Mon, 3 Oct 2011 Taro Naw


Mon, 3 Oct 2011

Materion cyfoes o Gymru a'r byd. Current affairs from Wales and the world.


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Transcript


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Good evening and welcome to Taro 9.

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One of Wales's treasures is about to be sold...

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..to a company that provides water for Liverpool.

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But the local community and Wales's politicians say...

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..they've been ignored and are concerned about the future.

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I don't want these places only to provide water to England.

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888

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For the last century, providing water to England's cities...

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..has been a controversial part of Wales's history.

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The Vyrnwy Estate is the latest to be in the headlines.

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It follows 12 months of uncertainty...

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..after the estate was put up for sale last year.

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As the British Government prepare plans for future water usage...

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..some are asking is providing water to England taking priority...

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..over the lives of Welsh people?

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I made it clear, in no uncertain terms, how fed up we were...

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..with the appalling conditions on the estate...

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..and the lack of interest by Severn Trent.

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They've failed in not even coming to talk to us.

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We want to go down to Severn Trent offices...

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..they're sitting on their behinds, and give them a hard time of it.

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I'm 70-years-old but I'm willing to go down there.

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The faces speak volumes.

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This is the ninth meeting in a year for the people of Llanwddyn.

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It's the ninth time the estate owners have failed to turn up.

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They're not listening.

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We haven't got a voice.

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Nobody's listening to what we say.

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They're accusing Severn Trent of allowing the estate to deteriorate..

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..and of having only one interest.

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Water has brought destruction and prosperity here for 100 years.

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The old Llanwddyn can only be seen in photographs.

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It was destroyed by Liverpool in the 19th Century...

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..to provide water for its people and industries.

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Another village and dam were built that changed the landscape.

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It was Europe's largest artificial lake.

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They say you can see it from Space.

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It was one of the most pioneering engineering projects of its day.

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Liverpool saw it is as almost a foreign ownership.

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They saw the community as their responsibility.

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You can see this in the city's records.

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They felt they had a paternal responsibility...

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..over the people who lived there.

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People like Brian Ellis. He's a tenant farmer on the estate.

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He's been dependant on the estate throughout his life.

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I've walked every inch of it while rounding up sheep here.

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I left school and saw the Land Agent...

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..who gave me a job as a painter and decorator.

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I worked for the water gang.

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Shortly after, I went to work on the farm.

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There came a turning point after the industry was reorganised in '74.

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Responsibility for the supply went to North West Water Authority...

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..who supplied Liverpool.

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Severn Trent took over the estate and the reservoir.

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They were responsible for the local area.

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Severn Trent took it over and I remember a meeting in the village.

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In that meeting they said, "Nothing will change.

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"The only change you'll see is a different name on a pay packet."

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There used to be 90 people working on the estate back then.

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There's nobody here now.

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This is an environmental treasure and as the owners' role changed...

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..the RSPB came in to protect the area.

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Their vision is to protect wildlife and ensure people can enjoy it.

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The charity controls half the estate including the largest farm.

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Cyril Roberts worked as a shepherd for the RSPB and Severn Trent.

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He's concerned the village built to replace the drowned one...

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..is also dying.

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At one time, everyone who lived in these houses worked for the estate?

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Oh, yes. When I came here many years ago in 1974...

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..there were more than 80 working for the estate.

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The school was full of children.

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There were 60 pupils here when my children attended the school.

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Things have gone down since then.

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It went downhill and the school has been closed for two years.

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At least 18 months.

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But there isn't any work here.

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There are some jobs in the hotel and a few on the farm.

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None of the local men work here now.

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Some blame the lack of maintenance work done by Severn Trent.

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It's been a private company since the 80s and has its HQ in Coventry.

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Tourists now create work in the area.

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There are concerns the deterioration could affect the tourist industry.

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The owner of a local B&B says it's been getting worse for years.

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Look at this.

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There are about 20, even more, right down this road.

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They are dangerous.

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If a bike's front wheel gets caught, someone will get hurt.

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Another thing, if you come over here.

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This fence is rusty.

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If a child runs his hand on this he'll get hurt.

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They should clean them up and paint them.

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It would look so much better for people who stay here...

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..if it was nice and white.

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The lack of investment can be seen clearer around the lake.

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A number of farms that used to be homes are now empty.

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Family life here is just a memory.

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This is the perfect place for a home with the lake behind you.

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A beautiful spot to raise children.

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But this house, Llechwedd Ddu, is empty and crumbling.

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Just like many other houses on the estate, it's nearly a ruin.

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Despite concerns about the company's disinterest in the estate...

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..residents were given a shock last summer.

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I always asked the agent questions.

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"Give it time, everything will be alright."

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One Sunday I received a letter saying the place was up for sale.

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I wasn't told anything before that.

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Surveys were done. "What's it for?" "Oh, just routine."

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The surveys were done for perspective buyers.

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The estate's lease for the next 125 years was on the market.

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£11 million for 20,000 acres of a beautiful area...

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..that had been split into four parts.

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Included were agricultural land, the RSPB farm...

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..5,000 acres of forestry and more than 30 buildings...

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..which are homes, businesses and farms.

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Local people wanted to know more and public meetings were held.

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There was no sign of Severn Trent to answer their concerns.

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The RSPB wanted to make an offer for part of the lease.

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We've made an offer for lots one and two...

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..which include the farm we manage.

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We've done a lot of conservation work there as well.

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Those are the lots where are our interests lie...

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..and where we do most of the work.

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Rhys Jones, originally from Bala, also wanted the lease.

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He's a millionaire who has his business in Europe.

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He wanted to create jobs.

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We want to invest in it and build things like stone walls...

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..things that won't give us any return.

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We want to attract biking and canoeing and use the lake.

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He had local support.

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Rhys Jones.

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Why's that?

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He's Welsh and so is nearer to my heart as he's from Bala.

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He will look after the local people and the area.

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I like him.

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An opinion poll was conducted by the community council...

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..to find out what local people favoured.

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Top of the list was investment and job creation.

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Many were unhappy with Severn Trent.

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Some wanted the lease given to Rhys Jones.

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Others criticized the RSPB's work, which was unfair and unfounded..

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..according to the charity.

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Severn Trent refused an interview but said they were aware...

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..of local criticism and had organized consultation days...

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..to answer questions.

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It's been a slow process to ensure the right decision is made...

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..to benefit the community, environment and the estate.

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Two months ago, the announcement came as a shock.

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The first choice was another private water company, United Utilities...

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..working in conjunction with RSPB Cymru.

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The company gets its water from Lake Vyrnwy.

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It did not attend any public meetings.

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They are now afraid, with United Utilities...

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..that it will be the same as Severn Trent. It's a water company.

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Whether it will be better.

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The estate is likely to be separated.

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United Utilities and the RSPB are first choice for swathes of land.

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Investment company FIM is likely to own the trees.

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There has been no mention of the buildings.

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The sellers have requested that all parties sign a privacy agreement.

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A year after the sale was agreed, many are left in the dark.

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Farmers like Brian Ellis expect several landlords instead of one.

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We've got right of way, but you never know...

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..maybe they'll want something we can't offer.

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You know when you say, "RSPB owns this, you own that."

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Does it make life difficult?

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I'd say that it will do before long.

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You never know who you'll be dealing with.

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We've heard nothing apart from the letter I was sent.

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Nobody's said anything.

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Nobody's arranged a meeting?

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Nothing at all.

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Have you received a phone call?

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Nothing at all.

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Most homes here are now owned by older people.

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If rent is increased, they won't be able to pay.

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Things might even be better under the new system.

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It won't necessarily be worse.

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The situation doesn't have to worsen. Things could even improve.

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It's just that nobody knows.

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That is what is worrying people.

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What is in store for this piece of land?

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The Countryside Council is holding a three-month consultation.

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They will present their findings to Westminster, not the Assembly.

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The RSPB hopes to secure a sustainable future for the estate...

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..through establishing visitor facilities.

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They hope to gain permission to reveal other plans soon.

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Secrecy is causing disquiet. Why sell to a competitor?

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What is being discussed behind closed doors?

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If Wales has one natural resource in plentiful supply...

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..it's clear to see what that would be.

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# Oh Mrs Rain. #

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Climate change and an increasing population mean water...

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..will be scarce in future.

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Because of the turbulent history over flooding Tryweryn...

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..there are concerns when two English companies bid for Welsh land.

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Severn Trent owns the water in this reservoir.

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When that water reaches the tower behind me...

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..and is piped to Liverpool, it is owned by United Utilities.

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That arrangement will not change under the new agreement...

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..but what will change is that United Utilities will own the land...

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..surrounding this reservoir.

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Local people have been asking me today...

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..why United Utilities requires the land...

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..if it owns the water anyhow.

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For a man who knows the place, the same resource...

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..has attracted people there for more than a century.

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The CCW look after everything on the mountains.

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They want to dig the trenches.

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United Utilities have been talking about the water.

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I wonder whether they will take water out to put in the lake.

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That's all I can think of.

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Dealing with drought is a problem for water companies.

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Last summer, United Utilities restricted the water use...

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..of their customers in the North West...

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..for the first time in 14 years due to the low levels in reservoirs.

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United Utilities have discussed ways of getting more water...

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..from Lake Vyrnwy with Severn Trent but decided it wasn't an option.

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Both companies want to make it easier...

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..for companies to sell water to each other.

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Water companies hope the business will become unregulated.

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That would allow them to to sell water from one area to another.

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In London, for example...

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..almost every summer we receive letters...

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..telling us not to use water in the garden...

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..because there isn't enough water.

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In Wales and Scotland there's plenty of water.

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I think United Utilities want to get their hands on more water...

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..in order to sell it to people like Southern Water...

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..or Thames Water.

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But without more rainfall...

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..and because there's already a dam in the valley...

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..is getting more water from the area an option?

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You can see why people think we need more water...

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..because water shortages are going to be a problem...

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..in some areas in the future.

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In terms of Lake Vyrnwy itself...

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..I can't see a practical way...

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..of getting more water out of that area...

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..because all the water goes to the reservoir anyway.

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I don't think increasing the volume of water they get...

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..is a realistic intention.

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United Utilities didn't want to be interviewed about Vyrnwy...

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..for confidentiality reasons.

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They just said they would stick to the company's ethos.

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In the Forest of Bowland in the Pennines...

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..there's a clue to what could happen to Lake Vyrnwy.

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United Utilities owns this catchment area.

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The company started a SCaMP scheme to improve the water quality...

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..by protecting the land around the reservoir with the RSPB.

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They are encouraging farmers to make changes...

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..like fencing to keep animals out of rivers...

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..less livestock to encourage vegetation growth...

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..and helping to find grants to pay for the work.

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We've taken about 500 sheep off, cut the cattle back well over 100.

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There's for and against.

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He was more keen on the project than what I was.

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It was a change to me. I thought I was getting too old for change.

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But I think it's working.

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It seems to be working well.

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There's just two fells maybe need a few more sheep on...

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..because it's getting a lot of over-grazing.

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It's getting a bit too thick for all the sheep to graze.

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It may need burning or cutting or something...

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..but United Utilities will advise on that.

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United Utilities are trying to push the project in other areas.

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But there have been discussions on introducing the project...

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..on land they don't own, including Lake Vyrnwy.

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In the Forest of Bowland the company says it's had a positive effect...

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..on the land and the community because of the jobs it's created.

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We've got a team of seven.

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If someone applies for those jobs we give them due consideration.

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A lot of employment comes in from the work we do in the area.

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A huge estate like this needs a lot of repair and maintenance.

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The first phase was over £10 million...

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..so that's a lot of employment.

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But there's no doubt what the company's incentive is.

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There's a benefit to our customers.

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If we can get cleaner water into the treatment works...

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..we can take out levels of colour.

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We don't have to use as many chemicals.

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There's a host of reasons related to water treatment.

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It's an investment, but the money to buy the lease at Vyrnwy...

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..is nothing to such a big company.

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The company is worth £4 billion.

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This isn't enough money to give five minutes' thought to.

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They're involved in transaction worth hundreds of millions...

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..so it's not big business to them but it's important...

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..to local people because their future's at stake.

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But questions that have been raised for decades...

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..have resurfaced in the case of Lake Vyrnwy.

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Local people are concerned about secrecy, a lack of democracy...

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..and the fact water is taking precedent over the community.

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This is who local people support.

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A businessman who promised to invest.

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Because of an agreement he signed with Severn Trent...

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..he can't discuss the details of his offer for six years...

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..but he can express an opinion.

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I suspect it's easier for them to deal with a FTSE-100 company.

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A similar company to theirs.

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There are many conspiracy theories out there...

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..but I'm sure one water company deals with another.

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I don't really know what their motives were.

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They held us on for 12 months.

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We couldn't hold money back to invest.

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We didn't lend any money from the bank.

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It was all equity and that was for 12 months.

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I'm a bit peeved that they gave it to United Utilities in the end.

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But he's more concerned about what it means to a country...

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..with many reservoirs and a climate that makes it ideal...

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..for collecting such an important resource.

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The lake could become a reservoir to provide water for England.

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The water companies don't pay tax on the water they get from Wales.

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It's the only resource we have. We don't have oil or gas.

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We need to be cleverer in what we're doing.

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I think the water boards have a duty...

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..to give something back to the communities...

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..not just turning it into a nature reserve.

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You're a businessman and you know that businesses have to make money.

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They must look after shareholders...

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..so the company has a duty to do that.

0:21:190:21:23

You talk about the community, but business is business.

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I don't blame them.

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Severn Trent and United Utilities need to make a profit.

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But are we in Wales going to let that happen?

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It's an emotional argument that has caused tension in the past...

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..most famously when Cwm Celyn was flooded in the '60s.

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Securing a stronger voice for Wales will be discussed again...

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..when the British Government publishes a White Paper...

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..on water as a future resource.

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An Assembly committee wants to investigate the sale of the lease...

0:21:570:22:01

..because they don't have a say - the power lies in London.

0:22:010:22:07

The chairman was among the protestors...

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..on the opening day of the Cwm Celyn dam in 1965.

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There's an important history here and we mustn't forget it...

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..but we have to deal with it in the 21st Century...

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..when the demand for and the value of water is globally acknowledged.

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We need to make it sustainable.

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We have to look at it as a national resource...

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..which we can share at a fair price.

0:22:370:22:42

Following the committee report and the White Paper...

0:22:420:22:47

..I hope we can have a public debate on this issue...

0:22:470:22:51

..to see what we can do with the powers we have...

0:22:520:22:56

..and what further powers we might need.

0:22:560:22:58

But the people of Vyrnwy are cautious.

0:22:590:23:01

History has left its mark.

0:23:010:23:04

That's it for another week.

0:23:050:23:07

Taro 9 will be back at the same time next week.

0:23:070:23:11

Good night.

0:23:120:23:13

Materion cyfoes o Gymru a'r byd. Current affairs from Wales and the world.


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