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£1M New-Look Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre

Tylorstown is now home to the largest Leisure for Life gym in RCT - and the only indoor International Rugby Board-accredited 3G pitch in the Valleys, thanks to £1M Council investment at Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre.

With bold ambition, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and its contractors have worked over the past year to deliver a centre of sporting excellence in the Rhondda Fach.

Opening on Monday (Jan 14), visitors can enjoy their firsts session at the new gym FREE of charge at Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre. Those who like what they see can also take out Leisure for Life membership, with FREE induction and NO joining fee.

The centre now boasts not one, but two exceptional sporting attractions - a huge new gym packed with equipment that cannot be found elsewhere in Wales and two indoor 3G pitches, which are fully accredited for contact rugby training and more.

The impressive refurbishment has also seen the creation of a brand new reception area and, in addition to the gym, a modern Spin Studio which will be interactive for users, allowing them to compete against each other and train in "virtual" landscapes.

Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre's ground floor gym is now the largest of all nine of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council's Leisure for Life gyms and features an 80-station facility, including a huge cross-training rig, which is the largest in Wales.

It also features the largest range of plate-loaded fitness equipment, including chest, shoulder press and strength machines, and a massive range of running, rowing, step and biking equipment – along with a free weight area.

The gym and spin rooms, entered via a new and improved leisure centre reception area, provide the perfect complement for teams and clubs that want to enjoy the only indoor IRB-approved artificial pitches in the Valleys.

The two indoor pitches at the Centre have been inspected and accredited by the International Rugby Board, making them perfect for contact rugby training and more.

This means teams and players can take advantage of exceptional training and practice facilities on the pitches, whatever the weather, and develop their fitness and athletic aims in the gym.

Councillor Ann Crimmings, Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, said: “Exciting times are ahead at Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre. The centre has always been much-loved by its customers and the £1M Council investment has really raised the bar here in Tylorstown.

"The new gym is huge and has equipment that cannot be found anywhere else in Wales. As well as the exclusivity of the equipment, there is also such a wide range, which means there is something for everyone.

"I encourage people to take advantage of the FREE first session offer at Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre. This will give you the chance to try out the equipment with the support of our friendly, expert gym staff, who will help you to get the most out of your time in the gym.

"The knowledge of the staff will enable you to create a plan that allows you to reach your personal goals, whether that is preparing for half marathons, triathlons or Ironman events, losing weight, toning up, or just becoming more healthy in 2019.

"It is important to remember that our gym can be used by everyone aged 11 years and over. Memberships for those aged under 16 years and over 60 years work out at approximately £5 a week, which means it is an affordable and positive way to spend your social time.

“On selected days, the new gym will also have early morning openings from 6.30am and late closures until 9pm, so if you pass through Rhondda Fach on your way to or from work, it's a convenient place to stop and train.

"The addition of the indoor training facilities means that Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre is an exciting place to be and we hope that this investment is further proof of our commitment to delivering facilities for the benefit of the community and also oure Leisure for Life members."

Rhondda Fach is the latest in a series of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council #RCTInvest Leisure schemes to be completed. This ongoing programme has also seen the opening of the new Sobell Leisure Centre in Aberdare and major redevelopment and improvements at Hawthorn, Bronwydd, Rhondda and Abercynon.

Be More Active

Leisure for Life membership is an easy and affordable way to enjoy leisure across nine centres. It offers unlimited access to gym, swim, fitness classes and indoor sports sessions at all nine Council Leisure Centres.

Leisure for Life Membership – Join Today

Choose from some 350 classes and mix and match which centre you attend with your membership, which has junior and senior concessionary rates, discounts for those on qualify benefits and membership savings, depending on how you choose to pay.

You can sign up for Leisure for Life membership online. All members have access to the Leisure for Life app, which allows you to check timetables and book onto fitness classes - up to seven days in advance,

All Leisure for Life members enjoy a free gym induction with qualified professionals who provide ongoing support and advice. There are no joining fees and membership prices are frozen.



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.


21st Century facilities delivered at Cymmer Primary School

The Council has completed a £1.9m refurbishment of Cymmer Primary School as part of its 21st Century Schools investment – and pupils are now enjoying modern, first-class facilities in the Victorian building.

The project, funded through #RCTinvest and the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Education Programme, is part of an £85m investment to improve education facilities across Rhondda and Tonyrefail in 2018/19. It saw ‘all through’ schools open in Porth, Tonypandy and Tonyrefail in September, while 21st Century facilities were introduced at YGG Llwyncelyn and YGG Tonyrefail along with major refurbishments at Ferndale Community School.

Cymmer Primary School’s junior block has undergone a significant transformation and has been remodelled and refurbished to create a stimulating environment with modern, vibrant classrooms and much-improved social spaces. Externally, the building has been restored to its original condition with the former school entrance being opened up – while a new roof has improved energy efficiency, and there is a new Multi Use Games Area.

Inside, layout changes have enabled first-class teaching areas with new ICT equipment, a multi-purpose hall, a commercial kitchen and a community room.

The majority of the project was complete at the end of November 2018 in readiness for pupils and staff to begin enjoying their new learning environment and modern facilities from Tuesday, December 4.

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “It is excellent news that the Council has delivered its latest 21st Century Schools project, with staff and pupils in Cymmer now benefiting from improved facilities. The project is part of a wider £85m programme, delivered jointly with the Welsh Government, to transform the education offer across Rhondda and Tonyrefail in 2018/19.

“The Council has also put forward, and received approval for, a strategic business case for a further joint £168m of Band B investment, to be delivered alongside Welsh Government – and, following Cabinet’s agreement, the Council is currently consulting on plans to extend its 21st Century Schools for the benefit of more pupils across the County Borough. The proposals outline huge investment for the upper Cynon Valley and wider Pontypridd area, which could be delivered by 2022.

“The project at Cymmer Primary was ambitious and challenging, carrying out repairs and delivering modern facilities in the Victorian-era building. I’d like to thank staff, parents and pupils for their cooperation while this important project was completed, to deliver much-improved facilities for our young people.”


Parents and governors oppose plans to move autism class from primary school

Parents and governors at a Rhondda Cynon Taf primary school are against plans to move an autism support class to a new larger community school.

Last month, council’s cabinet agreed to consult on plans to change learning support provision across RCT which would include the communication disorder class (CDC) at Hafod Primary School in Trehafod being moved to Porth Community School.

Parents say they are happy with the provision currently provided by what is known as “Dosbarth Coch” and that they are worried about what impact moving it to a larger school will have.

A campaign called “Save Dosbarth Coch” has been set up to save the class, which parents and governors say has been extremely successful since it was set up in 1997 and provides integration with mainstream children which they say would not be possible at a larger school.

Claire Evans, whose son currently attends the class at Hafod Primary, said she chose to place him at Hafod Primary’s CDU (Dosbarth Coch) due to its outstanding reputation.

“My son is happy and thriving in a small nurturing learning environment, with excellent support and provision for his individual additional learning needs,” she said.

“Dosbarth Coch has been achieving for 21 years and already provides the proposed advantages for the CDU relocation to Porth Community School.

“A large new school is a concern, with no key stage one and two CDU provision as my son had to leave Porth to attend Hafod Primary for that reason.

“21st century modernisation and investment does not mean the ‘best’ duty of care for my son and ASD pupils.

“Dosbarth Coch pupils have full inclusion, wonderful opportunities in and outside school – supported by dedicated staff, voluntary PTA group and a strong community.

“Any person will choose 21 years of experience over a new build that I hear is still trying to recover from the merge. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Another parent at Hafod Primary School, Laura Harrison, said the council told her the relocation to a larger school may minimise disruption to students during what they consider to be unnecessary transition periods.

“As well as disputing these transitions are problematic, parents believe this would not be a sufficient enough reason to move our unit in any case,” said Ms Harrison.

“We feel that the benefits they receive at Hafod, in no small part due to the small size of the school and their complete integration within the full school population, completely outweigh one or two extra transition periods – which themselves offer benefits to our children, ensuring they learn a new life skill.

“Parents of children in Dosbarth Coch hugely value the extracurricular events that are run at Hafod, including the discos, bake off competitions, pumpkin carving, sunflower growing and lots more.

“Dosbarth Coch is a part of our whole school family, and these events and competitions build confidence and ensure our children feel included with and by their peers.

“Having Dosbarth Coch as part of our school family greatly enriches the whole school environment.

“We all benefit from being part of a non-segregated, unbiased community and this sets up all of our children for a future in the wider world. It is at school where children learn about others, and that not everyone is the same.”

But the council says there is no evidence that the size of the host school has a detrimental impact on learning support class pupils.

A spokesperson for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council said: “The relocation of the Key Stage 2 Learning Support Class (LSC) to Porth Community School is being consulted upon as part of wider proposals to enhance provision across Rhondda Cynon Taf.

“Porth Community School hosts one LSC for pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the foundation phase, and three in Key Stages 3 and 4.

“The proposed relocation of the Key Stage 2 class would create a through-phase specialist provision, providing consistency from Foundation Phase right through to Key Stage 4. It would minimise unnecessary transition for pupils, enabling them to stay in one school setting.

“Pupils would also benefit from the multi-million pound learning environment at Porth Community School, which benefits from first-class 21st Century Schools facilities.

“The council acknowledges parental concerns about relocating an LSC to a larger school setting, and these views will be presented as part of the consultation feedback to cabinet.

“However, the council would reassure parents and carers that many of its LSC have historically been hosted by schools much larger than Hafod Primary, and there is no evidence that the size of a host school has a detrimental impact upon LSC pupils.

“The relocation of the Foundation Phase LSC to Porth Community School in September 2018 has been a success, which the council is confident of replicating with the Key Stage 2 class if the proposal is agreed following consultation.”

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