on the same day.

However, he did say that for more specialist treatment there were long waiting lists and he knew many who had opted for private healthcare as a result.

Talking about the state of the country more generally ahead of the elections in July, James said: "Everything is a shambles at the moment.

"I have voted Conservative for… many years, but at the moment I think it is a waste of a vote."

One Cowbridge resident, aged 79, who wished to remain anonymous said: "I have been a true loyal supporter for the Conservatives my whole adult life, but now I am confused because everyone is promising so much and where is the money coming from?"

The resident said a key issue she would like to see addressed was how long it took to get a referral for treatment at the doctors, adding: "I am fortunate because I go private, but there are lots of people who can't do that."

One local issue that was brought up when talking to people living in Cowbridge was the amount of housebuilding going on there.

As part of Vale of Glamorgan Council's blueprint for future planning – something called a local development plan (LDP) – land to the northwest of Cowbridge was earmarked for 475 new homes.

Plans for 169 homes for this site were approved in 2017 and in 2018 the council's planning committee also granted permission for the development of a further 306 homes.

There are plans to build 105 homes on land between Windmill Lane and St Athan Road to the south of the town.

Other smaller developments that have since been approved include plans for 34 new homes on the site of the former Cowbridge Comprehensive School Sixth Form building on Aberthin Road and plans for 50 independent living apartments on Darren Farm.

"How can the surgeries support it?" said one resident.

Another Cowbridge resident who also wished to remain anonymous said: "I have lived here for 65 years. The main thing I do want to see… since they have sold so many houses around here, is the amount of traffic [sorted]."

Every constituency in Wales apart from Ynys Mon (Anglesey) has changed ahead of this year's general election.

The changes to the constituencies, aimed at making all Westminster seats the same size, leaves Wales with 32 seats instead of 40.

Vale of Glamorgan is getting smaller and losing about 8% to neighbouring constituency, Cardiff South and Penarth.

The other candidates running for Vale of Glamorgan in the elections on July 4 include:

  • Stuart Field (Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party)
  • Ian James Johnson (Plaid Cymru)
  • Lynden Mack (Green Party)
  • Kanishka Narayan (Labour)
  • Steven Rajam (Lib Dem)
  • Toby Rhodes-Matthews (Reform UK)
  • Steven Sluman (Independent)

You can find more information on elections on Vale of Glamorgan Council's website at www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/en/our_council/Council-Structure/Elections/Elections.aspx

     

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